UK: Hidden passages discovered in book: History of 'Virgin Queen' Elizabeth I could change drastically

She might have loved social networks like Instagram: The English Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) knew exactly how to stage herself.

UK: Hidden passages discovered in book: History of 'Virgin Queen' Elizabeth I could change drastically

She might have loved social networks like Instagram: The English Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) knew exactly how to stage herself. And she was very careful about what information and pictures of her were made public. Her image was extremely important to her - and it probably had to be, because her religiously transfigured appearance as a "virgin queen" who is only married to her country may have helped significantly in patriarchal Europe of the Renaissance as a woman on the throne to be taken seriously.

But in order to maintain this aura, there were strict rules at court. After Elizabeth I had passed a certain age, portraits of the queen became increasingly stylized, artists should refer to the earlier likenesses and paint a young queen rather than the aging original. And logically, reports from the court were also strictly censored. Whatever didn't portray Elizabeth in the best light was never published. And her successor kept it that way after her death: James I had a chronicle made about the reign of his great-aunt, in which he didn't want anything to come down to her.

The work was written from 1607 by William Camden, a passionate historian who had studied at Oxford University. For the work on his "Annals" he was given exclusive access to all of Elizabeth's court files, private notes and letters. Since he was writing on behalf of the king, whom he did not want to upset, he later censored passages or added new ones. The researchers had known this for a long time, but they had no way of reading the hidden passages: the parchment had either been scraped off and rewritten or even pasted over. Separating the pressed pages would not have been possible without significant damage.

But now there is a new, extremely good imaging technology for such cases, which can more or less shine through parchment. "The imaging is revolutionary," enthuses Julian Harrison of the British Library. "We've never been able to do anything like this before. It's just fantastic!" He and his team now have some work to do with Camden's annals: "We have ten volumes of handwritten manuscripts here, of which actually several hundred pages have hidden passages."

What the scientists were able to decipher, however, was "breathtaking": They could read that chronicler William Camden originally wrote much more drastically about the moment in 1570 when Pope Pius V excommunicated the Anglican Elizabeth I. He wrote of a "religious act of war" against the queen, but apparently later weakened this somewhat in the spirit of (baptized Catholic) King James and changed the sentence to "secret plans" that Pius had hatched against the queen.

Also very exciting: The anecdote that has been passed on for centuries that the childless Elizabeth I announced on her deathbed that she wanted James I as her successor was probably only written down by Camden afterwards. And is probably untrue - because the queen could not speak in her last days. These two discoveries alone already shed new light on the reign of the legendary monarch - and the research team has only just begun to examine the "annals" - in the truest sense of the word.

"It should be very exciting to see how the modern view of the important historical figure Elizabeth I will change," says Julian Harrison.

Quelle:  "The Guardian"

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