Up for auction at Skinner Auctions in Boston next month is a 1602 document signed by Elizabeth I. Truly, the signature is magnificent, as it fills almost as much of the page as the document itself. But why would Elizabeth have signed her name at such a scale?
We cannot really be certain of the reason. What we do know is that as Elizabeth grew older, she signed her name larger and larger. Initially, her signature as queen was decently larger than the text of the documents she signed, but by the end of her life, the signature nearly took up a third of the page. Can we pin the reason for her signature’s expansion on poor eyesight or old age affecting her hand? Either is a possibility, or it could be, as one friend noted to me, “She’s the Queen of England, I’d sign my name as large as I pleased, and if it annoyed people, I would write it even bigger!” A little less likely of a theory, but fun nonetheless!
If you look at the document provided by Skinner Auctions closely, you will also notice that the signature reads, “Elizabeth R”. Yet Anne Boleyn signed her name as “Anne the Quene,” as did Elizabeth’s sister, Mary I, who signed herself, “Marye the Quene.” Signing oneself as “the Quene” was very English in fashion, and by signing “Elizabeth R,” the final Tudor queen broke with tradition. Perhaps she saw it as an act of independence. “Elizabeth R” stood for “Elizabeth Regina,” “Regina” meaning “Queen” in Latin. One can also observe a number of flourishes that accompany the signature, particularly ones that extend from the “E”, the “z”, the “b”, and the “R” in her name. These would remain remarkably consistent throughout her lifetime, with the only exception being that she occasionally left the flourish off of the “b.”
Documents featuring Elizabeth’s signature have come up for auction before. A 1558 lottery letter featuring Elizabeth’s signature went up for auction in 2010, and was expected to bring in £20,000. You can learn more about that document and auction here: http://blog.lottogopher.com/2010/06/letter-describing-lottery-from-mid-1500s-signed-by-queen-elizabeth-i-up-for-auction/
Have £20,000 sitting about? For more information about the auction of the 1602 document featuring Elizabeth’s signature, see http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/pages/page.php?id=18414