The queen's two hands

Gibson, Jonathan (2011). The queen's two hands. In: Petrina, Alessandra ed. Representations of Elizabeth I in Early Modern Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 47–65.



In this chapter, I analyse the different 'hands' (or styles of handwriting) used by Elizabeth I: the italic hand in which her earliest texts were written, a later italic, and the rough, 'skrating' hand in which she wrote informal manuscripts after her accession to the throne. I link the second italic hand to exemplars in Giovambattista Palatino's Libro nuovo d'imparare a scrivere tutte sorte de lettere (1540), a handwriting manual owned by Elizabeth's brother, Edward VI, who, like Elizabeth, imitated its letter-forms. I show that the ornamentation in Elizabeth's famous signature derives from samples in Palatino's book. I also re-examine the gendering of handwriting in early modern England and the significance of the contrast between Elizabeth's 'skrating' hand and the formality of her signature.

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