“To Gain Knowledge and Understanding of the Ways of Men” – Queen Elizabeth, Describing the Earl of Oxford in Letters of Introduction to Foreign Princes

It’s my pleasure to pass on news of work by Alexander Waugh, who has obtained English translations of two Latin letters by Queen Elizabeth, addressing the princes of Europe on behalf of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford as he was about to set forth in early 1575 on his foreign travels. The translations were obtained after “quite a sweat and a consultation with two serious Latin scholars,” he reports, adding, “What I think is really tremendous about this is that Elizabeth says her recommendation of Oxford is not the normal thing but ‘in all sincerity’ (‘ex animo’) or ‘from the heart’, because of his ‘outstanding intellect’ (‘praestantes animi’) or ‘outstanding mind.’”

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In the second letter the queen uses “ingenio,” which refers to innate talent and natural capacity or, quite possibly as the Latin word suggests, genius. Waugh aptly remarks that these introductions of Oxford from the Queen of England are not merely standard letters prepared by a clerk for her Majesty to sign off.  Instead they refer in specific ways to a specific young nobleman, not quite twenty-five years old, taking the trouble to emphasize his unique qualities and indicating a special interest in his mission “to gain knowledge and understanding of the ways of men in different cities and regions.”

1 Elizabeth, by the grace of God, etc.  To all individual kings, etc. 

An illustrious and highly accomplished young man, our beloved cousin, Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, Viscount Bulbeck, Lord of Scales and Badelsmore, Great Chamberlain of England, plans (with our good grace) to travel overseas to gain knowledge and understanding of the ways of men in different cities and regions. We therefore sincerely request your servants, your most excellent educators and your own kindness, that when he comes into any kingdom, territory, land or jurisdiction of yours, not only will he be permitted to stay there freely and to pass through without impediment, but he will be treated with all kindness for our sake, and will be welcomed so that we may see your friendship and benevolence towards us reflected in your treatment of this most noble earl, our kinsman (whom we recommend not in the usual way, but in all sincerity, on account of his outstanding intellect and virtue). When this young nobleman shows himself worthy of your kindness by virtue of his manners, we too, as a sign of thanks for things great and small, shall never forget to repay you generously, and by any means, when the time and occasion may arise.  In witness whereof etc.

Hampton, 24 January 1574 [=1575], in the seventeenth year of our reign.

2 Elizabeth by the grace of God etc.   To the most powerful Prince and Lord Maximilian the Second, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Bohemia, eternally Augustus, our brother and kinsman and dear friend, greetings. 

An illustrious young man, greatly adorned with many virtues – Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, Viscount Bolbeck, Lord of Scales and Badelsmere, Lord High Chamberlain of England, our most beloved subject and cousin – is presently setting out from England to visit your royal court of many princes and will be passing through the cities and regions of your empire, to benefit from the knowledge thereof. He is endowed, by his very nature, with manners, virtue and learning. We therefore earnestly desire your Imperial Majesty to protect this young nobleman by your authority, to grant him your favour, to help him with recommendations, and to favour him with all kindness, so that he may understand that our greatest recommendation holds weight with your Imperial Majesty. Nothing else could give us greater joy. May God preserve your Imperial Majesty in health and safety.

Hampton [Court], 24 January 1574 [=1575], in the seventeenth year of our reign.

The full Latin texts are on Nina Green’s website The Oxford Authorship site to be found at this location.

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