Elizabeth I. A wry response to adroit Venetian flattery.

1596: Francesco Gradenigo describes his cordial acquaintanceship with the Earl of Essex and his audience with Elizabeth.

I arrived in England at the season when the Queen touches for scrofula: this is a privilege she exercises as claimant to the Crown of France, in virtue of her ancestral lights. She touched ten, and then washed her hands, being served by the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Chancellor, and the Earl of Essex, all three on their knees, the Treasurer in the middle, opposite the Queen, holding a basin, the Chancellor on the right with a ewer of warm water, and on the left the Earl of Essex with a napkin, which the Queen used to wipe her hands. The Earl is a great favourite of the Queen; he is about twenty-six years of age, fair skinned, tall, but wiry; on this last voyage he began to grow a beard, which he used not to wear. He is a right modest, courteous, and humane gentleman. He sleeps in the Queen’s palace. He was followed by almost all the nobility of England. He has twice asked me to dine with him, and insisted that he should be the person to present me to kiss her Majesty’s hand. As on my departure from France I had with me ordinary letters of recommendation from his Most Christian Majesty, the Earl also favoured me with his support. I was introduced into the private or audience chamber, and found the Queen under the canopy. I was presented to her Majesty, and no sooner had I kissed hands than she said to me in Italian, which language she speaks extremely well, “My brother, the King of France, writes to me that I am to show you the most beautiful things in this kingdom, and the first thing you have seen is the ugliest, myself”; to which I replied that the splendour of her virtues was so great that the whole universe knew how excellent she must be, their source; and now that I had satisfied my eyes and fed my soul with the sight of her person, I cared to see naught else, for I was right well aware that the rest could not compare with her. At this the Queen smiled and said, “Once on a time, when I was princess, I was more esteemed by your Lords than I am now that I am Queen; but you are afraid of that old fellow”—alluding to his Holiness.  [The original Italian: “A questo sorridendo dise la Regina “Era ben una volta, quando io em principessa, ch`era piu stimata da li vostri Signori che adesso che sono Regina; ma voi havete paura di quel vecchio”; volendo alludere a Š. Santità.”]

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