The Words of a Princess

In 2017, I wrote a 2,000 word entry on manuscript dedications written by Princess Elizabeth for Women Writers in Context, an online publication series from the Women Writers Project (Read here!). More than 6,000 words later, I realized that the topic of Elizabeth’s pre-accession translations deserved more attention, especially the dedications that accompanied those translations as they were the actual words of Elizabeth, not those translated by her. 

This book grew organically based on information I was able to thread together and realized had never been connected before. The result is a detailed case study of the four extant dedications that Elizabeth Tudor wrote to accompany manuscript translations that she gave to Katherine Parr, Henry VIII, and her brother Edward as New Year’s gifts from 1545 to 1548. An analysis of these sources quickly revealed that Elizabeth’s pre-accession dedications and translations cannot be separated from those of her sister Mary, nor can they be used to show her educational or cultural superiority over Mary. Though the book is skewed more heavily toward Elizabeth, it offers analysis of Mary and Elizabeth together to present a more well-rounded picture of their literary activities before they each became Queen. 

Recently, I have spoken about my new book on the Talking Tudors podcast. Listen here!

During the interview, I highlight the major findings of my research, including a dedication first written to Katherine Parr about Princess Mary that was later repurposed for Elizabeth. I also encourage listeners not to compare the sisters in order to denigrate or promote one over the other, but to understand them together as sisters who had to navigate the Tudor court and used their literary and gift-giving activities in different ways to do so. 

Princesses Mary and Elizabeth Tudor and the Gift Book Exchange demonstrates the major differences in ways that Mary and Elizabeth were perceived by their contemporaries versus how they are perceived today. 

By Valerie Schutte

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