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Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (1455-1536)

French psalter  c. 1525-30

13.2 x 9.1 x 2.2 cm (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1051956

  • Despite the uncertainty over Elizabeth's status after Anne Boleyn's execution, Henry VIII ensured that his daughter received a fine education. Together with her brother Edward she learned to write in the Italic hand which had been developed during the early Renaissance period. An example of Elizabeth's handwriting can be seen in this psalter. After her accession in 1558 she invariably signed her name 'Elizabeth R', suggesting that this poem must date from before that time. The translation of these psalms from Latin into French is by Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (1455-1536), a French humanist, whose psalter was first published in 1525 in Paris. Translations by Lefèvre d’Étaples were favoured by Anne Boleyn: she had a number of his texts copied into manuscripts. However, it is unlikely that this psalter was owned by Anne Boleyn, and it is not certain that it was owned by Elizabeth. Her poem and signature could be an autograph in somebody else's book, something which Elizabeth's father Henry VIII's last queen, Katherine Parr, who Elizabeth was close to, often did. It is not known whether or not Elizabeth drew the armillary sphere, one of emblems, opposite her poem, but the quote underneath looks like it is in her handwriting. ‘Miser é chi Speme in cosa mortal pone’, or ‘Wretched is he who places hope in a mortal thing’ is a quote from Petrarch’s 'Trionfo della morte' ('Triumph of Death'). The text of the psalter is annotated elsewhere, in some places in a hand which looks like it could be Elizabeth's.


    Auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1923, and purchased by Quaritch on behalf of Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth, 1st Baronet. The Leicester Harmsworth library was sold in 1946. This book was bought at the sale by Lord and Lady Melchett, who presented it to Queen Elizabeth II when Princess Elizabeth on the occasion of her wedding, 20 November 1947.
  • Creator(s)

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    Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (1455-1536) (translator)

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    Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533-1603) (contributor) [

    • Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
    • During her twenties was imprisoned by her sister, the Catholic Mary I
    • Never married; the formidable and independent-minded ‘Virgin Queen’
    • In her reign Protestantism was re-established and the Spanish Armada was defeated
    • Patron of playwrights such as Shakespeare and Ben Jonson
    • Fluent in several European languages, a fine calligrapher and musician
    • Portraits of her in miniature were painted by Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, and official portraits by Eworth
    • Ordered her artists to depict her with the ‘Mask of Youth’ until her last years
    • Her extensive collection of jewellery was noted as being particularly fine
    • At Windsor, rebuilt the North Terrace in stone (not wood), and added a further range to the west – Queen  Elizabeth’s Gallery (now part of the Royal Library) – as a viewing gallery and for indoor exercise
    • Died at Richmond Palace, her favourite winter residence

    Reigned: 1558–1603]

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    ? Paris [France] (place of production)


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    HM Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926)


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    Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533-1603)

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    House of Tudor

  • Dimensions

    13.2 x 9.1 x 2.2 cm (book measurement (conservation))

    14 x 18 x 2 cm (open) (book measurement (conservation))

    14.5 x 5.0 cm (whole object)

  • Bibliographic references

    pp. 399-400 (Elizabeth I : translations 1544-1589 / edited by Janel Mueller and Joshua Scodel)

    pp. 37-8 (Elizabeth I : autograph compositions and foreign language originals / edited by Janet Mueller and Leah S. Marcus)

    p. 132 (Elizabeth I : collected works / edited by Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueller, and Mary Beth Rose)

    Alternative titles

    [Psaultier de David]

    Bible. O.T. Psalms. French. 1520?