ONE of the most popularized moments in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign occurred during her coronation procession through the city of London in January 1559. As recorded by the humanist educator Richard Mulcaster in his pamphlet The Passage of Our Most Drad Soueraigne Lady Quene Elyzabeth I (1559), Elizabeth halted at a pageant show by the Little Conduit at Cheapside, where she kissed an English Bible to declare her Protestant leanings against her Catholic predecessor Mary I. Critics have explored this moment as it proliferated through Mulcaster’s pamphlet, became dramatized in Thomas Heywood’s play If You Know Not Me You Know Nobody (1605), and parodied in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1623).1 Yet critical analysis misses a detail that immediately followed in the coronation procession: actors in pageants after this moment imitate Elizabeth’s kiss with their speeches. Her move proved a gesture worthy of imitation with lesser objects. Mulcaster records the ways that the kiss, echoed in laudatory ephemera that follows, marks Elizabeth’s spiritual authority over her peoples and objects. Elizabeth met praise and acceptance throughout the procession in pageants, tableaus, and speeches that referenced the union of Lancaster and York, the wisdom of the Biblical Deborah, and more. At every stop, orators read from papers they then handed to the monarch as gifts. Hester Lees-Jeffries describes these scenes as moments that confirmed a new monarchy of ‘right (Protestant) religion and good governance’.2 Carved, written, engraved, and recited words announced the triumph of Protestant truth over Catholic tyranny, Elizabeth’s ancient royal lineage, and the particular grace bestowed upon female monarchs. The apotheosis of these scenes was the fourth pageant at the Little Conduit in Cheapside, where Truth, the Daughter of Time, gave Elizabeth an English Bible that she kissed, raised, and held to her breast. Mulcaster observes that Elizabeth, after receiving the book, ‘kissed it, and with both her handes held up the same, and so laid it upon her brest, with great thankes to the citie therfor’.3 Lees-Jeffries considers this moment ‘the most prescriptive’ of the pageants in its clear symbolism and bold gestures. A child actor explicated the scene on-site, commenting that the ‘book of truth’ offers Elizabeth an education in writing that, unlike the fleeting nature of spoken words, ‘doth remain’ for the duration of her reign and beyond. Mulcaster’s overlooked detail is this: in a small rhetorical shift, all the orators that follow the scene at Cheapside first kiss their printed orations before handing them to Elizabeth. Up to the fourth pageant, Mulcaster describes children reading their orations and handing them to Elizabeth, sans kisses. Yet at the succeeding stop at St Paul’s School, a child reads a Latin verse, after which ‘he did kisse the oration which he had there faire written in paper, and deliuered unto the Quenes maiestie’.4 Again at St Dunstan’s Church, a ‘childe after he had ended his oration, kissed the paper wherein the same was written, and reached it to the Quenes maiestie which receiued it graciously both with woordes and countenance’.5 Mulcaster makes much of the change here, writing that ‘[t]he matter of this pageant dependeth on them that went before’.6 He positions readers to recognize a change of pace and meaning at Cheapside. We cannot confirm if this added detail was planned, and other private descriptions of the procession from Henry Machyn and Venetian ambassador Il Schifanoya do not repeat it. Mulcaster is unique in offering an observation bound into his thesis of the event: where London’s administrators attempted to position Elizabeth as a pupil-queen in need of tutoring, she performs her control over the root of spiritual authority. Elizabeth, and not London’s understanding of Elizabeth’s accession, proves an innovative character in Mulcaster’s narrative, where she reinterprets the artistic and design choices surrounding her crowning. This detail provides a usable framework for interpreting the pamphlet, as Mulcaster follows a new pattern involving secular, ephemeral texts. For Mulcaster, the reverence behind Elizabeth’s kiss transfers to the later speeches devoted to her. Until Elizabeth’s kiss, Mulcaster emphasizes that the various inscriptions and orations were designed ‘that quietness might be mainteyned, and all dissention displaced’.7 These texts, which elaborate on each pageant’s message, work as atmospheric controls ‘drawen in voide places’ to quell the crowd.8 But the English Bible interrupts this flow of text by setting a precedent for later orators and audiences to imitate, through lesser pamphlets of praise. The printed orations restage the earlier ritual. Mulcaster suggests here that all language appears capable of channelling the sacral moment of Queen-considering-scripture. After Elizabeth’s kiss, Mulcaster jettisons his point that the texts controlled and quieted the crowd. Rather, he observes that during later orations Elizabeth ‘now and then helde up her handes to heauenwarde and willed the people to say, Amen’.9 Propaganda and crowd control become the responsive readings of a church service. Mulcaster solidifies his intent for the echoed kiss through final observations about the Bible. He considers ‘how reuerently did she with both her handes take it, kisse it, and lay it upon her breast to the great comfort of the lookers on’, and uses ‘reverent’ again to describe Elizabeth’s general attitude.10 The repetition of ‘reverence’ calls up an understood attitude towards Scripture. The Prymer in Englyshe (1542), an early precursor to the Book of Common Prayer, includes a Prayer for the Reader preceding the Epistles that instructs readers ‘to rede it wyth al reuer[e]ce’, and later, ‘let us rather reade such thynges with humble reuerence’.11 The word finds a home in the Book of Common Prayer’s communion prayer ‘that with meke hearte and due reverence they may heare and receive thy holy woord’.12 Through a small bait-and-switch, Mulcaster reveals how ephemeral pamphlet and forgettable text can host moments where past acts and shared spiritual gestures guide and direct the souls of readers. Footnotes 1 For Heywood, see Elizabeth Williamson, The Materiality of Religion in Early Modern English Drama (New York, 2016), 164–9. For The Tempest, see Julian Yates and Richard Burt, What’s the Worst Thing You Can Do to Shakespeare? (New York, 2013), 85–6. 2 Hester Lees-Jeffries, ‘Location as Metaphor in Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Entry (1559): Veritas Temporis Filia,’ in Jayne Archer et al. (eds), The Progresses, Pageants, and Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth I (New York, 2007), 65–86. 3 Richard Mulcaster, The Passage of Our Most Drad Soueraigne Lady Quene Elyzabeth I (London, 1559), CiiiV. 4 Ibid., DiiR. 5 Ibid., DiiiiR. 6 Ibid., DiV. 7 Ibid., BiiV. 8 Ibid., BiiiR and throughout. 9 Ibid., EiiR. 10 Ibid., EiiiiV. 11 The Prymer in Englyshe, London, 1542. STC (2nd edn) / 16026. 12 John Booty, ed., The Book of Common Prayer (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005), 254. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.
Enjoy affordable access to
over 12 million articles from more than
10,000 peer-reviewed journals.
All for just $49/month
It’s easy to organize your research with our built-in tools.
All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.
“Whoa! It’s like Spotify but for academic articles.”@Phil_Robichaud