Letter to Edward VI

Like as the rich man daily gathereth riches to riches, and one bag of money layeth a great sort till it come to infinite, so methinks your Majesty, not being sufficed with many benefits and gentleness showed to me afore this time, doth now increase them in asking and desiring where you may bid and command, requiring a thing not worthy the desiring for itself, but made worthy for your Highness’s request. My picture, I mean, in which if the inward good mind toward your Grace might as well be declared as the outward face and countenance shall be seen, I would not have tarried the commandment but prevent it, nor have been the last to grant but the first to offer it. For the face, I grant, I might well blush to offer, but the mind I shall never be ashamed to present. For though from the grace of the picture the colours may fade by time, may give you weather, may be spotted by chance; yet the other nor time with her swift wings shall overtake, nor the misty clouds with their lowerings may darken, nor chance with her slippery foot may overthrow. Of this although yet the proof could not be great because the occasion hath been but small, notwithstanding as a dog hath a day, so may I perchance have time to declare it in deeds where now I do write them in words. And further I shall most humbly beseech your Majesty that when you shall look on my picture, you will vouchsafe to think that as you have but the outward shadow of the body before you, so my inward mind wisheth that the body itself were oftener in your presence; howbeit because both my so being I think could do your Majesty little pleasure, though myself great good; and again because I see as yet not the time agreeing thereunto, I shall learn to follow this saying of Horace, ‘ Feras non culpes quod vitari non potest.’ And thus I will (troubling your Majesty I fear) end with my most humble thanks. Beseeching God long to preserve you to His Honour, to your comfort, to the Realm’s profit, and to my joy. From Hatfield this I5 day of May.

Your Majesty’s most humbly sister and servant,
ELIZABETH.

Written 15th May, year unknown, and sent with a portrait of Elizabeth.
(Source: “The Letters of Queen Elizabeth I” edited by G B Harrison 1968)

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