What Elizabeth Knew. Language as Mirror and Gift
This essay explores the material and intellectual making of the translation of Marguerite de Navarre’s Le Miroir de l’Ame pêcheresse, which the young Elizabeth produced as a gift for her stepmother Catherine Parr in 1544. It delves into Elizabeth’s troubled relationship with her father and the other parent figures in her life, touching upon her meaningful choice of a text that had been given as a gift by Marguerite de Navarre herself to her mother, Anne Boleyn; considering the ambiguous material of the text, which dealt with the theme of incest; and analyzing the significance of a number of material errors in translation that Elizabeth could not help making and which reveal some of her preoccupations as to her own status as the daughter of a king who had intermittently called her a bastard child. The care Elizabeth puts into the English version of the text testifies to her desire to please by crafting a gift of language, but in which the language itself inevitably turns into a mirror that reflects her difficult position within the royal family as well as the attitudes of the adults around her.