Shakespeare wrote of history. He wrote of the muddle of kings. He was a man of the people. He was a creature of the court. He literally belonged to "The King's Men". So, did he unwisely parse a few lines too closely to the throne (and person) of Elizabeth I?
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Was Elizabeth I Richard II?
By Dr Jason Scott-Warren
You go to libraries and archives in search of new things, but sometimes you get waylaid by old friends. When I took a train to Maidstone one Saturday morning four years ago, I was researching a seventeenth-century politician, Sir Edward Dering. The Kent Archives have a cache of Dering letters: begging letters, affectionate letters, letters full of gossip and news. One of them came with an enclosure that caught my attention; it was the handwritten transcript of a conversation, almost a playlet. It rang bells; I remembered reading it years back, although most of the details were beyond recall. The document recorded an encounter between Queen Elizabeth I and William Lambarde, a legal theorist and pioneering antiquarian, whose writings included the first ever county history (the 1576 Perambulation of Kent). Elizabeth had recently given Lambarde a new job as keeper of the records in the Tower of London — the Tudor precursor of our National Archives. Now Lambarde was popping into the court at Greenwich to present the Queen with a book: a catalogue of all of the ‘Rolls, Bundles, membranes & parcels’ that were mouldering in the Tower. Elizabeth looked over it, reading bits out loud and asking Lambarde earnest questions. But quite early on in their conversation, Elizabeth launched a potentially deadly conversational exocet. “Her Majesty fell upon the reign of Richard II saying, ‘I am Richard II know you not that?’”