Elizabeth I to King Eric XIV of Sweden

Elizabeth I to King Eric XIV of Sweden, 25 February 1560 (SP 70/11 f.74)

Although Elizabeth showed no inclination to marry, it was not long before the young queen was besieged by suitors. Among the first was the new king of Sweden, Eric XIV. Elizabeth employed what was to become a familiar tactic: she offered ‘fair words’ but no firm promises. But when Eric expressed his intention to visit her, she set aside her accustomed ambiguity. She fired off this letter, which was filled with apparent regret that she could not share his feelings, but made it clear that he should not set foot in England.

Translation from the original Latin

Most Serene Prince, our very dear Cousin,

A letter truly yours both in the writing and sentiment, was given us on 30 December by your very dear brother, the Duke of Finland. And while we perceive therefrom that the zeal and love of your mind towards us is not diminished, yet in part we are grieved that we cannot gratify your Serene Highness with the same kind of affection. And that indeed does not happen because we doubt in any way of your love and honour, but, as often we have testified both in words and in writing, that we have never yet conceived a feeling of that kind of affection towards any one. We therefore beg your Serene Highness again and again that you be pleased to set a limit to your love, that it advance not beyond the laws of friendship for the present nor disregard them in future… I have always given both to your brother, who is certainly a most excellent Prince and deservedly very dear to us, and also to your ambassador likewise, the same answer with scarcely any variation of the words, that we do not conceive in our heart to take a husband but highly commend the single life, and hope that your Serene Highness will not longer spend time in waiting for us.

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