Renæssanceforum 10 • 2016

Geoffrey Eatough
Weaving on a historical thread: William Camden's Elizabethan documentaries

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Lord Burghley, chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I, gave William Camden access to a wide range of official documents and ordered him to take the basic elements in the reign of Elizabeth and weave them together on a historical thread. Camden gained access to a vaster range of documents than those offered by Burghley and made himself the authority on the reign. He admired Elizabeth enormously, but his history is far from uncritical. This paper reviews Camden's conception of history as seen in his address to the reader. It then looks at the primordia of the reign, the social and religious context and the queen's unmarried state, and also her involvement in the downfall of Mary Queen of Scots and the clumsy attempt by her and the English establishment to shift the blame for Mary's death on to secretary William Davison. Her control weakened. In an age of expansion and dramatic overseas developments leadership necessarily devolved on to others, even to foreigners such as the persistent Dutch, and new men, such as Drake, who were not entirely answerable to the old order. Camden was an outstanding writer of Latin. His Latin as a vehicle of these modern events is a major concern of this paper.