The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0539 Monday, 20 March 2000.
Date: Friday, 17 Mar 2000 17:49:46 -0600
Subject: Queen Elizabeth's Red Nose
Some while back I queried the list about a story about Elizabeth's
ladies-in-waiting painting her nose red and letting her go about looking
a fool. Respondents were skeptical. I can now report, thanks to the
research of Suzanne Penuel here at Texas, that the tale, however
unlikely, is definitely early modern, deriving from Jonson's
conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden (Herford & Simpson 1.141-42):
"Queen Elizabeth never saw her self after she became old in a true
Glas. they painted her & sometymes would vermilion her nose . . . ."
H&S here adduce a passage from Chettle's England's Mourning Garment
(1603) that speaks of Elizabeth's aversion to mirrors (sig. E2):
"so farre was she from all nicenes, that I haue heard it credibly
reported, and know it by many instances to be true, that she neuer could
abide to gaze in a mirror or looking glasse: no not to behold one, while
her head was tyred and adornd, but simply trusted to her attendant
Ladies for the comelinesse of her attyre: and that this is true, Thenot
I am the rather perswaded, for that when I was yong, almost thirtie
yeeres agoe, courting it now and than: I haue seene the Ladies make
great shift to hide away their looking glasses if her Maiestie had past
by their lodgings."