“La Comediante Politica”: On Gregorio Leti’s 1693 Life of Queen Elizabeth I
This essay deals with Gregorio Leti’s Historia o vero Vita di Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra. Detta per Sopranome la Comediante Politica, first published in Amsterdam in 1693. After briefly introducing Leti’s life and works, as well as the circumstances of his compilation and publication of Elizabeth’s Vita, the chapter focuses on Leti’s description of the queen’s outward appearance, character and behavior. His view of Elizabeth as a political play-actress, or impostor, is repeatedly insisted on, especially as far as the queen’s relations with her Parliaments and her suitors are concerned. Although Gregorio Leti is now largely forgotten, and defined by critics as an adventurer, a liar and a hack, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries his works were widely read in Europe: the Vita di Elisabetta boasts four editions in Italian, as well as translations in French, Dutch, Russian and German. Its success makes it a significant milestone in Queen Elizabeth’s European afterlife, and an interesting chapter in the history of Anglo-Italian relations.