‘Rudenesse it selfe she doth refine’
Queen Elizabeth I as Lady Alchymia
in Goddesses and Queens
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This chapter examines Queen Elizabeth I's representation as Lady Alchymia and Sapientia, with whom Alchymia is often elided in alchemical literature. It argues that Elizabeth, in her dealings with alchemists and natural philosophers, adopted what Allison Heisch, in her analysis of the Queen's parliamentary rhetoric, has called a 'technique of evasion'. Instead of realising the dreams of alchemists and poets, Elizabeth frustrates, equivocates, and withholds the material benefits that could transform the lives of her would-be clients. This strategy was necessitated by Elizabeth's need to be seen to be, like Johannes Trithemius's vision of Lady Alchymia, a 'chaste prostitute, who has many lovers but disappoints all and grants her favour to none'. In the writings of alchemists such as Samuel Norton and poets such as John Davies, the figure of Lady Alchymia is used to interrogate both the nature of the patron/client relationship and the notion in alchemical literature.

Goddesses and Queens

The iconography of Elizabeth I

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