I recently found a fascinating post over at one of my favorite blogs, My Napoleon Obsession written by artist and history lover Carmi Cimicata. (I too have a bit of a school girl crush on Nappy.) The post shows several examples of Napoleon’s signature and how it changed over time.
Graphologists (the people who study handwriting) will tell you that everyone’s signature changes over time. Your signature even changes from signing one document to immediately signing another. In fact, one of the first signs that graphologists look for in analyzing counterfeit signatures is if the signatures are too identical. Perfection is usually a dead give away that the signature is a forgery.
Now, for those of you who might be screaming POPPYCOCK at this very moment (a word that everyone should use at least once a day), I would point out that handwriting analysis is still used in crime investigations and in my corporate days I even had to undergo a handwriting analysis for a job I was applying too. (I didn’t get the job and have crossed my t’s low ever since). I studied graphology for years before I figured out that it is ten times harder than it looks. I say this with the disclaimer that the following is my novice attempt to analyze some of the signatures of famous Tudors.
First off, graphologists never use a signature alone to analyze someone. Usually, several writing samples have to be considered to get a good impression of overall characteristics. Signatures tend to be more practiced so they reveal clues about the public persona while the handwriting reflects more of the private persona.
Also keep in mind that we don’t have the luxury to see how Tudor signatures changed over time because often their signatures were created as seals to be placed on official documents and reused over and over again. In Henry VIII's case, a dry stamp was used to put his signature on royal documents when he got too lazy to lift his chubby hand. This dry stamp left an imprint which could then be inked in by members of the Privy Chamber. To avoid forgeries, only 3 people were allowed to use the stamp at a time. For this reason, I have not used examples of Henry's signature after 1545.
Ok let’s start with my favorite larger-than-life monarch….
You will notice that Henry’s signature is thick in some places and thin in others. Now you might say that this is caused by his choice of writing utensil, but that actually is not so. It’s the passion of the writer that truly determines the thick and thinness of the line. And even the choice of pen can indicate personal desires. The varying thick and thinness of his writing suggesting a varying degree of pressure. Whenever writing varies in pressure, it suggests a more volatile nature. You can see this varying pressure also in the love letter to Anne Boleyn shown below.
A person with varying pressure alternates his need for risk-taking and security. Henry obviously had a very mercurial personality. He would risk everything for the love/lust he felt for his second wife Anne Boleyn, but he then craved the security and domestic calm of Jane Seymour in his third choice of wife. We can see this is very different from the steady pressure that Anne Boleyn applied in her signature. (shown below)
Another clue that points to Henry’s erratic nature is the varying slants of his handwriting. Even in the love letter to Anne Boleyn we can see the loops on his “d” slant backward yet the other letters slant dramatically forward. People with varying slants are often lively, crave variety (ahh..hmm wives) and have many interests.
You will also notice a varying baseline in Henry’s love letter to Anne (right). People who write with a varying baseline are the “jack of all trades” type. They take on many challenges and can get burnt out easily. These are not planners, but instead will wait to see what tomorrow brings.
Henry’s signature is also the best example of an illegible signature (by Tudor standards). In fact, all of the other examples here are pretty neat compared to Henry’s signature. A person with an illegible signature keeps his public persona very separate from his private persona. These people are often an enigma and even close friends rarely know them well. (You can now forgive your doctor for his messy signature)
One of the first things that distinguishes Anne’s signature is her heavy pressure. This is a full bodied signature full of passion and sensuality. People who write with a heavy pressure are also forceful, dynamic and possess a tremendous determination. No one could argue that Anne was not determined in her quest for the King.
You will also notice that Anne chose to punctuate her name with “the queen” instead of abbreviating it with the good old Rex symbol. Many people today choose to abbreviate their names using initials for their first name. People who choose to write out every part of their name seek the limelight. These people are always willing to accept a new challenge. Obviously, Anne didn’t shy away from the limelight or the challenge to hold on to the King.
Another distinguishing characteristic of Anne’s writing is the height of her letters and the way they thrust into the upper zone seen in both her signature and her letters (left). In handwriting analysis, the upper zone represents the intellect. The middle zone represents social interaction or emotional intelligence. The bottom zone is literally are more base cravings…aka sex drive. Anne’s upper zone is very dominant suggesting an extremely clever personality, but her loops and letters are closed at the top which indicates a certain narrow-minded thinking. With these type of people, it is their way or the highway.
You will also notice that Anne’s writing in her letter takes up little space in the lower zone contrasted to Henry’s writing and certainly his signature which dips dips....dips into the lower zone. People with strong lower zones not only have strong sex drives, but also have a strong drive to accomplish all their goals…whatever the means. These people are often restless and are stimulated by variety. (I know again with the variety…ok the man liked variety. You get it)
Underscoring is another common mark in signatures. Underscoring is a sign of independent thinking. Underscores are a way of adding extra strength to the signature and also symbolize a need for recognition. Notice Anne's strong underscore in her name. Obviously, Anne needed the people to recognize her as queen. The same device can be seen in her daughter, Elizabeth’s signature (left). But you will notice that Anne’s underline moves forward in one direction while Elizabeth’s goes back and forth with loopy garlands. A back and forth underscore is a sign of indecision in the need for independence. We can see this in Elizabeth’s constant battle on whether or not to marry. Could she relinquish control to a king or must the power be all hers? Elizabeth put the offer of marriage on the table several times and then snatched it away the next.
One of the first striking things about Elizabeth’s signature is that it is honking HUGE compared to the rest of her writing. Whenever a signature is large in comparison to the rest of the writing it indicates the person has a lot more invested in the image that he/she projects to the rest of the world. I have already written about how Elizabeth created the Cult of Gloriana by being very careful about the image that she projected.
When Elizabeth was taken to the Tower and imprisoned on orders of her half-sister Mary Tudor we see a very different signature (below). Notice how small her signature is in comparison to her signature when she became queen (right).
Let’s compare Elizabeth’s letter to that of her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots (below). We can see that Mary’s signature is much smaller in relation to her writing. A smaller signature represents modesty and if it is really tiny it can represent underestimating abilities. Mary certainly chose consistently to take a back seat to the men in her life. A choice she would later regret when her brother and husband #2 and #3 showed disloyalty.
Elizabeth’s signature also has several garlands on both the top and the bottom. Garlands are a sign of affability, but if the writing has too many then it represents the person trying too hard to be accepted. This is the “calculated” friendliness and a person who plasters a smile on their face to appeal to both friend and foe.
You will also notice that Elizabeth’s handwriting has very little slant. This is called an “A-slant” and it reflects a person who has an amazing control over their emotions. This is a person who makes decisions based on reason and is not swayed by emotional outbursts. An A-slant person can often seem cold and heartless when they are actually simply well-guarded individuals.
Let’s contrast this with Mary Queen of Scots writing and signature which shows the classic “C-slant”. A C-slant person is swayed by emotions and can often make impulsive decisions.
Mary Queen of Scots
Mary's signature and her writing are also very dominant in the middle zone. People who are dominant in the middle-zone can only think of terms in the hear and now. They may have grandiose plans, but they have little success putting them into action. If you believe Mary was involved in all the plots and intrigues against Elizabeth then this fits perfectly with her inability to predict the significance of her actions.
So there you have it. Royal Signatures analyzed by your novice graphologist. Yes, I will admit that many of these signatures and writing samples are hard to analyze in modern context because people wrote differently, but I do think it is interesting to compare them.
Did I at least make you self-conscience about your own signature?