Hollywood movies have never been known for their historical accuracy, which is often sacrificed in the pursuit of entertainment, and the plot & script of the 1939 film 'The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex' take more liberties than most.
However, there is an interesting detail at around 11m 30secs when 'Elizabeth' is working on some documents. Twice, after seemingly signing off on documents, she picks up the silver object pictured below and appears to sprinkle something on it.
Unlike the plot and even the costumes to some extent (though period influences are apparently evident), there seems to be little motive for fabricating this detail. Historical research on this film was in the hands of Warner's Head of Research Herman Lissauer, described in one source as "competent and industrious" (though presumably his views on the historical accuracy of the plot were not requested).
Can anyone confirm the authenticity of the scene pictured above? If it is authentic, what is 'Elizabeth' doing?
The only thing I can think of is that she is using some kind of scent but I can't find any evidence to support this. Also, would someone use scent on a document which appears to be related to affairs of state rather than being a personal letter?