Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth Elizabeth prisoner.
WRITTEN ON A WALL AT WOODSTOCK, 1554-5
Oh Fortune, thy wresting wavering state
Hath fraught with cares my troubled wit,
Whose witness this present prison late
Could bear, where once was joy’s loan quit.
Thou causedst the guilty to be loosed
From bands where innocents were inclosed,
And caused the guiltless to be reserved,
And freed those that death had well deserved.
But all herein can be nothing wrought,
So God send to my foes all they have thought.
WRITTEN IN HER FRENCH PSALTER, 1554-5
No crooked leg, no bleared eye,
No part deformed out of kind,
Nor yet so ugly half can be
As is the inward suspicious mind.
THE DOUBT OF FUTURE FOES, 1568-70
The doubt of future foes exiles my present joy,
And wit me warns to shun such snares as threaten mine annoy;
For falsehood now doth flow, and subjects’ faith doth ebb,
Which should not be if reason ruled or wisdom weaved the web.
But clouds of joys untried do cloak aspiring minds,
Which turn to rain of late repent by changed course of winds.
The top of hope supposed the root upreared shall be,
And fruitless all their grafted guile, as shortly ye shall see.
The dazzled eyes with pride, which great ambition blinds,
Shall be unsealed by worthy wights whose foresight falsehood finds.
The daughter of debate that discord aye doth sow
Shall reap no gain where former rule still peace hath taught to know.
No foreign banished wight shall anchor in this port;
Our realm brooks not seditious sects, let them elsewhere resort.
My rusty sword through rest shall first his edge employ
To poll their tops that seek such change or gape for future joy.
THAT WHICH OUR SOVEREIGN LADY WROTE IN DEFIANCE OF FORTUNE, 1568-70
Never think you fortune can bear the sway
Where virtue’s force can cause her to obey.
ON MONSIEUR’S DEPARTURE, 1582
I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.
My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.
Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.
ELIZABETH’S MARRIAGE SPEECH TO PARLIAMENT, 1559
Elizabeth’s Parliament thought to bully her into marriage. From Henry VIII’s accession in 1509 onwards, the Tudor dynasty was always consumed by the problem of succession. For a hundred years, Englishmen – and many Europeans – discussed the . It was of vital importance. Elizabeth, however, would not be bullied and refused to marry. She responded to Parliament’s demand for her marriage with a wonderful extemporaneous speech. This was in 1559, barely a year into her reign.
When the Assembly of Parliament was now to be dissolved, they all thought good that the Third Estate, or Lower House, should advise the Queen to marry betimes: yet would not the Temporal Lords joyn with them, lest any of them might seem to propound it in hope to prefer himself. Thomas Gargrave therefore, Speaker of the Lower House, with some few selected men, after leave obtained, came unto the Queen, and making his excuse by his Office, the Queen’s Courtesie, and the Weightiness of the matter, went forward to this purpose: There is nothing which with more ardent affection we beg of God in our daily prayers, than that our Happiness hitherto received by your most gratious Government may be perpetuated to the English Nation unto all eternity, Whilstin our mind and cogitation we cast many ways how this may be effected, we can find none at all, unless your Majesty should either reign for ever, (which to hope for is not lawfull;) or else by Marriage bring forth Children, Heirs both of their Mother’s Vertue and Empire, (which God Almighty grant.) This is the single, the onely, the all-comprehending Prayer of all English-men. All other men, of what place and degree soever, but especially Princes, must have a care, that though themselves be mortal, yet the Commonwealth may continue immortal. This immortality may your Majesty give to the English, if (as your humane nature, Age, Beauty and Fortune do require,) you will take some man to your Hus band, who may be a Comfort and Help unto you, and a Consort in Prosperity and Adversity. For (questionless) more availeth the Help of one onely Husband for the effecting of matters, than the joynt Industry of many men. Nothing can be more contrary to the publick Respects, than that such a Princess, in whose Marriage is comprehended the Safety and Peace of the Commonwealth, should live unmarried, and as it were a Vestal Virgin. A Kingdom received from Ancestours is to be left to Children, who will be both an Ornament and Strength to the Realm. The Kings of England have never been more carefull of any thing, than that the Royal Family might not fail of Issue. Hence it was, that within our fresh memory Henry the VII. your Grandfather, provided his Sons Arthur and Henry of Marriage even in their tender years. Hence it was that your Father sought to procure Mary Queen of Scots to be a Wife for his young Son Prince Edward, then scarce eight years old: and very lately your Sister, Queen Mary, being well in years, married Philip of Spain . If lack of Children use to be inflicted by God as a great Punishment as well upon Royal as private Families; what and how great a Sin may it be, if the Prince voluntarily pluck it upon himself, whereby an infinite heap of Miseries must needs overwhelm the Commonwealth with all Calamities which the mind even dreadeth to remember? Which that it may not come to pass, not onely we few that are here to present, but even all England , yea all English men, do prostrate our selves at your feet, and with humble voice and frequent Sighs do from the bottom of our hearts most submissively pray and beseech you. These things spake he eloquently and more amply.
ELIZABETH’S REPLY: (She answered briefly:) In a matter most unpleasing, most pleasing to me is the apparent Good will of you and my People, as proceeding from a very good mind towards me and the Commonwealth. Concerning Marriage, which ye so earnestly move me to, I have been long since perswaded, that I was sent into this world by God to think and doe those things chiefly which may tend to his Glory. Hereupon have I chosen that kind of life which is most free from the troublesome Cares of this world, that I might attend the Service of God alone. From which if either the tendred Marriages of most Potent Princes, or the danger of Death intended against me, could have removed me, I had long agone enjoyed the honour of an Husband. And these things have I thought upon when I was a private person. But now that the publick Care of governing the Kingdom is laid upon me, to draw upon me also the Cares of Marriage may seem a point of inconsiderate Folly. Yea, to satisfie you, I have already joyned my self in Marriage to an Husband, namely, the Kingdom of England. And behold (said she which I marvell ye have forgotten,) the Pledge of this my Wedlock and Marriage with my Kingdom. (And therewith she drew the Ring from her Finger, and shewed it, wherewith at her Coronation she had in a set form of words solemnly given her self in Marriage to her Kingdom.) Here having made a pause, And do not (saith she) upbraid me with miserable lack of Children: for every one of you, and as many as are Englishmen, are Children and Kinsmen to me; of whom if God deprive me not, (which God forbid) I cannot without injury be accounted Barren. But I commend you that ye have not appointed me an Husband, for that were most unworthy the Majesty of an absolute Princess, and unbeseeming your Wisedom, which are Subjects born. Nevertheless if it please God that I enter into another course of life, I promise you I will doe nothing which may be prejudicial to the Commonwealth, but will take such a Husband, as near as may be, as will have as great a Care of the Commonwealth as my self. But if I continue in this kind of life I have begun, I doubt not but God will so direct mine own and your Counsels, that ye shall not need to doubt of a Successour which may be more beneficial to the Commonwealth than he which may be born of me, considering that the Issue of the best Princes many times degenerateth. And to me it shall be a full satisfaction, both for the memorial of my Name, and for my Glory also, if when I shall let my last breath, it be ingraven upon my Marble Tomb, Here lieth Elizabeth, which Reigned a Virgin, and died a Virgin.
ELIZABETH’S SPEECH AT TILBURY, 1588
The English forces were gathered to fight the Spanish Armada; their unlikely victory was one of the great highlights of Elizabeth’s reign.
My loving people,
We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.
To King Edward VI, 15th May 1546.
Like as the rich man daily gathereth riches to riches, and one bag of money layeth a great sort till it come to infinite, so methinks your Majesty, not being sufficed with many benefits and gentleness showed to me afore this time, doth now increase them in asking and desiring where you may bid and command, requiring a thing not worthy the desiring for itself, but made worthy for your Highness’s request. My picture, I mean, in which if the inward good mind toward your Grace might as well be declared as the outward face and countenance shall be seen, I would not have tarried the commandment but prevent it, nor have been the last to grant but the first to offer it. For the face, I grant, I might well blush to offer, but the mind I shall never be ashamed to present. For though from the grace of the picture the colours may fade by time, may give you weather, may be spotted by chance; yet the other nor time with her swift wings shall overtake, nor the misty clouds with their lowerings may darken, nor chance with her slippery foot may overthrow. Of this although yet the proof could not be great because the occasion hath been but small, notwithstanding as a dog hath a day, so may I perchance have time to declare it in deeds where now I do write them in words. And further I shall most humbly beseech your Majesty that when you shall look on my picture, you will vouchsafe to think that as you have but the outward shadow of the body before you, so my inward mind wisheth that the body itself were oftener in your presence; howbeit because both my so being I think could do your Majesty little pleasure, though myself great good; and again because I see as yet not the time agreeing thereunto, I shall learn to follow this saying of Horace, ‘ Feras non culpes quod vitari non potest.’ And thus I will (troubling your Majesty I fear) end with my most humble thanks.
Beseeching God long to preserve you to His Honour, to your comfort, to the Realm’s profit, and to my joy. From Hatfield this 15th day of May.
Your Majesty’s most humble sister and servant,
To the Dowager Queen Katharine Parr, 31st July 1548.
This was written after Elizabeth had left Katharine’s home (after the Thomas Seymour debacle.) Katharine was due to deliver her first child soon; she died shortly after childbirth. Although your Higness’s letters be most joyful to me in absence, yet, considering what pain it is for you to write, your Grace being so sickly, your commendations were enough in my Lord’s letter. I much rejoice at your health, with the well liking of the country, with my humble thanks that your Grace wished me with you till you were weary of that country. Your Highness were like to be cumbered, if I should not depart till I were weary of being with you; although it were the worst soil in the world, your presence would make it pleasant. I cannot reprove my Lord for not doing your commendations in his letter, for he did it; and although he had not, yet I will not complain on him; for he shall be diligent to give me knowledge from time to time how his busy child doth; and if I were at his birth, no doubt I would see him beaten, for the trouble he hath put you to. Master Denny and my lady, with humble thanks, prayeth most entirely for your Grace, praying the Almighty God to send you a most lucky deliverance, and my mistress wisheth no less, giving your Highness most humble thanks for her commendations.
Written with very little leisure this last day of July.
Your humble daughter,
To Princess Mary, 27th October 15–.
Good Sister, as to hear of your sickness is unpleasant to me, so is it nothing fearful; for that I understand it is your old guest that is wont oft to visit you, whose coming though it be oft, yet is it never welcome, but notwithstanding it is comfortable for that iacula præuisa minus feriunt. And as I do understand your need of Jane Russel’s service, so am I sorry that it is by my man’s occasion letted, which if I had known afore, I would have caused his will give place to need of her service. For as it is her duty to obey his commandment, so is it his part to attend your pleasure; and, as I confess, it were meeter for him to go to her, since she attends upon you, so indeed he required the same, but for that divers of his fellows had business abroad that made his tarrying at home.
Good Sister, though I have good cause to thank you for your oft sending to me, yet I have more occasion to render hearty thanks for your gentle writing, which how painful it is to you, I may well guess by myself; and you may well see by my writing so oft, how pleasant it is to me. And thus I end to trouble you, desiring God to send you as well to do, as you can think and wish, or I desire or pray. From Ashridge, scribbled this 27th of October.
Your loving sister,
To Queen Mary, 16th March 1554.
This was written when the order came that Elizabeth was to be sent to the Tower, on suspicion that she was implicated by Wyatt’s rebellion. Wyatt’s correspondence with Elizabeth was seized, and amongst the evidence produced was an alleged copy of a letter written by Elizabeth to Henri II of France. It was a forgery.
If any ever did try this old saying, ‘that a king’s word was more than another man’s oath,’ I most humbly beseech your Majesty to verify it to me, and to remember your last promise and my last demand, that I be not not condemned without answer and due proof, which it seems that I now am; for without cause proved, I am by your council from you commanded to go to the Tower, a place more wanted for a false traitor than a true subject, which though I know I desire it not, yet in the face of all this realm it appears proved. I pray to God I may die the shamefullest death that any ever died, if I may mean any such thing; and to this present hour I protest before God (Who shall judge my truth, whatsoever malice shall devise), that I never practised, counselled, nor consented to anything that might be prejudicial to your person anyway, or dangerous to the state by any means. And therefore I humbly beseech your Majesty to let me answer afore yourself, and not suffer me to trust to your Councillors, yea, and that afore I go to the Tower, if it be possible; if not, before I be further condemned. Howbeit, I trust assuredly your Highness will give me leave to do it afore I go, that thus shamefully I may not be cried out on, as I now shall be; yea, and that without cause. Let conscience move your Highness to pardon this my boldness, which innocency procures me to do, together with hope of your natural kindness, which I trust will not see me cast away without desert, which what it is I would desire no more of God but that you truly knew, but which thing I think and believe you shall never by report know, unless by yourself you hear. I have heard of many in my time cast away for want of coming to the presence of their Prince; and in late days I heard my Lord of Somerset say that if his brother had been suffered to speak with him he had never suffered; but persuasions were made to him so great that he was brought in belief that he could not live safely if the Admiral lived, and that made him give consent to his death. Though these persons are not to be compared to your Majesty, yet I pray to God the like evil persuasions persuade not one sister against the other, and all for that they have heard false report, and the truth not known. Therefore, once again, kneeling with humbleness of heart, because I am not suffered to bow the knees of my body, I humbly crave to speak with your Highness, which I would not be so bold as to desire if I knew not myself most clear, as I know myself most true. And as for the traitor Wyatt, he might peradventure write me a letter, but on my faith I never received any from him. And as for the copy of the letter sent to the French King, I pray God confound me eternally if ever I sent him word, message, token, or letter, by any means, and to this truth I will stand in till my death.
Your Highness’s most faithful subject, that hath been from the beginning, and will be to my end,
I humbly crave but only one word of answer from yourself. (added as a postscript)