The Tudor dynasty produced two of the most powerful monarchs in European history. Elizabeth I ascended to the throne at 25 years old and ruled for 44 years, while her dad, Henry VIII, was King of England and Ireland for 38 years.
In 1558, Elizabeth I became Queen of England. And in her reign, she would be the last monarch to rule over both England and Ireland. This woman was truly a powerhouse. She not only managed to keep her country together in an era when religious wars were tearing Europe apart, but also managed to create international alliances with countries like France and Spain that lasted well into the 19th century because of her diplomatic skills. It’s no wonder that this powerful queen is one of the most famous rulers in history!
On 9 August 1588, Elizabeth I addressed the House of Lords in the Tilbury speech. This was a major event from Elizabeth I’s reign, as she spoke from Tilbury Fort, a place where it was perceived there was little hope of escape from the growing threat from the Spanish Armada. England was victorious propelled to the top ranks of Europe’s powerful navies.
The speech was written by Francis Bacon, which argued that Britain needed a strong central government to counterbalance the power of the aristocracy. The speech is significant for presenting the ideas of the “modern state”. She was aware of the controversial nature of this topic and never intended to make a speech. However, the content of the speech became famous.
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The first is recorded by Dr Leonel Sharp in a letter to the Duke of Buckingham. Sharp’s is the most famous rendition of Elizabeth I’s speech:
“My loving people,
We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety to take heed how we commit ourselves 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 meantime, 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.”
She found herself as a captive as a consequence of a determined military rebellion. Elizabeth’s address was a powerful defense of her government and a personas of hope to the people. Elizabeth endured a difficult day, but her strength and resilience during a difficult time provide a powerful example for a leader.
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