Elizabeth I of England

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Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603, ascended in 1558)

Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed two and a half years after Elizabeth's birth. Anne's marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Roman Catholic Mary, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward's will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.

In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel. She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers, led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement was to evolve into the Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir to continue the Tudor line. She never did, despite numerous courtships. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity. A cult grew around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.


  • Much suspected by me,
    Nothing proved can be,
    Quoth Elizabeth prisoner.
    • Written with a diamond on her window at Woodstock (1555), published in Acts and Monuments (1563) by John Foxe.
  • This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
    • Her reaction when she was told she was Queen (17 November 1558).
  • Kings were wont to honour philosophers, but if I had such I would honour them as angels that should have such piety in them that they would not seek where they are the second to be the first, and where the third to be the second and so forth.
    • Response to Parliament (October 1566).
  • Though I be a woman yet I have as good a courage answerable to my place as ever my father had. I am your anointed Queen. I will never be by violence constrained to do anything. I thank God I am endued with such qualities that if I were turned out of the Realm in my petticoat I were able to live in any place in Christendom.
    • Response to Parliament (October 1566).
  • I will make you shorter by the head.
    • Response to Parliament (October 1566).
  • The use of the sea and air is common to all; neither can a title to the ocean belong to any people or private persons, forasmuch as neither nature nor public use and custom permit any possession thereof.
    • To the Spanish Ambassador (1580).
  • Brass shines as fair to the ignorant as gold to the goldsmiths.
    • Letter (1581).
  • 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.
    • "On Monsieur's Departure" (February 1582).
  • 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.
    • "On Monsieur's Departure" (February 1582).
  • Must is not a word to be used to princes! Little man, little man, if your late father were here he would never dare utter such a word.
    • To Robert Cecil when he said, in her final illness (March 1603), that she must go to bed.
  • Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor.
  • If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all.
    • Rhyming response written on a windowpane beneath Sir Walter Raleigh's writing: "Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall." As quoted in The History of the Worthies of England (1662) by Thomas Fuller
  • I would not open windows into men's souls.

Speech to the Troops at Tilbury (1588)[edit]

Delivered at Tilbury, Essex on August 19, 1588. Full text at Wikisource.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

The Golden Speech (1601)[edit]

Delivered to the House of Commons on November 30, 1601. Full text at Wikisource.
  • Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my Crown, that I have reigned with your loves.
  • I do not so much rejoice that God hath made me to be a Queen, as to be a Queen over so thankful a people. Therefore I have cause to wish nothing more than to content the subject and that is a duty which I owe. Neither do I desire to live longer days than I may see your prosperity and that is my only desire.
  • I know the title of a King is a glorious title, but assure yourself that the shining glory of princely authority hath not so dazzled the eyes of our understanding, but that we well know and remember that we also are to yield an account of our actions before the great judge. To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it.
  • There will never Queen sit in my seat with more zeal to my country, care to my subjects and that will sooner with willingness venture her life for your good and safety than myself. For it is my desire to live nor reign no longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.
  • "I shall be thy name in Christ as I emerge through these walls in vein"

Quotes about Elizabeth I[edit]

  • She certainly is a great queen, and were she only a Catholic she would be our dearly beloved. Just look how well she governs; she is only a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all.
    • Pope Sixtus V (in the autumn of 1585), as reported in Walter Walsh, The Jesuits in Great Britain (1903), p. 111.
  • Queen Elizabeth of famous memory,—we need not be ashamed to call her so! ...that Lady, that great Queen.
    • Oliver Cromwell's speech to Parliament (17 September 1656), quoted in Thomas Carlyle, Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches with Elucidations. Volume III (London: George Routledge and Sons, n.d.), p. 101.

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