Thursday, June 2, 2011

Required Works: The Speeches of Queen Elizabeth I

This should be a relatively short post (I hope), as we won’t be dealing with any major works of literature. Instead, today’s post is on two famous speeches by Queen Elizabeth I of England: The “Speech to the Troops at Tillbury,” and the “Golden Speech.”


There isn’t much to say for this section as these are both speeches, and very persuasive ones at that. The “Speech to the Troops at Tillbury” was made to inspire courage and a sense of patriotism in the soldiers who were about to face an invasion by the Spanish Armada, while the “Golden Speech” was delivered to Members of the Commons regarding economic issues facing the country.


In her “Speech to the Troops at Tillbury,” from just the first few lines I can tell that the Queen was extremely careful in choosing her words to achieve the best affect that she was going for. From the outset she makes it perfectly clear that she trusts her people, and manages to separate herself from the image of a tyrant (whether there was fear that her people viewed her as such I am really not sure). She showed up to make the speech wearing a breastplate of armor over her dress, as if she truly was one of her soldiers. And to drive that image home, she asserts that she is more than ready to “live and die amongst you all.” She then addresses the fact that she is but a “week and feeble woman,” but she insists that she has the “heart and stomach of a king,” thus making her adequate for battle and to be a leader. I will point out though that in the last paragraph she makes sure to ever so slightly point out that her lieutenant general will “be in [her] stead” during the actual battle. Fortunately for England, none of this was even necessary as the Spanish Armada had already been defeated.

In the “Golden Speech,” Elizabeth addresses concerns over price-fixing and widespread resentment by first professing ignorance of any misdeeds, and then she wins the members of the House of Commons over with promises and an appeal to their emotions. Once again, Elizabeth chooses her words very carefully. She immediately absolves herself of any responsibility to any misconduct, and then goes on to profess her unending love and respect for her country, her position, and of course, the Members themselves. She repeatedly places any authority she has under God and continually remarks that she would only operate the way God would want her too. Hard to argue with someone who insists they only operate within the power of the Almighty.


As mentioned before, the “Speech to the Troops at Tillbury” was made in anticipation of an invasion by the Spanish Armada. The Armada set out on July 12th, but a miscalculation, misfortune, and an attack by the English on July 29 caused the fleet to be dispersed and therefore be defeated. Elizabeth made the speech on the 8th of August, long after there was any need to rouse the troops. But of course, there was no email or texting back then, and news traveled slowly. So no invasion came, England rejoiced, and the defeat served as a propaganda victory for both Elizabeth and Protestant England as many believed it proved God’s favor for a country under the rule of a virgin queen, despite the fact that it was not a turning point in a war that still often favored the Spanish.

During the last years of her reign Elizabeth relied on monopolies rather than asking Parliament for subsidies during the war, but as I mentioned before, this led to price-fixing and agitation in the House of Commons. Elizabeth’s “Golden Speech” is said to mark the end of her reign, which is commonly known as England’s “Golden Era.” In it she announces that this would be her last Parliament, and the speech itself would be reprinted over time whenever England was in danger.

And there you have it. Fairly straightforward and uncomplicated. I can almost guarantee that will be the last time I can say that.

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