Modern History Sourcebook:
Queen Elizabeth I:
Against the Spanish Armada, 1588
In the sixteenth century, England experienced a cultural efflorescence
and acquired a clear modern national identity. Part of that identity
- insular and Protestant - was formed in conflict with Spain,
the leading Catholic power of the day. A defining moment occurred
with the attack of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Elizabeth I of
England (1533-1603) was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne
Boleyn, and proved to be a canny ruler. These are her words when
she visited her troops in the field.
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 at
this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved,
in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you
all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people,
my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body
of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart 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 realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should 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, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards
and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they
shall be duly paid you. In the mean my lieutenant general shall
be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble
and worthy subject; not doubting by your obedience to my general,
by your concord in the camp, and by your valor in the field, we
shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God,
of my kingdom, and of my people.
Elizabeth I, 1588
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997