Elizabeth I: The Golden Age - ELIZABETH'S SPEECH to her PEOPLE

ELIZABETH'S SPEECH to her PEOPLE (Illustration) Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Geography Legends and Legendary People World History

Image of a 19th century engraving, by Matthew White Ridley, depicting Queen Elizabeth I as she reviews the Earl of Leicester's troops at West Tilbury where she made her renowned speech.  The original engraving is maintained in a private collection.


British land forces, led by Robert Dudley (Earl of Leicester), were preparing to repel the anticipated invasion by Spanish soldiers. To rally her troops, Elizabeth visited their camp at West Tilbury (in the Thames Estuary).

Using rousing words and "the royal we," she gave one of her most memorable speeches:

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[Alexander Farnese]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 [Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester] 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.

Contemporary sources (particularly the history of Elizabeth's reign by William Camden [1551-1623] which relies on materials provided by the Queen's chief advisor, William Cecil) report that Elizabeth's Tilbury speech had the desired effect:

. . .incredible it is how much shee [she] strengthened the hearts of ther [their] Captains and Souldiers by her presence and speech. (Camden, Annales Rerum Angliae et Hiberniae Regnante Elizabetha, 1588, Section 30)

Ships of the Armada did not enter the Thames. Fighting between the two fleets had ended, and the anticipated invasion of Britain never happened.

The wind continued to push the Spanish Armada, still largely intact, northward - toward Scotland and a king (James VI) who was very upset about the execution (by beheading) of his mother (Mary, Queen of Scots).

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: Feb 26, 2015

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