Queen Elizabeth I remains one of the monarchs I enjoy reading about the most. Well, to be truthful, I enjoy learning more about the rest of her family as well. The Tudor period of English history is one of my favorite time periods to study.
One of the assignments in my education classes at college was the preparation of several lessons and the mock teaching of them to my fellow classmates. As a history major, I wrote history lessons including one entitled: An Introduction to Elizabeth I through her speeches and letters.
In order to understand the words of Elizabeth I, it is a good idea to look back on her family's life. A timeline of events prior to her life is a good starting point to understand Elizabeth's point of view. Some of the things to think about include the following questions:
- When did the Tudors come to power?
- Who was the father of Elizabeth I?
- Who was the mother of Elizabeth I?
- What was the Great Matter?
- What happened to Elizabeth's mother?
- Who ruled after Henry VIII? Edward?
- What happened during the reign of Mary?
Important Speeches and Letters
During the lifetime of a leader, they will pen many important letters and make many important speeches. For Elizabeth I, the majority of hers dealt with marriage and religion, as these were two very important topics of her reign. Let's examine a few of the notable ones.
Response to Parliamentary Delegation on Her Marriage, 1559
On February 7, 1559, the speaker of Parliament requested the Queen marry and a later addition to the petition was that she marry within the realm – not a foreigner. In this 1559 speech, composed and written by Elizabeth herself, she wanted to assure the House of Commons that she would not make the same mistake as her sister, Mary, and marry outside the realm.
"I am descended by father and mother of mere English blood,
and not of Spain, as my late sister was."
While she appreciates their petition, she also reminds them that she does not need to meet their demands as she is the Queen. She believes that God has preserved her and led her in her reign. She will not make a hasty decision, nor one that causes harm to her kingdom or her subjects.
Response to Erik of Sweden's Proposal, 1560
In a letter of statesmanship, Elizabeth writes that she has no affection for Erik (or anyone for that matter) and still wants to live a single life. She writes her refusal to marry him is not because she has not seen him, although she will not marry anyone she has not seen (she is covering all her bases here – no fooling Elizabeth).
Response to Parliamentary Delegation on Her Marriage, 1566
Necessity forced Elizabeth to answer Parliament in regards to marriage again. On October 21, 1566, the Lord Treasurer met with her to explain that both the House of Commons and the House of Lords petitioned her regarding marriage and succession. They begged her to either declare her will on the matter or put an end to Parliament so they could all go home.
Elizabeth was very angry with them. She had already answered their questions regarding marriage. She promised them she would marry and would do so as soon as possible – when it is convenient. When addressing the second point, succession, she said she was annoyed that they – the foot – should dare to direct her – the head. It was not up to Parliament to meddle in her affairs.
"My Lords, do whatever you wish. As for me, I shall do no otherwise than pleases me. Your bills can have no force without my assent and authority."
On Religion, 1583
In this speech, Elizabeth is reminding her people that all matters must take root in religion. The slandering of the queen by the clergy cannot be tolerated. Elizabeth has read God's book, the Bible, and believes God has made Britain wonderful for them. She will rule her subjects by "God's holy true rule."
The Farewell Speech, 1601
The love of Elizabeth's subjects was like a jewel to her. She was very thankful to be queen over them. she loved her subjects.
Elizabeth was grateful to be God's instrument to preserve her people from peril, dishonor, and oppression. She never set her heart on worldly goods but ruled in answer to a higher judge – God.
"I see all and say nothing" – Elizabeth's motto
Elizabeth I had learned greatly from her sister's mistakes and knew that she had to identify herself with her subjects, her people. In order to not rely upon Parliament, who were forever pushing her to marry, she cut her expenses in half and established a solid credit line. Elizabeth did not have to rely upon Parliament to request money.
In relating her thoughts and opinions to Parliament and her subjects, Elizabeth displayed her fine education. She was an eloquent writer who used involved sentences to share her thoughts on many subjects including those of religion, marriage, and succession.
Looking for more information about the Tudors? Why not read about Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, or the Tower of London?
Resource and References
The History Place: Queen Elizabeth I's speech Against the Spanish Armada
Elizabeth I Speeches: Response to Parliament (1566), Spanish Armada, Farewell Speech
Selected Writings and Speeches of Elizabeth I at Fordham University
Free Download of Tudor Events Timeline
Free Download of Tudor Events Timeline
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