On 9th August 1588 Queen Elizabeth I visited her troops who were stationed at Tilbury, Essex during the Spanish Armada and delivered a speech that was designed to unite and rouse her army.
Although the Armada had been defeated in the Battle of Gravelines 11 days previously, the Armada had headed up and around Scotland in an attempt to flee the English navy. It was unknown whether they would try a second attempt at invading England on the way back past or if the Duke of Parma would attempt to cross the channel and invade. Therefore troops were still on high alert at Tilbury.
Upon arrival at Tilbury, the Queen left her bodyguards and went amongst her subjects with an escort of six men. Lord Ormonde walked ahead of the group carrying the Sword of State followed by a page leading the Queen’s charge and another page carrying on a cushion her silver helmet. It is believed that the Queen wore silver armour and rode on a grey horse flanked by the Earl of Leicester or her right and the Earl of Essex on her left with Sir John Norreys following behind.
The Queen then gave her speech to the troops, many versions of her words are documented however, it is widely believed that the correct speech was written in a letter from Leonel Sharp to the Duke of Buckingham after the event. It read;
“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, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heart of 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 of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and 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; 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 on a word of a prince, they shall be duly paid. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince never 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 these enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.”
The Spanish Armada did not attempt a second invasion but instead travelled straight back to Spain following severe losses of the coast of Ireland but Elizabeth’s speech is remembered for uniting the country against the Spanish.
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth to commemorate the
defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588