9 August 1588 – Elizabeth I’s Speech to her Troops at Tilbury

On 9 August 1588, Elizabeth I delivered a speech at Tilbury, Essex to troops drawn from all over England in expectation of an immanent Spanish invasion. Elizabeth appeared before the troops dressed in white wearing a silver cuirass and riding on a grey gelding. Other descriptions have her wearing a plumed helmet and riding a white horse.

Dr Leonel Sharp, chaplain to Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex, was present at Tilbury on the day and in letter to the Duke of Buckingham, written after 1623, recounted the day:

‘I remember in 88 waiting upon the Earl of Leicester at Tilbury Camp… The Queen the next morning rode through all the squadrons of her army, as armed Pallas, attended by noble footmen, Leicester, Essex and Norris, then Lord Marshal, and divers other great lords, where she made an excellent oration to her army, which the next day after her departure I was commanded to re-deliver to all the army together, to keep a public fast. Her words were these:

‘My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety to take heed how we commit ourself 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 goodwill 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 or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God, and for my Kingdom and for 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 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 meantime my Lieutenant-General 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 Kingdoms, and of my People.’

2 thoughts on “9 August 1588 – Elizabeth I’s Speech to her Troops at Tilbury

  1. stirring stuff. Pity she didn’t keep her promise to reward her soldiers and sailors, but that’s politics for you, and Elizabeth was nothing if not a politician.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you are right. Though she had to learn early to be a politician to keep herself safe.
      But in 1588 – England was safe and ordinary people were cheap. I believe disease broke out while seamen waited and waited on ship to be paid. Some commanders did pay their men from their own pockets.


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