Elizabeth’s Golden Speech
What we now call Elizabeth’s Golden Speech was not called that in her lifetime, earning the sobriquet because one printed version began with a statement that the words deserved to be set in golden type.
The speech, which is moving and intriguing in equal measure, was her response, obviously prepared with great care, to a speech by Mr Speaker Croke. Elizabeth had received 141 members of the Commons in the Council Chamber at Westminster to hear their thanks for her agreement to rescind various monopolies in return for monies to prosecute a war in Ireland against Spanish-supported rebels.
Christopher Morris in The Tudors wrote: “Perhaps the one unmistakably genuine emotion she had, the one which was least a pose, was her sense of England, her sense of obligation to her people.” This rings through the speech, which conveys a love for her subjects and the country, content to have delivered those subjects from oppression. It is arguably a great landmark in the movement from monarch as master, focused on dynastic survival, to monarch as servant. The speech was indeed frequently reprinted in later centuries as an exemplar in times of crisis and threat.
Among these protestations of love there are frequent references to money, and attempts to gloss over the previous abuse of monopolies – sowing the seeds perhaps for future demands. Yet the tone is one of service, summed up best in Elizabeth’s own words: “To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it.”
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