WWP The Project Newsletter Archive Volume 3,Number 1 From the Textbase

A most Excellent and Remarkable
Speech
Delivered by that Mirrour and Miracle of
Princes, Queen Elizabeth, of famous memory, in
the Honourable the High Court of Parliament,

In the seventeenth yeere of her reigne.

Editor's Note: This text is transcribed from the Folger copy of the 1643 edition without emendation of any sort. Any typographical errors are from the source.


My Lords,

This present Session of Parliament gathered together by Our command, for the good of Our selfe and the prosperity of Our Subjects, Wee wish may be as fortunate to them as conducing to Our intents, which shall still guide themselves to the advancement of Our peoples wel-fare. We are not ignorant of the imbecility and unablenesse of Our sex to governe such a powerfull and mighty Kingdom as this is, strong in faction, through reason of diversity of Religion now raigning in it, forraigne Princes, especially the Pope and the King of Spaine, Our inveterate enemies, in regard of the profession of the Gospell, who, both by practices abroad, and incitations of Our subjects at home, have sought all meanes to deprive Us of the royalty of this Our Hereditary Kingdome; such and so bloody minded are the devices of the Papists against Us, and all that love the true Worship of God, that they never cease, like roring Lyons, to goe about day and night, seeking whom they may devoure: but though feare be naturally incident to Our sex it is banished from the condition of a Prince; as Wee are a woman, We may feare to fall under their malice; as Wee are a Prince, the Soveraigne of this Kingdome, Wee cannot dread their attempts, knowing that the awe which is intailed upon Majesty, hath power to strike dead all such enterprizes of the most desperate traytors that are; and for Our owne part We shall no wayes be careless of Our owne security: but as you, my Lords, and Our honourable the House of Commons, have beene well and judiciously advised in enacting good and wholesome lawes against these inhumane and barbarous traytors, the Recusants of this Kingdome, so shall We without regard or feare of any, see they be put in execution. We have made it alwayes Our principall study, my Lords, to be well experienced in the duty of Princes towards their people, and by the instructions both of the Divine and Humane lawes, We find that Princes have as neere a relation, and as strict an obligation to their Subjects, as Subjects have to them; secundum morem principis, after the manner which a Prince can be ingaged or obliged, that is, by the bond sealed to the people at the Coronation; every Prince covenants with the people, to defend them from all injuries, domesticke and forraigne, to institute and ordaine good and wholesome lawes for their security, from oppressions one from another, and from the Prince himselfe, who by the unlimited power and prerogative of his royalty, may onely, and yet more grievously afflict the people, then the people can any way injure one another; the people being equall one with another, and obliged to the same lawes, the Prince being above them. And surely wrongs from equalls are easilier righted then from superiours, the eminence of power oft times blinding the Eagles eyes of equity.

A Prince should therefore be toward the people, as that great Prophet Samuel was toward the Israelites, whom, when hee had judged for many yeares, hee boldly challeng'd the whole Congregation to attest against him whose Oxe, or whose Asse he had taken, or from whom he had received any bribe to pervert Justice.

This, my Lords, have We in Our consideration and resolution, set downe as Our president in the government of this Our English Israel, who Gods mercies have notified his peculiar people, and this we shall ever accomplish, the due administration of Justice. Princes as they are Gods on earth in title, should be so in their actions: and We call you all to witnesse, my Lords, this day, that in this seventeenth yeare of Our raigne over you, We have never performed any act preduciall to the liberty, or opposite to the known lawes of the land, which have been confirmed to them by so many Kings, Our Royall Progenitors; and surely what Monarch of England that shall at any time goe about to alienate the property of the Subject, or impose on their immunities any innovation, or diminishment, can never boast himselfe to be absolute Soveraigne of this Kingdome, nor to injoy His Crowne and dignity, with the well wishes, and affections of his Subject; for so large is the charter of the English Subject liberty, which the piety of Our Royall Predecessors have granted them, and the merit of their own ancestors purchased, that they are a free people, if compared with other Nations, who groan under the yoak and heavy burdens laid on their servile necks by their Soveraignes, custome in suffring, making them undergo their suffrings with patience.

But the nature We know of all Englishmen to be such, that faire words and gentle usage may sooner overcome and inslave their huge stomacks and great spirits then any force or foule meanes whatsoever. There lives not in the whole world a more obedient people to their Soveraigne then Ours are, so long as they continue, the Prince studies to defend and preserve their liberties but if once they fal off from that opinion, either by the over severity, or too much neglect of their Soveraigne in the managing the affaires of the Commonwealth: They are of all other Subjects most violent and implacable, which We conceive proceeds out of the extraordinary affection they beare their King, grieving inwardly, and taking from hence more to heart any indignity offered them then any Subject whatsoever.

But you my Lords, and you Our house of Commons, of this Our high Court of Parliament, to you the principall care of Our people by Us hath ever beene committed; Wee are so well assured, both by your own integrities, and the presidents which you have given in former ages, both to Our Royall Father, and others of Our renowned Ancestors, of your loyalties, that Wee should esteeme it an uncivill defect in Our judgement to doubt thereof: Wee know it was the Act and wisedome of Parliament that united those two long jarring Royall Families of Yorke and Lancaster, both in Our selfe incorporated, by the marrying of Our Grandmother and Grandfather of famous memory. It was the power of Parliament that assisted Our said Grandfather against all those conspiracies of Warbecke, Lambert, and others, and rendred him victorious over all of them. It was the wisedome of His supreme Councell, the Parliament, guiding and counselling His actions as well as His owne naturall prudence, that made Him bee accounted the very Solomon of his time throughout all Nations; and surely it cannot be denied, but it was the same genius of Parliament that in Our Royall Fathers time produced such admirable effects, as were the denying the Antichristian Supremacy of the Pope, and the dissolutions of those Seminaries of sloth and vices, the wealthy Abbies and Monasteries, which had gotten into their possession the very fat of this Land, flowing with milke and honey, and did also assist Him with aids of money in all his wars abroad, rendring His name terrible to other Nations. It hath been the justice of Parliament that hath setled the indubitate right of this Kingdome in his children, Our Brother, Sister, and last of all, Our selfe, who must acknowledge that the Parliaments congregated by Us, have been happy and fortunate, both to Our Selfe and people; they have augmented and setled Our Royall Revenue, discovered and punished all dangerous conspiracies against Us, making and providing sharpe and fitting lawes for the determent of all desperate wretches from practising ought of violence aginst Our Person. The Parliament hath by Our consent, reduced coyne throughout Our Kingdome of England, and Principality of Wales, to its just and staple value. Finally, the Parliament is the mediator betwixt the Soveraignes of this Kingdome and the people thereof, the best inheritance and supportment of the royalty of the one, and the liberty of the other.

To you therefore Our Lords and Commons, assembled in this Our present Parliament, to treat and manage the difficult affaires of this Kingdome, We doe most willingly commit and commend the care of them, We believe so many noble and wise men, as here are gathered together, cannot be recreant from the vertue of their Predecessors, who have obtained and ordained so many wholesome and profitable lawes for the weale of the Subject, but be as industrious and zealous in the businesse of the Commonwealth, as they have beene carefull husbands of their properties and patrimonies: they expect from you the confirmation and augmentation of their liberties; and for Our owne part, We are so confident of your well meanings to Us, that We will freely intrust you with all the differences, or controversies between Our Selfe and people, if any such there be, that you may rectifie and reform them: Our people are as Our Selfe, and whatsoever ill or injury happens to them, either by the too much rigor of the lawes, or iniquity of the Judges, We shall judge as cast upon Us; looke severely to this businesse, and to all other that shall either concerne the people, or the true service of God, and you shall alwaies finde Us ready and willing to correspond with your votes in any thing.

We have only one thing to admonish you of which concernes Gods true Religion, and Our selfe and people neerly, to wit the power and still increasing number of Popish Recusants in this Kingdome; the Pope and Our English Fugitives sending over from beyond Seas daily new Emissaries of untruth and sedition amongst Us; these must either be prevented, or as illegitimate and dangerous sonnes of the Commonwealth, cut off, use in it your owne discretions; We are confident Our Parliament hath as great a stocke of wisdome as the grand Councell of any Kingdome whatsoever, that the wisest of the Kings Our Progenitors have relyed upon their prudence, well then may We, a poore weake woman put all Our confidence in your discretions, which wee shall ever as well as at this present time, beseech the God of Heaven to increase and blesse, that the Land may be happy in the prudence of your Councels, and We rejoyce and be exalted and beloved of Our neighbors, to the peace of Our Kingdome and Our owne increase of happinesse.

FINIS

Elizabeth I, 1533-1603

Queen of England, writer of poems, prayers, letters, speeches and translations, she was the daughter of Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII. An apt Renaissance pupil, she could speak fluently in Greek, Latin and modern languages. Elizabeth was a mistress of prose styles designed to rouse patriotism, confidence and personal devotion or respect. After coming to the throne in 1558, she often mentions her sex in a tone that cloaks pride with surface humility.

fromVirginia Blain, Isobel Grundy, Patricia Clements,eds. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English. (United States: Yale University Press, 1990), 335.

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