Friday, February 1, 2013
The Virgin Queen (Virginia) - Elizabeth I 1559 Declares she will remain a virgin + Early Portraits
The year was 1559, and Elizabeth I had been Queen only one year.
"When the Assembly of Parliament was now to be dissolved, they all thought good that the Third Estate, or Lower House, should advise the Queen to marry betimes: yet would not the Temporal Lords joyn with them, lest any of them might seem to propound it in hope to prefer himself. Thomas Gargrave therefore, Speaker of the Lower House, with some few selected men, after leave obtained, came unto the Queen, and making his excuse by his Office, the Queen's Courtesie, and the Weightiness of the matter, went forward to this purpose: There is nothing which with more ardent affection we beg of God in our daily prayers, than that our Happiness hitherto received by your most gratious Government may be perpetuated to the English Nation unto all eternity, Whilstin our mind and cogitation we cast many ways how this may be effected, we can find none at all, unless your Majesty should either reign for ever, (which to hope for is not lawfull;) or else by Marriage bring forth Children, Heirs both of their Mother's Vertue and Empire, (which God Almighty grant.) This is the single, the onely, the all-comprehending Prayer of all English-men. All other men, of what place and degree soever, but especially Princes, must have a care, that though themselves be mortal, yet the Commonwealth may continue immortal. This immortality may your Majesty give to the English, if (as your humane nature, Age, Beauty and Fortune do require,) you will take some man to your Hus band, who may be a Comfort and Help unto you, and a Consort in Prosperity and Adversity. For (questionless) more availeth the Help of one onely Husband for the effecting of matters, than the joynt Industry of many men. Nothing can be more contrary to the publick Respects, than that such a Princess, in whose Marriage is comprehended the Safety and Peace of the Commonwealth, should live unmarried, and as it were a Vestal Virgin. A Kingdom received from Ancestours is to be left to Children, who will be both an Ornament and Strength to the Realm. The Kings of England have never been more carefull of any thing, than that the Royal Family might not fail of Issue. Hence it was, that within our fresh memory Henry the VII. your Grandfather, provided his Sons Arthur and Henry of Marriage even in their tender years. Hence it was that your Father sought to procure Mary Queen of Scots to be a Wife for his young Son Prince Edward, then scarce eight years old: and very lately your Sister, Queen Mary, being well in years, married Philip of Spain . If lack of Children use to be inflicted by God as a great Punishment as well upon Royal as private Families; what and how great a Sin may it be, if the Prince voluntarily pluck it upon himself, whereby an infinite heap of Miseries must needs overwhelm the Commonwealth with all Calamities which the mind even dreadeth to remember? Which that it may not come to pass, not onely we few that are here to present, but even all England , yea all English men, do prostrate our selves at your feet, and with humble voice and frequent Sighs do from the bottom of our hearts most submissively pray and beseech you. These things spake he eloquently and more amply."
Elizabeth I replied to Parliament as follows.
"In a matter most unpleasing, most pleasing to me is the apparent Good will of you and my People, as proceeding from a very good mind towards me and the Commonwealth. Concerning Marriage, which ye so earnestly move me to, I have been long since perswaded, that I was sent into this world by God to think and doe those things chiefly which may tend to his Glory. Hereupon have I chosen that kind of life which is most free from the troublesome Cares of this world, that I might attend the Service of God alone. From which if either the tendred Marriages of most Potent Princes, or the danger of Death intended against me, could have removed me, I had long agone enjoyed the honour of an Husband. And these things have I thought upon when I was a private person. But now that the publick Care of governing the Kingdom is laid upon me, to draw upon me also the Cares of Marriage may seem a point of inconsiderate Folly. Yea, to satisfie you, I have already joyned my self in Marriage to an Husband, namely, the Kingdom of England. And behold (said she which I marvell ye have forgotten,) the Pledge of this my Wedlock and Marriage with my Kingdom. (And therewith she drew the Ring from her Finger, and shewed it, wherewith at her Coronation she had in a set form of words solemnly given her self in Marriage to her Kingdom.) Here having made a pause, And do not (saith she) upbraid me with miserable lack of Children: for every one of you, and as many as are Englishmen, are Children and Kinsmen to me; of whom if God deprive me not, (which God forbid) I cannot without injury be accounted Barren. But I commend you that ye have not appointed me an Husband, for that were most unworthy the Majesty of an absolute Princess, and unbeseeming your Wisedom, which are Subjects born. Nevertheless if it please God that I enter into another course of life, I promise you I will doe nothing which may be prejudicial to the Commonwealth, but will take such a Husband, as near as may be, as will have as great a Care of the Commonwealth as my self. But if I continue in this kind of life I have begun, I doubt not but God will so direct mine own and your Counsels, that ye shall not need to doubt of a Successour which may be more beneficial to the Commonwealth than he which may be born of me, considering that the Issue of the best Princes many times degenerateth. And to me it shall be a full satisfaction, both for the memorial of my Name, and for my Glory also, if when I shall let my last breath, it be ingraven upon my Marble Tomb, Here lieth Elizabeth, which Reigned a Virgin, and died a Virgin."
Early portrayals of the queen often show her with a gold-trimmed ruff "in blacke with a hoode and cornet." Here the young queen is portrayed as studious, pious, and perhaps even a little apprehensive. Here she is still a young woman, a real person. Sometimes she holds a book, perhaps a prayer book; or she holds or wears a red rose, a symbol of the Tudor Dynasty's descent from the House of Lancaster.
"Twas God the word that spake it,
He took the Bread and brake it;
And what the word did make it;
That I believe, and take it."