Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn who were both patrons of the Arts and who helped bring the Renaissance to England. Their love of learning and of the arts was evidently passed on to Elizabeth who was an accomplished writer, writing many famous poems, speeches and letters during her life.
I have already added some of her speeches, poems and letters to the Elizabeth Files. When you read these poems, you will see that Elizabeth was not just an iconic monarch, she was also a talented writer and should be remembered as such.
Click on these links to read poems that are attributed to her:-
- The Doubt of Future Foes
- On Monsieur’s Departure
- Written in her French Psalter
- Written with a diamond on her window at Woodstock
- In Defiance of Fortune
- Woodstock Verses
Elizabeth I’s most famous speeches are:-
- The Tilbury Speech
- The Golden Speech
- 1559 Parliament Speech – Regarding marriage
- 1563 Parliament Speech – Regarding marriage and the succession
- 1566 Parliamentary “Dressing down” regarding marriage
- 1583 Speech on Religion
- Response given in Latin to the Polish Ambassador
Elizabeth I’s most famous letters can be found on our Letters of Elizabeth I page.
As you can see, Elizabeth I had a way with words!
You can find more of Elizabeth I’s literary works on the Luminarium website and in the book “Elizabeth I: Collected Works”. (Click on the link for US information or click here for UK).
8 thoughts on “Elizabeth I: The Writer”
Elizabeth’s writing, the little that we have, shows an accomplished writer and a brilliant mind. She was fluent in at least 5 languages, moreover, and used to translate classics as a hobby! It is at times almost Shakespearean in style (well, I suppose we should say Elizabethan in style) but also often outstanding in its depth and intensity.
I doubt that she ever etched the message in the window pane at Woodstock. Given that she had only recently been released from the Tower and only escaped execution by the skin of her teeth, and that she was still under close house arrest and suspected of treason, it would have been untypical rash and careless of her. More likely the work of an enemy or a false report that has come down to us as legend.
I wish I had her language skills! What an amazing woman and to think that she did that wonderful translation of “The Mirror of the Sinful Soul” when she was just 10. I can’t quite remember what I was doing at the age of 10 but I definitely could not do any translating!!
It’s a great story about the etching on the window, I hope she did do it as it would show a bit of recklessness!
Thanks for the comment!
She was surrounded by enemies during the Woodstock time! They were concerned about assassination, worried about people spreading false rumours. Her friend John Dee was arrested for visiting and attempting to ‘enchant Her Majesty’ – treasonable activity. Elizabeth was implicated in this, speculating on the Queen’s Nativity (astrological chart).
It is, as you say Rochie, pretty unlikely she would have written that message at such a critical moment in her life. After all she had been through. She wasn’t one of the ‘Cheeky Girls’, after all! She was already hardened by adversity, already becoming the natural diplomat.
I just think … well she was only in her early twenties, bored, lonely … you can sort of imagine her sitting there by a window and doing that.
Emmm… we all love these legends, don’t we! I can’t understand why one of those pre-raphaelite painters didn’t do a wonderful atmospheric painting of the scene! Millais … you missed your opportunity here!
Oooh yes, it would make a beautiful painting – damsel in distress with long floaty red hair etches a message on the window! I’ve just watched the BBC production “The Virgin Queen” with Anne-Marie Duff and it’s the only production that I have seen which shows Elizabeth writing this message on the window with her ring. Have you seen that series?
Yes, there’s no harm in a good legend unless, like the myths that surround Anne Boleyn, it does harm and tarnishes someone’s reputation.
Yes, etching such a message on the window would not have been sensible at this time and I’m sure it would have been spotted by those who kept an eye on her. Elizabeth went through so much at such a young age, a really hard life, and I can’t imagine how it must have felt to fear for her life constantly and to always be used and implicated in plots that were not of her doing. It is amazing that she survived that time and such an “apprenticeship”, as Starkey calls it, must have really shaped the woman she became.
On another subject, I do find it interesting that in those days people were so superstitious and also that religion and astrology were not opposed to each other, whereas these days astrology is frowned on if you are religious. Astrology and Christianity just don’t mix now.
Thanks for the comment!
I agree, Claire. For us today it is difficult to comprehend how something of that nature (looking at the Queen’s stars) could be construed as treasonable. But it was. Even as recently as the second world war, astrology was employed as propaganda.
Whether it is true in any rational sense is not important. That people are prepared to believe it might be true is what counts. To state that the King or the Queen might be ‘ill-stared’ is dangerous if there are enough people who believe it might be true!
Mary and Stephen Gardiner suspected that Elizabeth was engaged in such … and it proved to be very awkward for her when this was revealed, largely through the testimony of spies at Woodstock.
You’re going to have to write an article on it, Robert!! It does fascinate me this compulsion that people had to listen to “soothsayers” and to consult the stars. We discount things like Anne Boleyn (had to get Anne into this somewhere!!) receiving that book of prophecy about her death as a load of nonsense but in those days it was serious. The Tudor people do seem to have been preoccupied with death (I guess that’s understandable with the fact that they didn’t actually live very long), superstition, astrology, religion and witchcraft – a great recipe!