Knowing that her troops were willling to die for her and their country, Elizabeth made a visit to the village of West Tilbury, where the soldiers were stationed and waiting as the Spanish fleet made their way to English shores. They were prepared to fight and die with honor if those Spanish troops were to reach their land. It is said that Elizabeth wanted to show her gratitude for the brave men in her service, as she understood and appreciated the sacrifice and devotion they were showing her.
After camping in the village with her troops, guarded and protected by them, and in the company of her Lord Burghley, the Earl of Essex, and the Earl of Leicester, the Queen inspected the troops and dined on the field, and then rode through the field on a gallant horse (picture the scene from the movie, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, when Cate Blanchet rode the white horse in the midst of her troops and addressed them). At her side were her two faithful Earls, ever-eager to support the Queen in all her endeavors. As Elizabeth looked on at her able-bodied army, no-doubt fearful of the impending invasion, and uncertain about their likelihood of victory, Elizabeth delivered the powerful "Tilbury Speech."
"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 safe guard in the loyal hearts and good will 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 my life 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 of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and 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; the 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 kingdom, and of my people!"
You may find, through certain sources, that Elizabeth was said to have delivered this speech on August 9th. However, many credible sources actually say that she gave it on the 8th - the eve before the Spanish invasion.
Although success was, by no means, certain, the English soldiers seemed to have had a bit of luck when the invasion was averted by an unexpected and powerful wind that blew the Spanish Armada away from English shores!
This speech demonstrates Elizabeth's courage and fortitude in the time of war, one of the most trying times for her troops, and ultimately, one of the events she is best-remembered for. In it, she reveals that a woman is not as well-suited to lead a country in wartime as a man, but she gracefully and powerfully explains - "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too."
So powerful and moving. What do you think about this speech given by one of the greatest monarchs England has ever known?