The Golden Speech
The Golden Speech was delivered by Queen Elizabeth I of England to 141 Members of the Commons (including the Speaker), on 30 November 1601. It was a speech that was expected to be addressing some pricing concerns, based on the recent economic issues facing the country. Surprisingly, she revealed that it would be her final Parliament and turned the mode of the speech to addressing the love and respect she had for the country, her position, and the Members themselves. It is the second such speech for which Queen Elizabeth I was noted, the first, the Speech to the Troops at Tilbury, having been given to English forces in preparation for the Spanish Armada's expected invasion. The Golden Speech has been taken to mark a symbolic end of Elizabeth's reign, one which is widely considered one of the Golden Eras of England's history. Elizabeth died 16 months later in March 1603 and was succeeded by her first cousin twice removed, James VI of Scotland and I of England.
Origin of the name
The 'Golden' label was first coined in "a version of the speech printed near the end of the Puritan interregnum" which bore a header beginning 'This speech ought to be set in letters of gold'. It was to be reprinted time and time again up to the eighteenth century, whenever England was in danger, as the Golden Speech of Queen Elizabeth. Several versions survive, including a printed pamphlet which is thought to have been checked and corrected by Elizabeth herself.
A different account by the diarist, Hayward Townshend, who was among those kneeling before her that November afternoon in the Presence Chamber, is used in the text below.
There is no jewel, be it of never so rich a price, which I set before this jewel: I mean your love. For I do esteem it more than any treasure of riches; for that we know how to prize, but love and thanks I count invaluable. . . . I have ever used to set the Last Judgement Day before mine eyes and so to rule as I shall be judged to answer before a higher judge, and now if my kingly bounties have been abused and my grants turned to the hurt of my people contrary to my will and meaning, and if any in authority under me have neglected or perverted what I have committed to them, I hope God will not lay their culps [wrongs] and offenses in my charge. I know the title of a King is a glorious title, but assure yourself that the shining glory of princely authority hath not so dazzled the eyes of our understanding, but that we well know and remember that we also are to yield an account of our actions before the great judge. . . . For myself I was never so much enticed with the glorious name of a King or royal authority of a Queen as delighted that God hath made me his instrument to maintain his truth and glory and to defend his kingdom as I said from peril, dishonour, tyranny, and oppression. There will never Queen sit in my seat with more zeal to my country, care to my subjects and that will sooner with willingness venture her life for your good and safety than myself. For it is my desire to live nor reign no longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.
- Greenblatt, Stephen, and M. H. Abrams, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. 1. New York: varun doshi&co.2050 Print.
- "Elizabeth’s ‘Golden Speech’ (1601)". Retrieved 2009-04-11.
- "Modern History Sourcebook: Queen Elizabeth I of England (b. 1533, r. 1558-1603) Selected Writing and Speeches". Modern History SourceBook. Retrieved 2009-04-11.