Life in Elizabethan England Next

God Save the Queen

from Annals of the first four years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Sir John Hayward, 1599

The Queen removes herself from Hatfield to London, November 18, 1558

Queen Elizabeth playing a lute - miniature by Nicholas Hilliard

Now, if ever any person had either the gift or the style to win the hearts of people, it was this Queen. And if ever she did express the same, it was at that present, in coupling mildness with majesty as she did, and in stately stooping to the meanest sort. All her faculties were in motion, and every motion seemed a well-guided action. Her eye was set upon one, her care listened to another, her judgment upon a third, to a fourth she addressed her speech. Her spirit seemed to be everywhere, and yet so entire in herself, as it seemed to be nowhere else.

Some she pitied, some she commended, some she thanked, at others she pleasantly and wittily jested, condemning no person, neglecting no office, and distributing her smiles, looks, and graces so artfully that thereupon the people again redoubled the testimonies of their joys. And afterwards, raising everything to the highest strain, filled the ears of all men with immoderate extolling their Prince.

Of her personal appearance and character

She was a lady upon whom nature had bestowed and well placed many of her fairest favors: of stature mean, slender, straight, and amiably disposed; of such state in her carriage as every motion of her seemed to bear majesty. Her hair was inclined to pale yellow, her forehead large and fair, her eyes lively and sweet but short-sighted, her nose somewhat rising in the middle, the whole compass of her countenance somewhat long yet of admirable beauty, not so much in that which is termed the flower of youth, as in a most delightful composition of majesty and modesty in equal mixture.

But without good qualities of mind, the gifts of nature are like painted flowers, without either virtue or sap; yea, sometimes they grow horrid and loathsome. Now her virtues were such as might suffice to make an Ethiope beautiful, which the more a man knows and understands, the more he shall admire and love. In life, she was most innocent; in desires, moderate; in purpose, just; of spirit, above credit and almost capacity of her sex; of divine wit, as well for depth of judgment, as for quick conceit and speedy expedition; of eloquence, as sweet in the utterance, so ready and easy to come to the utterance: of wonderful knowledge, both of learning and affairs; skillful not only in the Latin and Greek but also in other diverse foreign languages.

None knew better, the hardest art of all others, that is, of commanding men, nor could more use themselves to those cares without which the royal dignity could not be supported. She was religious, magnanimous, merciful, and just; respective of the honour of others, and exceeding tender in the touch of her own.

She was lovely and loving, the two principal bands of duty and obedience. She was very ripe and measured in counsel and experience, as well not to let go occasions as not to take them when they were green.

Excellent Queen! What do my words but wrong thy worth? What do I but gild gold? What but show the sun with a candle, in attempting to praise thee, whose honour doth fly over the whole world upon the two wings of Magnanimity and Justice, whose perfection shall much dim the luster of all other that shall be of thy sex?

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22 March 2008 pkm