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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Queen Elizabeth

  • [Queen of England; daughter of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn; born at Greenwich, Sept. 7, 1533; committed to the Tower by her sister Mary, but removed to Woodstock; proclaimed queen, 1558; signed the death-warrant of Mary Stuart; supported the Protestants of the Low Countries; defended England against the Invincible Armada, 1588; died 1603.]
  • I have desired to have the obedience of my subjects by love, and not by compulsion.

  • A declaration to Parliament, like that on her accession to the throne: “Nothing, no worldly thing under the sun, is so dear to me as the love and good-will of my subjects.” On receiving the news at Hatfield of her accession to the throne, when but a short time before she had been the object of her sister’s suspicions, Elizabeth exclaimed, “It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes!”
  • Her marriage early engaged the attention of her subjects; and in answer to a petition of the House of Commons in 1559, that she would consider the matter favorably, she replied, “For me it will be enough that a marble stone should declare that a queen having reigned such a time lived and died a virgin.”—HUME: History of England, chap. xxxviii. In the same year, however, she declared, on hearing that the dauphin, afterwards Francis II. of France, was about to be proclaimed king of England on his marriage with Mary Stuart, “I will take a husband who will make the king of France’s head ache; and he little knows what a buffet I can give him.” She said in reference to any possible attack by the French, “In times of danger it is the custom of England to arm.”
  • She was strongly opposed to the marriage of the clergy, and took leave of the wife of Archbishop Parker, after an entertainment in the episcopal palace at Lambeth, with the words, “And you, madam I may not call you; mistress I am ashamed to call you: so I know not what to call you, but yet I do thank you.” On another occasion she remarked to Dr. Whitehead, “I like thee better because thou livest unmarried;” to which he bluntly replied, “I like you the worse for the same cause.”
  • Ye be burly, my Lord of Burghley, but ye shall make less stir in our realm than my Lord of Leicester.

  • An example of the royal punning of those days; to which may be compared that of her successor, James I., when meeting for the first time Sir Walter Raleigh: “By my saul, maun, I have heard but rawly of thee!”
  • When offended at the conduct of the Earl of Leicester, who was sent to the Low Countries with English auxiliaries in 1585, but was accused of ambitious designs inconsistent with his duty as a subject, she had other language than a pun: “I will let the upstart know how easily the hand which has exalted him can bear him down to the dust.”
  • She said of her instructions to the great officers of state, “They are like garments, strait at first putting on, but by and by loose enough.”
  • Speak, good mouth!

  • When the mayor of Bristol said, on welcoming her, “I am the mouth of the town,” and then stopped short.
  • The Bishop of Ely hesitated to alienate to Sir Christopher Hatton, according to agreement, ground in Holborn belonging to that see, now called Hatton Garden. He hesitated no longer, however, after the following vigorously expressed threat of her Majesty: “If you do not forthwith fulfil your engagement, by G—, I will immediately unfrock you!”
  • Sir Walter Raleigh made a wager with the queen that he could weigh the smoke from his tobacco-pipe. He weighed the tobacco before smoking, and the ashes afterwards. When Elizabeth paid the wager, she said, “I have seen many a man turn his gold into smoke, but you are the first who has turned his smoke into gold.”
  • The Queen of Scots is the mother of a fair son, and I but a barren stock.

  • On hearing of the birth of James VI., in June, 1566.
  • When told by the Scotch ambassador that Mary Stuart was taller than she, Elizabeth remarked, “Then she must be too tall, because I am neither too tall nor too short.” Elizabeth replied to the urgent request of Mary to recognize her right to the succession, “I am not so foolish as to hang a winding-sheet before my eyes.” When advised to go less abroad on account of the conspiracies which Mary’s partisans were continually forming against her, she answered that “she would rather be dead than in custody;” but she showed her knowledge of the origin of the conspiracies by declaring to her rival, “Your actions are as full of venom as your words are of honey.” Much earlier than this, she had been told that she would have no rest while Mary lived; but she asked, referring to Mary’s own troubles at home, if she could put to death “the bird, that, to escape pursuit of the hawk, has fled to my feet for protection.” When, however, the truth of her ministers’ representations became clear to her, she signed the death-warrant of her deposed rival, muttering to herself, loud enough to be overheard, while hesitating to affix her signature, such words as, “Aut fer aut feri” (Bear with her or smite her), “Ne fereari, feri” (Strike, lest thou be stricken).
  • Napoleon translated the words into French, when he said, “Il nous fallut abattre, sous peine d’être abattus.”
  • “In this world a man must be either hammer or anvil.”—LONGFELLOW: Hyperion, IV. ch. 7. (An old German proverb.)
  • The death of Mary fulfilled the prophecy of her father, James V.: “It came wi’ a lass, and it’ll gang wi’ a lass.” The crown came with Margaret Bruce, who married the father of the first Stuart.
  • Let tyrants fear.

  • To the troops assembled at Tilbury to oppose the Invincible Armada, in 1588, Elizabeth made a spirited address, beginning, “Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself, that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come among you, as you see, resolved in the midst and heat of the battle to live and die amongst you. I know that I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England too.”
  • When Speaker Croke alluded, in 1601, to the Armada having been driven off “by the mighty arm of our dear and sacred queen,” Elizabeth interrupted him: “No, Mr. Speaker, but by the mighty hand of God.”
  • He who placed me in this seat will preserve me in it.

  • Of the treasonable attempt of the Earl of Essex, in 1601. Her affection for this gallant and unfortunate nobleman is well known; but later writers do not entirely credit the story of the rebuke given by the queen, in 1603, to the dying Countess of Nottingham, who confessed that she had not returned the ring given by Elizabeth to Essex with the intimation that if he ever forfeited her favor the sight of the ring would insure her forgiveness of him. The queen even shook the dying countess, exclaiming, “God may forgive you, but I never can.”—HUME: History of England, chap. xliv.
  • When the Archbishop of Canterbury urged her, on the last day of her life, March 23, 1603, to turn her thoughts to God, she replied, “Never has my mind wandered from him.”—Ibid.
  • She may have answered, in reply to the question, who should succeed her, “I will have no rascal’s son in my seat,” alluding to Lord Beauchamp, son of the attainted Earl of Suffolk; but that she asked, “Who shall succeed me but a king?” referring to James VI. of Scotland, has little or no authority; it being more credible, that, when his name was mentioned, she merely nodded in token of assent.
  • Dr. Johnson said of Queen Elizabeth, “She had learning enough to have given dignity to a bishop.”