After assuming the throne in 1553, Mary I did what would have been expected from any queen: she searched for a husband so that she could produce an heir. Unfortunately for Mary, she chose Philip of Spain – which infuriated many in her country and led to an uprising. Led by Sir Thomas Wyatt (the son of the poet who wrote verse to Anne Boleyn) and several others, the rebels wanted to prevent the marriage to a foreign power…and place the Protestant Elizabeth on the throne. When news came that Wyatt’s troops were preparing to storm the city, Mary spoke to her people at Guildhall, exhorting them to bravely support her. It was a brilliant speech, one that led twenty thousand men to swarm to her side. Many believe that Elizabeth used it as the basis for her Armada speech…but that’s a story for another day.
Here is the text of that speech:
I am come in mine own person to tell you what you already see and know; I mean the traitorous and seditious assembling of the Kentish rebels against us and you. Their pretense (as they say) is to resist a marriage between us and the prince of Spain; of all of their plots and evil-contrived articles you have been informed. Since then, our council have resorted to the rebels, demanding the cause of their continued emprise. By their answers, the marriage is found to be the least of their quarrel; for, swerving from their former demands, they now arrogantly require the governance of our person, the keeping of our town, and the placing of our councilors. What I am, loving subjects, ye right well know – your queen, to whom, at my coronation, ye promised allegiance and obedience. I was then wedded to the realm, and to the laws of the same, the spousal ring whereof I wear here on my finger, and it never has and never shall be left off. That I am the rightful and true inheritor of the English crown I not only take all of Christendom to witness, but also your acts of Parliament confirming the same. My father (as ye all know) possessed the same regal estate; to him ye were always loving subjects. Therefore I doubt not, ye will show yourselves so to me, his daughter; not suffering any rebel, especially so presumptuous a one as this Wyatt, to usurp the government of our person.
And this I say on the word of a prince. I cannot tell how naturally a mother loveth her children, for I never had any; but if subjects may be loved as a mother doth her child, then assure yourselves that I, your sovereign lady and queen, do as earnestly love and favor you. I cannot but think that you love me in return; and thus, bound in concord, we shall be able, I doubt not, to give these rebels a speedy overthrow.
Now, concerning my intended marriage; I am neither so desirous of wedding, nor so precisely wedded to my will, that I needs must have a husband. Hitherto I have lived a virgin, and I doubt not, with God’s grace, to live so still. But if, as my ancestors have done, it might please God that I should leave you a successor to be your governor, I trust you would rejoice thereat; also, I know it would be to your comfort. Yet, if I thought this marriage would endanger any of you, my loving subjects, or the royal estate of this English realm, I would never consent thereto, or marry while I loved. On the word of a queen I assure you, that if the marriage appear not before the high court of parliament, the nobility, and commons for the singular benefit of the whole realm, then I will abstain – not only from this, but from every other.
Wherefore, good subjects, pluck up your hearts! Like true men, stand fast with your lawful sovereign against these rebels, and fear them not – for I do not, I assure you. I leave with you my lord Howard and my lord treasurer [Winchester], to assist my lord mayor in the safeguard of the city from spoil and sack, which is the only aim of the rebellious crew.
Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, Volume VI (quoting from Holinshed’s Chronicles)
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