Mary I Tudor “The Oration in the Guildhall”

In January 1554 Sir Thomas Wyatt Jr (the poet’s son) started a rebellion in Kent, under the pretext of opposing the Spanish match, as the Queen had just announced her intention of marrying the heir to the Spanish throne, future Philip II. When they approached London, the Queen went to the Guildhall to address the citizens. Her speech was effective enough, since people rallied to the Queen’s side and Wyatt on entering the suburbs of London was soon deserted by most of his followers, caught and executed. And reading the speech you can see why it worked. It is quite readable, much easier than her letter to her father, where it is hard to find the subject and main verb in the convoluted sentences. It makes me think it was not written out previously, since we naturally speak in simpler sentences than we write (as a veteran conference participant I know something about it). Either this, or Mary had speech writers who really knew their job.

Mary’s main points are: 1. the Spanish match is just a pretext for the rebels.` 2. I am the lawful monarch who inherited her birthright from her father. 3. I love you, my subjects. I’m not sure if I love you like a mother loves her child, since I’ve never had any but if any prince may be said to love her subjects like his own children, I certainly do. 4. I am wedded to you with the ring I put on during my coronation, which I will never take off until my dying day. 5. I am not marrying Prince Philip just because I am so hot for him, I have lived until now a virgin and I was quite comfortable about it, thank you very much. But all my advisers say the match is going to be very good for the kingdom, and moreover I want to give this country an heir. The marriage won’t happen if I think it is going to be unprofitable for the country, or if the Parliament decides so. 6. Don’t be afraid of Wyatt’s men, “because I assure you, I fear them not at all”. So now I’m leaving you with my officials to prepare for the defence.

There’s no denying, the woman had guts. An interesting point is that she seems to have started the trend for “married to England/England’s mother” metaphors, which Queen Elizabeth was going to milk for many years, as we are going to see. Also the fact that she returns to the subject of motherhood, essentially saying “I am not a mother but I really want to be one” reminds me of her sad, doomed attempts to get pregnant and her phantom pregnancies.

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