30 November 1601: Elizabeth I delivers her “golden speech”
The troubled and ailing queen poignantly proclaims her love for her subjects
During her last years, Elizabeth I cut an ageing, weary and often gloomy figure, beset by troubles personal and political. Foreign visitors noted that she wore a wig and remarked on her rotten teeth, a consequence of her enthusiasm for sugar.
When, on 30 November 1601, the queen rose to address more than 140 members of the House of Commons, most expected her to address the country’s mounting economic problems. To their surprise, she instead gave a kind of farewell address, reflecting on her reign and looking forward to the judgment of the Almighty. Of the different versions of her speech, the most complete comes from the MP and diarist Hayward Townshend. In his version, Elizabeth assured them that she “never was any greedy, scraping grasper, nor a strait fast-holding prince, nor yet a waster. My heart was never set on any worldly goods, but only for my subjects’ good.
“I do assure you there is no prince that loves his subjects better, or whose love can countervail our love,” said the queen. “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 or riches; for that we know how to prize, but love and thanks I count invaluable. And, though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with your loves.”
It is, said Elizabeth, “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 state, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.” Needless to say, her audience loved it, and versions were reprinted for decades.
Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries…
30 November 1340
Birth at Vincennes of John de Valois, Duke of Berry and third son of King John II of France. A major patron of the arts, Valois’ Tres Riches Heures has been described as the most important illuminated manuscript of the 15th century.
30 November 1508
Andrea Palladio is born in Padua. His designs for palaces and villas and his treatise The Four Books of Architecture will make him one of Western Europe’s most influential architects.
Ninety years on, we take a monthly look at some of the final events of the First World War before its guns fell silent on 11 November 1918
30 November 1667
Satirist Jonathan Swift is born in Dublin.
30 November 1761
English optician and scientific instrument maker John Dollond died in London, aged 54. He had been appointed optician to King George III in December 1760.
30 November 1939
Russian forces invaded Finland. Although the Russian army was vastly superior in numbers and equipment, its leadership was poor and morale low for it had lost half its officers in the purges of 1937. The highly-motivated Finns were able to resist the invasion for far longer than had been expected and the Winter War, as it was known, lasted until March 1940. The poor performance of the Soviet army during the war may have been an influencing factor in Adolf Hitler‘s decision to invade Russia in 1941.
30 November 1936: Fire destroys the Crystal Palace
Londoners watch in horror as one of Britain’s best-loved structures burns to the ground
When, at seven o’clock on the evening of 30 November 1936, Sir Henry Buckland stepped out of his front door to take his dog for their evening stroll, he could scarcely have imagined what lay ahead.
For more than 20 years, Sir Henry had been the manager of the Crystal Palace, the vast, glittering cast-iron and glass building originally designed for the Great Exhibition of 1851, but which had been relocated to Sydenham, south London. Buckland loved his job; he had even named his daughter, Chrystal, after the building. But now, as father, daughter and dog meandered along Crystal Palace Parade, they noticed a strange red glow inside the great glass edifice.
When Sir Henry went to investigate, he found two night watchmen struggling to put out a fire inside the central office area. Within minutes, the blaze was out of control, and at 7.59pm the first telephone call reached Penge fire station. The first fire engine arrived just four minutes later. But already the Crystal Palace’s fate was sealed; as the Radio Times later put it: “The cavernous building glowed with an eerie incandescence, like some vast chandelier.”
- Read more about the fire that destroyed the Crystal Palace
So fierce was the fire that night that it could be seen from all over London, and reportedly from as far afield as eight surrounding counties. As word spread, thousands of people headed towards Sydenham, gaping at the scene of 200-foot flames, tumbling pillars and crashing glass. Among them, gazing open-mouthed at the destruction of one of Victorian Britain’s most celebrated achievements, was one of the last Victorian statesmen, Winston Churchill. He reportedly stood there with tears in his eyes as the structure collapsed, saying softly: “This is the end of an age.”