Archbishop Cranmer’s Speech Proclaiming That Queen Elizabeth Will Leave an Heir

Adding to the previous blog post, I have thought to include Cranmer’s entire speech in the final scene of Henry VIII by Shakespeare.  The archbishop is exclaiming upon the sight of the newly born Princess Elizabeth, with the king looking on, and I encourage you to envision Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford expressing his own hopes for the future of the English throne.  Is he giving Cranmer words of praise for the Scottish monarch who will succeed the Virgin Queen?  Or might he be declaring, in rather bold language, that Elizabeth Tudor is destined to leave an heir — a royal son — of her own blood?  I have emphasized lines that would seem to suggest the latter:

Let me speak, sir,
For heaven now bids me; and the words I utter
Let none think flattery, for they’ll find ’em truth.
This royal infant–heaven still move about her!–
Though in her cradle, yet now promises
Upon this land a thousand thousand blessings,
Which time shall bring to ripeness: she shall be–
But few now living can behold that goodness–
A pattern to all princes living with her,
And all that shall succeed: Saba was never
More covetous of wisdom and fair virtue
Than this pure soul shall be: all princely graces,
That mould up such a mighty piece as this is,
With all the virtues that attend the good,
Shall still be doubled on her: truth shall nurse her,
Holy and heavenly thoughts still counsel her:
She shall be loved and fear’d: her own shall bless her;
Her foes shake like a field of beaten corn,
And hang their heads with sorrow: good grows with her:
In her days every man shall eat in safety,
Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours:
God shall be truly known; and those about her
From her shall read the perfect ways of honour,
And by those claim their greatness, not by blood.
Nor shall this peace sleep with her: but as when
The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix,
Her ashes new create another heir,
As great in admiration as herself;
So shall she leave her blessedness to one,*
When heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness,
Who from the sacred ashes of her honour
Shall star-like rise, as great in fame as she was,
And so stand fix’d: peace, plenty, love, truth, terror,
That were the servants to this chosen infant,
Shall then be his, and like a vine grow to him:
Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine,
His honour and the greatness of his name
Shall be, and make new nations: he shall flourish,
And, like a mountain cedar, reach his branches
To all the plains about him: our children’s children
Shall see this, and bless heaven.

  • The frequent uses of “one” in the Sonnets are allusions to the motto of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton:  “One for All, All for One,” as suggested by line 144 of The Rape of Lucrece, dedicated to Southampton: “That one for all or all for one we gage.”  Whether the Stratford man would have cared to imbed Southampton’s motto is open to question; but the Earl of Oxford, so highly conscious of such matters, could not have inserted those words without being fully aware of what he was doing.  Oxford as “Shakespeare” was alert to the reverberations of each separate word.

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. If that isn’t a promise of a Tudor heir I never heard one. And he will rise from the ashes of the Phoenix. In other words, we won’t get to find out who he is until the very end of Elizabeth’s reign.

    • Yes! Thanks, Ted.

  2. Good stuff, Hank. I wonder if you have had a chance to look at Alba: The Month’s Minde of a Melancholy Lover attributed to R.T. or Robert Tofte. He also gives his nickname as Robin Redbreast which was the Queen’s name for Essex (Tofte spells it “Robin Red-bresT).
    Tofte also has a vague, little known biography and claimed credit for translating “Ariosto’s Satyres” after they were printed under the name of Gervais Markham.

    His “Alba” included the first published reference to Love’s Labour’s Lost which is how I wound up there but in his poem “Laura” he confusingly shades the mistress of the title into a “dear Soueraigne… Whose Grace” he seeks while referring to her in terms fit for the dark lady. For instance in Laura “my Soueraigne’s” eyes are “blackish”: “Like to the fairest black the Rauen beares”. Yet later in Alba she is a murderess, unkind etc. Though the poetry is a lesser quality than Oxford or Shakespeare he is either someone in the inner circle or mimicking those in the inner circle. In ALBA he describes:

    “Cleere was the day, when as mine ALBA faire,
    Brought forth with ioy (Lucina being kinde)
    A daintie babe, for feature passing rare,
    Adorning all the world with this glad welth,
    A gift t’enrich the World, Vs, and her self…
    …Whilst that blest Day a double Beautie found,
    One from the sunne, the other here on ground.”

    Later he talks about “the duskie clowde in skie” covering the sun. “Ah were i such a clowd on earth to cover/my sweetest sunne, as doth that clowd the other.” I think he pretty well scandalized Grosart with that part about the illegitimate son but whether Shakespeare related or just a knock off of some kind it’s interesting to read. Even if he was just stealing material from the sonnets, he clearly thought there was a son involved. Laura is included with the publication of Alba in Google books, but I was curious if you had a chance to read it and if so what you made of it.

    • Hi Mystikel I’m not sure if I actually saw this before, but want to thank you (belatedly) and will look into it. Much appreciated!

  3. The included painting fragment is not of a young Elizabeth but that of Mary Egerton painted in c. 1601. Missing are her sisters Elizabeth and Vere.

    • Thanks — guess I’d better remove it.

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