“Queen Elizabeth was a prolific author, poems, prayers, letters, and speeches by the hundreds survive in her hand, or in early copies and reports. Yet it is often difficult to know exactly what she wrote or said.
There are good reasons for this. Before becoming queen, Elizabeth was in constant danger, and the slightest misstatement or indiscreet sentence could be fatal. She learned to speak and write in guarded, indirect ways, communicating by suggestion rather than plain language.
As queen, she knew that she spoke not just for herself, but for her government and for the nation. And like any skilful ruler, she worked with a talented staff, including William Cecil, his son Robert Cecil, Sir Nicholas Bacon and others. Sometimes they prepared a draft of a speech for her to edit. Occasionally she sketched the first draft herself and then they polished it. Often, after she delivered a speech they or she – or both – would go back and create an improved version to be published.
Quickly members of this “Elizabeth committee” learned to write for their mistress’s voice, and an “Elizabeth style” emerged. It is a times maddeningly circuitous, at times shockingly direct and earthy, depending on whether she wanted to hide her real intentions or be clearly understood. This may or may not be exactly the voice of Elizabeth Tudor, but it is certainly the voice of the queen. Since the monarch did not usually deliver his or her own speeches, but relied on the lord chancellor to do it, this blending of “personal” and “official” voices is critical to their effect. Elizabeth’s speeches to Parliament were often reprinted, and in the seventeenth century were collected by Simon D’Ewes. (…)
In her poems and prayers, Elizabeth works her style to a different effect. Her prayers ask protection for the English people and for herself as their guardian. In doing so, they probe her motives and her actions to ensure that they can withstand divine scrutiny. In effect, Elizabeth gives voice to the conscience of a nation. In her poems, she frequently achieves a more “personal” voice not by saying anything especially revealing, but by saying that she would speak her private thoughts, if only her position allowed it. The poems hint at the complexity of the thoughts and emotions that lie behind the mask of power.”
Clark Hulse - Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend.