Queen Elizabeth's quintuple entendre to Parliament
'I am your anointed Queen. I will never be by violence constrained to do anything. I thank God I am endowed with such qualities that if I were turned out of the Realm in my petticoat I would prosper anywhere in Christendom..' [Queen of England. Speech, Oct. 1566, Deputation of Lords and Commons.]
[Petticoats at that time had tops. They were sometimes buttoned but more often stitched in the front or the back.]
The Queen had addressed the Lords about their demands and open talks in both the House of Lords and in the House of Commons about her getting married so that she would bear 'them' an heir so they would be assured of having a stable life after she died or got assassinated (and it was looking like it was going to be them that assassinated her).
When they heard this speech the Lords thought to themselves 'what a strange thing to say'. That is what the Lords said to their wives, and the other Ladies of England.* Many of those Ladies immediately left for Europe to avoid the fate that was likely to befall their men.
It was actually a quintuple entendre that included two death threats.
1. On the face it was a simple statement as you can clearly read.
2. This was an open threat by her to abdicate and then go model and sell her petticoats (and her 'haute couture' line of clothing) in Europe because all the woman in Christendom (Europe) wanted those petticoats she designed and made.
3. The Lords insisting that she marry was forcing her into prostitution just to produce a male to assure their own future.
4. A woman in her petticoat meant a prostitute since they often wore only a petticoat when working the streets.* If she did abdicate and went to sell her clothes the European aristocrats (who were her relatives) would see it as the same as having to prostitute herself.
5. The same as #4 except that a queen selling retail would be essentially prostituting herself
Either of the last two entendres implied that the leaders of the European countries would have held the lords fully responsible. Then they would have joined together and invaded England. They would have taken over London in about two weeks and then England in less than a year then had the Lords put in chains. If France ran the show they would have killed them all.
The reason the accounts say that she sent the speech three times to the genius Cecil was to get all four of the meanings right.
The statement was made in a way that went over the heads of the commoners as it was supposed to since they were not a problem.
It was actually targeted at the wives since only they knew two of the understandings. Then the Lords had to ask their wives and they got the anger of their wives right back at them with both barrels when their wives told them the meaning and to stay out of a woman personal life, especially the queen!**
The statement also went over the heads of the commoners as it was supposed to.
I was a little girl when this occurred. I was in awe of our Queen from then on. People say that the Bard was great by making a triple entendre but Queen Elizabeth did the same thing only two better with a quintuple entendre when she said this statement and she aimed for a particular part of her 'audience'. What makes this completely unique is that it was a real life situation. She did not have the luxury us writers have. We can safely invent the situation that we can then populate with 'sexentendres' or sentences with six meanings. She had to work under pressure with the fate of hers and England's future hanging on how she said the line. If she flubbed the line it would have been all over for England!
That was the ability of Queen Elizabeth I, 'geek'. Her skills were that great but she chose to lead and not write. Thank heavens or I would have been out of a job.
A deeper explanation: Many people know that Queen Elizabeth had over 3,000 gowns and dresses made. What has possibly been forgotten is that Queen Elizabeth didn't just order them out of some catalog. She designed almost her entire collection by herself and from scratch. She saw to each ensemble from start to finish, she made the drawings, even sometimes laid out full size patterns for her seamstresses. She could often be found down on the floor with the seamstresses fitting pieces together and sewing them herself. Once she looked up to find (I think it was) an 'Estonian' prince with horror on his face. Royalty in Estonia did nothing of that sort and certainly never with serfs around. Without missing a beat Elizabeth said to the seamstress as she handed the piece of cloth to her 'And if I have to show you again it will be another 5 lashes' and she signaled the guards to haul her around the corner to relax until the prince left. Elizabeth did thousands of hours of sewing herself and loved it more than either wearing the dresses or being a queen.
Haute couture? She invented 'haute couture' three hundreds years before it was given the name.
[There was one place to work in London if you were one of the best seamstresses in England. That was at the palace making her clothes. After the early 1580's you might work at our theater sometimes making costumes for characters like Prospero and Juliet. If you did then all the gossip came with you and without the queen around it flew thick.]
What almost none of the commoners knew, but was known to the aristocrats throughout Europe including the Ladies that were married to those Lords was this: Queen Elizabeth designed and made the best undergarments in the world. By that I mean the above 'petticoat' that she was threatening to go model and sell in Europe or 'any place in Christendom'. They were so comfortable and popular that once four got stolen from her chambers leaving behind her jewels which were in plain sight.
Every woman in 'Christendom' wanted them and that included the wives of those Lords.
I kept a dozen of them myself since they were as good as gold, which nobody had. It was a perk at the theater and of working with the same seamstresses.
Of course it was illegal to have a queens actual undergarments so the queens crest was sewed face down and the seamstresses left the bottom hem unsewn, hence it was not a complete petticoat when I got them. If a person got caught selling even the unfinished ones it could have meant big trouble. Even having them for my own personal use almost got me into trouble with her highness.
These petticoats were the best and the most comfortable and the most figure enhancing petticoats on the face of the earth. They were the best because they never came apart, they never pinched and they never exposed the wrong parts when bending over. A woman could wear one and safely ride a horse all day without tearing, the seam splitting, it riding up or it ever bunching. They were the most comfortable petticoats that were made then or would be made for at least another two hundred years. They were even more comfortable than the loose sleeping gowns (so she is known to sometimes wear her clothes for days). As far as figure enhancing aspects? Just take a look at her in those paintings. She made her petticoats in a way that by loosening one thread when a woman bent over the right part would be exposed and it would be perfectly framed for just the right amount of time. They were the best.
Why, does it sound like I was selling them? OK only a few and only in France, three to five a week is all I sent over and the girl started stitching mid channel. She had the hems stitched up and the emblems turned around by the time the boat docked in France. And no, I still don't know how three of them ended up in Yorkshire, if I did then I would have told you 400 years ago.
Nearly every woman in Europe knew this about her petticoats. In England every Lord's wife, daughter, sister and cousin knew about her petticoats and wanted at least one. The Ladies of England never talked about such things in front of men, even to their husbands so they knew nothing about them. Not only because it was not lady like to talk to men about such things but doubly so because 'petticoat' was a male slang term for a loose woman or a prostitute and it might be misunderstood. For Queen Elizabeth to make a public statement about her petticoats broke a dozen taboo's at once.
Some of the Lords told their women the strange thing the Queen said that day. When they saw their women's faces go ashen they knew they were about to be put in chains but they did not know why.
Then the women explained it to the Lords. First, since she had dropped all sense of decency and protocol it meant she did not care about her position and was ready to leave. To have actually talked openly about her petticoats to them meant she did not care what they thought anymore about her or her reputation in England. Or there was another possibility, their lives were going to end so whatever she said to them was not going to matter! Or as she would often say, it mattered no more than talking to a dog.
The wives explained to the Lords that Elizabeth didn't like being a queen. A princess has lots of fun and goes to all the parties and gets to be naughty and nobody cares but being a Queen was work 24/7. Besides her petticoats were the best in the world and she could sell lots of them, have lots of friends and have a first class life with a warm bedroom in the winter instead of being in that dreadfully drafty and cold castle. If she wanted one she could even have a boyfriend to help keep it warm and nobody would care one way or the other.
A 'petticoat' was slang for a prostitute or a courtesan in upper class England and I think also in Italy and in France. A woman's fate at that time was determined by the men she knew and a woman was held far less responsible for becoming a prostitute than the men who knew and were supposed to protect her. To the rulers of Europe who were all relatives of Queen Elizabeth, for a queen to have to sell her clothes, was considered worse than a commoner becoming a prostitute. The Lords of England would have been punished for allowing it to happen.
England would have been invaded by a combined force of European nations, mostly the western ones which were those that could get there the fastest and take over first. Since the Lords were mainly upset at each other and just taking it out on Queen Elizabeth they would be very disorganized. It would only take about two weeks to secure the country. Then ex Queen Elizabeth would probably be invited back as a token ruler berif any real power.
However, she would be in Europe catching up on all the fun she missed while being queen and might not even want to come back, especially once her line of clothing made a big hit and sales took off. All the Lords of England would probably have spent at least ten years in prison and those directly responsible would have been executed. Unless France was in charge, then they would have just killed all the lords and put French ones in their place.
The Lords thought they had some kind of hold over Elizabeth but they never had any hold over her whatsoever. She didn't want the job of Queen anyway. She only did it because of her love for the people. She never thought she would end up becoming the queen. She had been forth on the list for succession (fifth counting Mary of Scotland) and was very happy being a student and the worlds first 'geek'.
Then her brother Edward threw her in prison for awhile and then her sister Mary did it for a year and also threatened to kill her so Elizabeth didn't want anything to do with that Royal mess but the Lords didn't want another intolerant Catholic (Mary Queen of Scots) after Bloody Mary and Elizabeth loved her people so there she was, they made her the Queen.
Then because of her, after eight years of total prosperity like the English had never known the Lords were demanding that she have babies and she felt like a cow on a rope which they thought they had in hand. They hadn't even been able to afford cows before she came to the throne. She was making the country stable for the first time in centuries and making them riches like they never even knew existed.
So she deserved and still deserves nothing but accolades.
They were not used to owning so much. They also had not the time to learn to discriminate between her and the cows she had provided them. So they treated her like one of the cows and demanded she get pregnant so they could be certain of keeping those cows after she died or after they assassinated her. They were being highly disrespectful to involve themselves in her personal life at all.
Then when they discussed the issue openly in the House of Lords and then even more openly in the House of Commons, their disrespect was complete and abhorent. They went way over the line and past the limits of even her high level of tolerance.
To compound matters the women knew that their men were way out of line and some impossibly out of line and so the women told the Lords to mind their own business. They were very unjust and unfeeling toward her. This is why Elizabeth stated the information in such a way that it would be a mystery to the Lords. They had to ask the Ladies who then explained it to them.
Then the ladies explained a few other things to the men and then they had to figure out if they wanted to stay married to the Lords or not.
The women knew that Elizabeth might just leave the next time she got pms. She got pms pretty bad in the fall (she rode horses to keep the inflammation down). This speech was in October so the women were really sweating it.
The Ladies knew that Elizabeth would have a lot more fun in Europe selling her own line of clothing than she was having in that dank castle out there on a rock in the Atlantic. Those women knew they could easily end up in prison or worse with their foolish men.
It was such a threat and such a real possibility that at least a few of the Ladies started divorce proceedings. It is vague in my memories exactly what happened after that. Maybe someone who has read this part of history can tell us what happened.
You didn't know this about the intelligence and verbal ability of the great Queen Elizabeth I, did you? Nobody has known this information for a long time. It's all buried in bits and pieces in the records. The English have great records going back to the 1500's and even the 1300's in London.
If you like then you can ask anyone who has studied Elizabethan era English law if that statement about her petticoat could have been a veiled threat. Ask them what would have happened if the Queen ended up in say Naples with nothing to her name but her petticoat? Ask them what the European aristocracy would have done and what justice would have been served up to the Lords.
*There was Male English and Female English. To a man often a petticoat was the slang word for a prostitute. In Slang and its Analogues 1965: A 'petticoat merchant' was a pimp or whoremonger and 'petticoat hunting' meant whoring.
So a woman never mentioned a petticoat to a man for fear that it might be misunderstood. When Queen Elizabeth said the word 'petticoat' she played both meanings at once.
At that time the woman was not held very responsible for becoming a prostitute. It was always the man or men in her life who were held 95% responsible since they controlled the future of women. A woman only became a prostitute when she had no way of feeding herself and her children.
**Many people don't understand that part and parcel of being a Lord was to listen to the Lady. If you think about it most of the time the word 'Lord' was connected directly to 'Lady' and so in the 1500's you heard the term 'lord and lady' or 'Lords and Ladies'. Both were thought nearly equal. Hence it created the first true balanced title for men and women.
By comparison look at the Kings and Queens of England. The two are not usually of equal power. Same with most other titles.
It served to produce a real balance and made the class system more fair in England than in other countries at the time.
Queen Elizabeth section
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