Even though the remaining ships of the Spanish Armada were homeward bound following the defeat of the fleet at the Battle of Gravelines and their subsequent scattering by strong winds, England was still expecting to be threatened by the troops of the Duke of Parma who could come across the English Channel as soon as the wind was favourable.
On 8th August 1588, Queen Elizabeth I decided to accept Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester's invitation and visit the troops he had gathered near Tilbury Fort. Leicester had written a letter of invitation to the Queen on the 27th July in an attempt to stop her recklessly riding to the south coast to meet Parma's troops. He wrote of how she could visit Tilbury and bring comfort to the troops. Against the advice of her Council, who wanted her to remain in the safety of London, Elizabeth travelled from St James's Palace to Tilbury by state barge on the 8th August.
On her arrival at Tilbury, the Queen reviewed her troops, who had gathered to greet her, and then spent the night at Saffron Garden, in Edward Ritchie's manor house.
The Earl of Leicester must have been exhausted. Susan Frye, in "The Myth of Elizabeth at Tilbury", writes of how he had quickly assembled the 8,000 men who were present on 8th and 9th of August, he had organised a boom across the Thames and, as he complained to Sir Francis Walsingham in a letter dated 4th August, "he was having to do everything - to be cook, caterer and huntsman". All that and there were reports that the Armada had been sighted coming up the Channel. We can only imagine Leicester's stress.
Notes and Sources
- Frye, Susan - "The Myth of Elizabeth at Tilbury" from "The Sixteenth Century Journal", Vol.23, No.1, Spring 1992, p95-114, found at JSTOR