Elizabeth Triumphant: Verses Celebrating England’s Victory over the Armada


Triumphalia de victoriis Elisabethae Anglorum, Francorum, Hybernorumque reginae augustissimae, fidei defensoris acerrimae, contra classem instructissimam Philippi Hispaniarum regis potentissimi, Deo opt. max. fortunate felicissime partis, anno Christi nati M D LXXXVIII. Iulio et Augusto mensibus

[Germany?]: 1588


Quarto: 19.8 x 14.8 cm. 63, [1] p. Collation: A-H4


Bound in a very attractive red crushed morocco binding by Bedford, boards framed with a triple fillet, spine elaborately tooled in gold, gilt turn-ins. The text is in fine condition, the outer and lower margins quite broad and with some deckles along the lower edge. Extremely rare. I have located only 6 other copies: 3 in England, 1 in Switzerland, and 2 in the U.S. (Folger, Harvard.)

“The ‘Triumphalia’ [‘Triumphal Verses For the Victories of Elizabeth, Queen of England, France, and Ireland, over the Most Renowned Fleet of Philip, King of Both Spains’] is a collection of Latin and Greek verses. It includes an epic fragment of 619 verses, odes, elegies, and epigrams. Its poems are addressed to worthies of international Calvinism like Daniel Rogers, the English poet and diplomat resident in the Netherlands, and the Counts Palatine John and Frederick Casimir. It embeds the Armada campaign in a wide international context –the war in the Low Countries, the religious wars in France, the inroads of the Ottoman Empire in Hungary and of the Corsairs in the Mediterranean. In all these theaters of conflict, the poems of ‘Triumphalia’ look hopefully to the demise of the Hapsburg power or its redirection against the common enemies of Christendom.”(Miller, Roman Triumphs and Early Modern English Culture, p. 72-3)

The poems were written by N. Eleutherius, Richardus Hemelius, Iulius Riparius, and Olympia Frontina, none of whom has been positively identified.

“The poets of the collection laud Elizabeth as a Christian warrior, urging wider war, and prophesying empire. They rejoice in the victory of a paradoxical ‘Virgo Mascula’. The Armada has seen a man conquered by a woman, a king by a queen, mighty Spain by lightly armed England: ‘Sic magno regina minor de rege triumphat,/ Atque virum exigua femina classe fugat.’ The overthrow of a great empire by a female antagonist fulfills the threat of Cleopatra, so menacing to the Augustan poets. But instead of representing barbaric passion, Elizabeth is God’s instrument for initiating a new historical epoch –claiming instead the role of Cleopatra’s conqueror Augustus. The female agency of God’s victory is inscribed on the impressive triumphal pillar that the ‘Triumphalia’ raises near the site of battle, on the cliffs of Albion:



[Behold, by a woman’s strength the Almighty has destroyed Spain, which was greedy to rule over the kingdoms of the world.]

The collection also includes a description of an imaginary triumphal procession sailing up the Thames, with the English ships laden with spoils and Spanish prisoners.

Beginning on page 62 there is a series of poems addressed to the defeated Spanish and their allies. These include verses written in response to a “petulant, not to mention stupid” distich that insults either England or the English Queen (either way “it amounts to the same thing”) included by Michael Eizinger at the conclusion of his German news account of the Armada (“Warhaffte Relation vber Schlag vnd Inhalt der Kriegsrüstung oder Armada”), written just before it sailed. The distich is given in full: Tu, quae Romanas voluisti spernere leges

Hispano disces subdere colla iugo. (“Thou England which the Romish laws, long time hast now rejected, Shalt learne ere long to Spanish yoke, thy necke shal be subjected”) and is followed by a counter-distich in which the “yoke” has been placed by Drake on the neck of Spain.

The volume concludes with a poem mocking Philip II, King of Spain.

VD 16, ZV 18159; Pollard, A Short-title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English books printed abroad, 1475-1640 (2nd ed.), 7570