Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

The Story of Sir Philip Sidney

This is a story of the days of queen Elizabeth, or "Good Queen Bess," as she is often called. When this great queen began her reign, England was weak, and in great danger from other nations: before she died, the country was strong and feared by all the world.

You will like to know how this came about. First of all, the queen, herself, though she had many faults, was very great and wise, and dearly loved her country. She thought of England, and her people, before everything else; and they, in their turn, thought there was no one in the world so great and clever as their queen.

Then, too, she had many great and famous men to help her. Some of these, like lord Burghley, helped her to govern the country; while others, like Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, fought our enemies on land and sea. In queen Elizabeth's reign, too, lived our great poet, Shakespeare, who did much to give our country its name of "Merrie England."

One of the best men of that day was Sir Philip Sidney. He was so handsome and brave, and so polite in his manners, that Elizabeth said he was "the brightest jewel in her crown." He was a writer, too; and the queen and her ladies loved to read his poems.

We were not then friendly with Spain, the most powerful country in Europe. So, when queen Elizabeth knew that the Spanish king was ill-treating the people of Holland, she sent an army to help the Dutch, as the people there are called. One of the leaders of this army was Sir Philip Sidney.

One day, Sir Philip heard that the Spaniards were sending a great quantity of food into a town that the English were trying to take. So, with about 500 brave soldiers, he set out to prevent this. On the way, a thick fog arose, and the English were unable to see where they were going. Before long, they found themselves in front of a great Spanish army of 5000 men.

However, our soldiers made the best of it, and, under their brave leader, fought so well that the Spaniards were beaten. Sir Philip Sidney was in the thickest of the fight, cheering on his men, but, before the battle was over, he was wounded in the leg, by a bullet.

After the battle, his friends helped him down from his horse, and a doctor tried to get the bullet out of the wound. This caused Sidney much pain, and loss of blood made him very thirsty. So his friends managed to get him some water to drink.

Just as he was raising the water to his lips, a poor dying soldier was carried past him. Sidney noticed that the wounded man looked with longing eyes on the precious water.

Death of Sir Sidney


Forgetting his own thirst, he handed the water to the poor soldier, saying, as he did so, "Take it, friend, for your need is greater than mine."

This noble man lived for several days afterwards, and, indeed, everyone thought at first that he would recover. The doctors, however, had not done their work well, and soon he knew that he was dying. But he met his death calmly and bravely, feeling that his life had been gentle and pure.

His body was brought to England, and buried with great state in Westminster abbey. All the country, from the queen on the throne, down to the poorest soldier in her army, mourned for one who forgot his own pain, and gave comfort to a poor dying man.