It has often been noticed that Elizabeth I was represented during her reign as a symbolic mother to her people (see, for instance Orlin 1995: 84-110, Coch 2003: 134-61). Numerous examples may be cited. A farewell oration written for Elizabeth’s departure from Norwich in 1578 spoke of the townspeople’s filial grief: ‘How lamentable a thing is it, to pul away sucking babes from the breastes and bosomes of their most louing mothers?’. Elizabeth was claimed as ‘the mother and nurse of this whole Common welth, and Countrie’ (Garter 1578: F3v-4r). Decades later, at Elizabeth’s death in 1603, an elegy by Thomas Byng mourned that God had ‘reft away / The aged mother of these orphane lands’ (Byng 1603: 10-11).1 This chapter aims to explore why this particular topos was so persistent throughout Elizabeth’s long reign, and how its use shifted over that period. In particular, it will examine competing and even opposing deployments of the motif by Elizabeth and her subjects; how use of the motif varied according to shifting political circumstances; and, in particular, how it was affected by Elizabeth’s transition into irrevocable childlessness following the unsuccessful Anjou courtship of 1579-82.