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February 19, 1547 – Edward Rides from the Tower to Westminster for his Coronation

Coronation of Edward VI, by Edith Harwood (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

While technically the term “coronation” refers to the placing of a crown upon a monarch’s head, the moment of the anointing is so important that it requires several days of ceremony to bracket it – a day before during which the new monarch proceeds through the capital city, and several afterwards for celebratory banquets and jousts.

Edward’s passage through London was the main occasion for his people to see him, since he would make his way from the Tower to Westminster – across the entire length of the city. All along the route, houses were ‘richly hanged with coverlets or tapestry and arras’ and in each neighborhood there were specially arranged pageants and spectacles. These were inspired by the coronation passage of the last boy king of England, Henry VI, in 1432 (not counting Edward V…one of the Princes in the Tower….no one wanted to remember that part of the realm’s history) and/or by allegorical references to Edward himself. Let’s just say there were a lot of lions (real and costumed, mature and cubs), angels (to show divine approval), phoenixes (his mother Jane’s badge), and hawthorn bushes (a nod to Henry VII).

From all accounts, Edward’s favorite part of the day was a display on the south side of St. Paul’s: a tightrope walker descended from a cable to the ground, ‘aiding himself with neither hand nor foot,’ to kiss Edward’s foot. There was a short conversation in which Edward learned that the man was from Aragon (my bet is they mentioned Mary and her mother at that point). When the conversation was over, the tumbler ascended back up to the middle of the cable and ‘tumbled and played many pretty toys.’

I have to say, that’s the part that get me every time. Think about it: Edward VI was a serious nine-year-old boy who was thrust into greatness way before he should have been. The entire procession would have been a long, drawn-out affair – meant more for observers than for his own pleasure. He had this one moment of connection to a man who shared a heritage with his beloved sister…when I dealt with this scene in The Boy King, I had him tarry there, entranced, as a nod to his age and an early experience of the royal choice.

Interestingly, this highly personal event was not reflected at all in Edward’s Chronicle. Such an amazing document, that Chronicle. Written in the third person by a boy who was far too conscious of the far-ranging nature of his every word and gesture, Edward focused on the things that were “important”. Even his wonder at being allowed to wear the crown at dinner after the coronation itself speaks to that gravitas…it is heartwrenching in its own way. In his own words:

Afterwards, all things being prepared for the coronation the King being then but nine years old, passed through the City of London as heretofore hath been used, and came to the Palace of Westminster, and the next day came into Westminster Hall, and it was asked the people whether they would have him to be their King. They answered, “Yea, yea.” Then he was crowned King of England, France and Ireland by the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the rest of the clergy and nobles and anointed with all such ceremonies as were accustomed, and took his oath, and gave a general pardon, and so was brought to the hall to dinner, Shroft Sunday, where he sat with the crown on his head, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Protector, and all the lords sat at boards in the hall beneath; and the Lord Marshall’s deputy, for my lord of Somerset was Lord Marshall, rode about the hall to make room.

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February 19, 1547 - Edward Rides from the Tower to Westminster for his Coronation
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