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September 28, 1553 – Mary Arrives at the Tower for Her Coronation

Gold medal minted later but it seemed in character! (photo credit Hispalois)

When we think of coronations, we think of the ceremonial part of it: the twelve hours of ritual centered around the new sovereign sitting in Westminster Abbey on Saint Edward’s chair (and hearing the creak!), culminating in the anointment with holy oil. Or we may talk about the equally long day before, when the new monarchs leave the Tower and wend their way through a city hung with arrases and presenting tributes and pageants at every corner. That’s the epic center of it all.

And yet it is a two-step transition from the mundane to the epic center. It all truly begins with the monarch’s arrival at the Tower in the first place, to take possession of the nation’s treasures lodged in the ultimate royal stronghold. We just don’t usually think about that part.  

When my kids were younger, there was an indoor kid’s playground called Bright Child with a terrifying “Black Slide” that every kid was obsessed with. It was a steep tunnel that let in no light, even the staircase you had to climb to get to it was darkened. You lost your bearings almost as soon as you sat down, and then you started going much faster than you expected. The first time I tried it, I panicked partway through and put my arms out to slow down. Wrong. That’s how you get hurt: sprains, bruises (the resulting lawsuits are apparently why Bright Child eventually closed). The only way to get through the experience was to accept the fact that you had no control and relax.

I tell this story because it is a metaphor for many of life’s big experiences, like a root canal…or a coronation (how’s that for a range?). Mary’s arrival at the Tower was climbing the stairs that would take her to the whirlwind that would be her procession and coronation.  From this point forward, every movement would be orchestrated to conform to a pattern that had been set five hundred years earlier, until she emerged transformed (I was going to use a butterfly metaphor but that didn’t really mix with the slide image…).  It’s a cool point to pause at and mark.

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