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October 1, 1553 – Mary I Crowned Queen of England

The Coronation Chair - Illustration from Walks in London by Augustus Hare (1878)
The Coronation Chair – Illustration from Walks in London by Augustus Hare (1878)

This was such a huge time for England, the triumph of the people over an attempted coup – the only time since the Battle of Bosworth field that rebellion had actually been successful. Two years ago, I focused a post on Mary’s arrival at the Tower, the first part of formalizing her transition from commoner (well, you know what I mean) to queen regnant of England. Now it is time to talk about the magic day itself…though the occasion still deserves a bit of the run-up.

Specifically, Machyn gives us wonderful details how London prepared for the coronation, because it really says a lot about how the event was celebrated throughout the city (I’ve cleaned it up a bunch – feel free to click through to the original text if you are curious to see how spelling has changed over the years!):

The xij day of September the citizens began to adorn the city against the Queen’s coronation; to hang the streets, and prepare pageants at Fenchurch and Gracechurch and Leadenhall, in Gracious [aka Gracechurch) Street, and at the conduit in Cornhill, and the Great Conduit in Chepe, at the Standard in Chepe, the cross repaired, [at] the little conduit, a pageant in Powell’s church-yard, another pageant and many speeches, and Ludgate newly repaired, and many children; at the conduit in Fleet Street a pageant, and new trimmed very gorgeously, and the street hanged, and places for every craft to stand severally, made with timber from every craft there standing, and so to remain unto every hall for ever when they shall have need for such doing.

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/camden-record-soc/vol42/pp34-50

Machyn also describes the Coronation Day itself (and you can see it if you click through the citation), but I’m going to stick with the description (and analysis!) that Spanish Ambassador Simon Renard included in his letter to Charles V :

[…] Your Highness’s own cousin, Queen Mary, now wears the crown of this kingdom. She was crowned on the first day of this month, with the pomp and ceremonies customary here, which are far grander than elsewhere, as I shall briefly show; and according to the rites of the old religion.

[…] Coronation-day, the Queen went from the Hall of Parliament and Justice to the church, in procession with the bishops and priests in full canonical dress, the streets being again covered with flowers and decked with stuffs. She mounted a scaffolding that was erected at the church for this purpose, and showed herself to the people. The Queen’s coronation was proclaimed to them and the question asked of them if they were willing to accept her as their queen. All answered: Yes; and the ordinary ceremonies were then gone through, the Queen making an offering of silver and silken stuffs. The Bishop of Winchester, who officiated, gave her the sceptre and the orb, fastened on the spurs, and girt her with the sword; he received the oath, and she was twice anointed and crowned with three crowns. The ceremonies lasted from ten in the morning till five o’clock in the afternoon. She was carried from the church to the Parliament Hall where a banquet was prepared. The Queen sat on a stone chair covered with brocade, which they say was carried off from Scotland in sign of a victory, and was once used by the Kings of Scotland at their crowning; she rested her feet upon two of her ladies, which is also a part of the prescribed ceremonial, and ate thus. She was served by the earls and lords, Knights of the Order (Garter) and officers, each one performing his own special office. The meats were carried by the Knights of the Bath. These knights are made by the Kings on the eve of their coronation and at no other time; and their rank is inferior to the other Order. The Queen instituted twenty fresh ones. They are called Knights of the Bath because they plunge naked into a bath with the King and kiss his shoulder. The Queen being a woman, the ceremony was performed for her by the Earl of Arundel, her Great Master of the Household. The Earl Marshal (Duke of Norfolk) and the Lord Steward (Earl of Arundel) directed the ceremonies mounted on horseback in the great hall. When the banquet was over an armed knight rode in upon a Spanish horse and flung down his glove, while one of the Kings-of-arms challenged anyone who opposed the Queen’s rights to pick up the glove and fight the Champion in single combat. The Queen gave him a gold cup, as it is usual to do. Meanwhile the earls, vassals, and councilors paid homage to her, kissing her on the shoulder; and the ceremonies came to an end without any of the interruptions or troubles that were feared on the part of the Lutherans, who would rejoice in upsetting the Queen’s reign. They were feared especially because of the Lady Elizabeth, who does not feel sincerely the oath she took at the coronation; she has had intelligence with the King of France, which has been discovered. A remedy is to be sought at the convocation of the Estates, which is to take place on the fifth of this month; Elizabeth is to be declared a bastard, having been born during the life-time of Queen Catherine, mother of the Queen. The affairs of the kingdom are unsettled because the vassals and people are prone to scandal, and seekers after novelties; they are strange and troublesome folk. I will inform your Highness of anything that may happen in Parliament.

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp261-272

Despite the joyous nature of the day, those last few lines give a grim forecast of what’s in store for Elizabeth during her sister’s reign…

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