Melita Thomas of Tudor Times describes the day Anne Boleyn was led forth from the Palace of Westminster for her coronation.
Sunday 1 June, 1533, was the crowning day of Anne Boleyn’s life in every sense. She was led forth from the Palace of Westminster to Westminster Abbey to be crowned and anointed as Queen of England, wife of King Henry VIII and, she assumed, mother of his heir. She, a private gentlewoman from a middle-ranking family, had supplanted a daughter of Spain, and overturned a thousand years of English obedience to the Church of Rome. It was her moment of glory, and the culmination of more than seven years of ambition, frustration, and legal wrangling.
Henry VIII had brought about a political, legal and religious transformation of England on a scale not seen since the Norman Conquest, to make Anne queen. He was determined that not just his subjects, but also his European rivals and allies, who had been watching events in England in horrified disbelief, must accept that Anne was to be honoured as his wife and Queen. Her crowning must therefore incorporate every traditional element of medieval coronations.
The events lasted four days, beginning with a flotilla of barges, decorated with costly materials, rowing to Greenwich to accompany the Queen in her barge to the Tower of London. As she approached, over a thousand rounds were fired from the great guns at the Tower.
On the second day, Anne, who was five months pregnant, rested, whilst one of the important ceremonies that attended coronations was carried out – the creation of new Knights of the Bath.
Continuing tradition, on the third day Anne was feted by the City of London. The Lord Mayor and Corporation were responsible for welcoming the Queen and entertaining her as she was shown to the people. Anne, dressed in white, with an ermine mantle and her lustrous dark hair flowing loose, was carried through the streets on a litter, with hundreds of courtiers, ladies and officials in scarlet and violet velvet robes preceding and following her. Allegorical displays were set up, including a giant white falcon (her personal badge), and the fountain at Cheapside flanked by representations of classical gods and heroes, poured wine for all comers.
Early on Sunday Anne left Westminster Hall, clad in purple velvet and ermine, walking under a canopy borne by the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, to Westminster Abbey.
She prostrated herself before the High Altar, then, once more on her feet, received the Crown of St Edward, the rod and the sceptre, from the Archbishop of Canterbury. A Te Deum was sung, before Anne returned to preside over the extravagant coronation feast at Westminster Hall.
Melita Thomas is the Director of Tudor Times, the online repository for all things Tudor and Stewart (1485–1603).
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