1 June 1533 – Queen Anne Boleyn’s Coronation

Westminster Abbey1st June 1533, Whitsun, was the fourth and final day of Queen Anne Boleyn’s coronation events and was the big day: the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

The Mayor of London, aldermen, sheriffs and Council of the City of London took a barge to Westminster at 7am and there waited for the Queen. Anne arrived somewhere between 8 and 9am and stood under the cloth of state as the royal court and peers gathered. Once everybody was ready, the officers of arms organised everyone into a procession to make their way on a railed blue “ray cloth” which had been laid from the high dais of the King’s bench in the hall all the way to the high altar of the abbey. The chronicler Edward Hall records the order of the procession as:

  • Gentleman
  • Squires
  • Knights
  • Alderman of the City
  • Judges
  • Knights of the Bath
  • Barons and viscounts
  • Earls, marquesses and dukes
  • Lord Chancellor
  • Staff of the Chapel Royal and monks
  • Abbots and bishops
  • Sergeants and officers of arms
  • The Mayor of London
  • Marquess of Dorset, bearing the sceptre of gold
  • Earl of Arundel, bearing the rod of ivory topped with a dove
  • Earl of Oxford, High Chamberlain of England, carrying the crown of St Edward
  • Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and High Steward of England for the day
  • William Howard, carrying the rod of the Marshal of England
  • The Garter Knights
  • The Queen

The pregnant Anne Boleyn was dressed in a surcoat and robe of purple velvet, the royal colour, trimmed with ermine and on her head was the coif and circlet she had worn for her coronation procession through London the day before. Anne’s walked barefoot under a canopy of cloth of gold carried by the barons of the Cinque Ports and her train was borne by the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Anne processed to the chair of St Edward and then rested for a few moments before making her way to the high altar and prostrating herself for Archbishop Cranmer to pray over her. I can only imagine how uncomfortable she must have been, lying on her front while pregnant. Anne then got up and Cranmer anointed her. She was then able to rest in St Edward’s chair while orations were said. Cranmer then crowned her with the crown of St Edward, a crown usually reserved for crowning the reigning monarch, and placed the sceptre in her right hand and the rod in her left hand. The Te Deum was sung and Cranmer helped Anne exchange the heavy crown for a custom-made lighter version.

After the Mass, Anne took the Sacrament and then gave the traditional offering in St Edward’s Shrine. It was then time for everyone to get back in line to process to Westminster Hall for the traditional coronation banquet. As she walked to the sound of trumpets, Anne’s right hand was “sustained” by her father, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, and her left hand by Lord Talbot, acting on behalf of his father, Earl of Shrewsbury.

In Westminster Hall, Anne was escorted to the King’s marble chair where she sat under a cloth of state. Anne was attended by the Dowager Countess of Oxford and the Countess of Worcester, who stood beside her, and two gentlewomen sat at her feet. The Earl of Oxford, as high chamberlain, stood beside her and then Archbishop Cranmer sat next to her. The Earl of Essex was the carver, the Earl of Sussex the sewer, the Earl of Derby the cupbearer, the Earl of Arundel the chief butler and Thomas Wyatt the chief ewer, on behalf of his father, Henry Wyatt. When everybody had taken their seats, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and William Howard entered the hall on horseback to announce the first course, which was being carried by the knights of the Bath. Suffolk was wearing a jacket and doublet “set with orient perle” and a gown of embroidered crimson velvet, and his horse was draped with crimson velvet, embroidered with real gold letters, which reached the ground. As was tradition, the King did not join his wife at the banquet, but, instead, watched it from a special “little closet” with the ambassadors of France and Venice.

After around eighty dishes, the banquet ended with wafers and hippocras, followed by a break for the Queen to refresh herself and then “a voyde of spice and comfettes”. Then, the Mayor of London gave Anne a gold cup, from which she drank before giving it back to him. Anne then retired to her chambers where she had to go through the formalities of thanking everyone before she could rest. It finished at around 6pm. Phew, what a day!

If you want to read the primary source accounts of Anne Boleyn’s coronation for yourself then here are some links for you:

  • The noble tryumphaunt coronacyon of Quene Anne, wyfe unto the most noble kynge Henry VIII
  • LP vi.583 – Coronation of Anne Boleyn, as reported by Sir John Spelman, one of the King’s Justices who attended. This is followed by a list of materials used for the Queen’s litter, apparel and Goldsmith’s work – very interesting!
  • LP vi.585 – Coronation of Anne Boleyn, From a catalogue of papers at Brussels, now lost. This one needs to be taken with a hefty pinch of salt (perhaps a whole bag?), particularly “Her dress was covered with tongues pierced with nails, to show the treatment which those who spoke against her might expect” and the mention of her wart and goitre! Talk about propaganda! This account is not backed up by any of the other accounts you’ll be pleased to know but it shows what propaganda there was out there.
  • Wriothesley’s Chronicle, p19-22 – An account of Anne Boleyn’s Coronation by the chronicler Charles Wriothesley
  • Hall’s Chronicle, p802-805 – An account by the chronicler Edward Hall
  • Holinshed’s Chronicle, p782-786 – An account by the chronicler Raphael Holinshed

Notes and Sources

  • The noble tryumphaunt coronacyon of Quene Anne, wyfe unto the most noble kynge Henry VIII, printed by Wynkyn de Worde, 1533
  • Hall, Edward. Hall’s Chronicle, collated editions of 1548 and 1550
  • LP vi. 583, 584 and 585
  • Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p178-183

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