15 January 1559 – The Coronation of the Virgin Queen

On this day in history, 15th January 1559, twenty-five-year-old Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, was crowned queen at Westminster Abbey by Owen Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle.

Diarist and merchant-taylor Henry Machyn recorded:

“The xv day was the coronation of queen Elizabeth at Westminster abbey, and there all the trumpets, and knights, and lords, and heralds of arms in their coat armours; and after all they in their scarlet, and all the bishops in scarlet, and the Queen, and all the footmen waiting upon the queen, to Westminster hall; there met all the bishops, and all the chapel with iij crosses, and in their copes, the bishops mitred, and singing Salve festa dies; and all the street laid with gravel, and blue cloth unto the abbey, and railed on every side, and so to the abbey to mass, and there her grace was crowned; and every officer ready against she should go to dinner to Westminster hall, and every officer to take his oaths at service upon their lands; and my lord mayor and the aldermen.”1

Here are links to more articles about Elizabeth I’s coronation:

15th January is also the anniversary of these events (click on the links to read more about them):

Notes and Sources

  1. ‘Diary: 1559 (Jan – Jun)’, in The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, 1550-1563, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1848), pp. 184-201. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/camden-record-soc/vol42/pp184-201 [accessed 15 January 2018]. I have modernised the spelling.

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4 thoughts on “15 January 1559 – The Coronation of the Virgin Queen”
  1. This would have been a frightening time to live in England. After the last 12 years of the reigns of Edward and Mary and all the ups and downs in what people were supposed to believe in their religion I’m sure everybody was wondering what is going to happen now. This could not have been easy for Elizabeth. She had to have known there were many in her own country and on the other side of the channel who believed that she was illegitimate and had no right to the crown. She or her counselors had to know that this was going to have to be dealt with at some point during her reign.

  2. We all think that this day was a glorious one for the twenty five year old Elizabeth but no matter how grand she looked and acted, no matter how much her new subjects cheered and enjoyed the festive days of January 1559, which they must have done, there was a small sign of unease. Elizabeth had probably never really expected this day to come, because she was a woman, third in line and she had been declared illegitimate. She had also almost been completely sidelined, first, as with Mary by their half brother, Edward and then by Mary, who feared Elizabeth would dismantle her restoration of the Catholic Faith in England. Only a few months of illness and sensible advice had persuaded a wise, Queen Mary to agree to name Elizabeth as heir in line with their father’s will and Parliament. Elizabeth was preferred by Philip, by the Council, by the ministers and probably by most people, as she was popular, charismatic and a Tudor. However, she was also uncertain of how to govern a nest of demanding men and to balance the conflicts between reform and traditional belief. She was also aware that she was not regarded as the most desirable monarch abroad, she had questionable parentage and her faith would become a great uncertainty. The most thorny issue was the question of her marriage. Even as she enjoyed her coronation, some of these things must have weighed upon her. Very soon Elizabeth would be expected to make her first speech to Parliament and her Act of Uniformity would bring all of those difficult questions to the fore front.

    Elizabeth was courageous, of course she was, she was a Tudor, she had seen her sister raise an army to face down a conspiracy to keep her from her crown. Elizabeth may not have to do the same, thanks to Mary, who made female rule acceptable and strengthened the authority and respect for the monarchy, but she would need to be courageous during the confrontations with ministers, ambassadors and numerous husbands paying court over the next decades. No proper religious settlement was made in 1559. None was made for at least two decades. Even then it was only putting the lid on a powder kegg and led to more disruptive trouble, risings, conspiracy, assassination attempts, persecution and the horrific execution of innocent Catholic priests and the families they ministered to, to a culture of fear and suspicion which lasted for many generations. The only attempt to bring a settlement of some kind was made during the Hampton Court Conference which brought together Anglican and Puritan elders to create the King James Bible. Again, Catholic interest was ignored, persecution and conspiracy continued, resulting in the Gunpowder Plot, but within one generation comprises were reached in prayer books and services. Elizabeth could not know or imagine any of this in 1559, but I don’t think she was fully confident of her role and she knew that her new court was full of piranhas. All she could do on that day in January was pray, smile and dedicate the future to a higher power.

  3. When iv seen snatches of our present queens coronation iv often thought how arduous an experience it must have been, wearing that cumbersome crown and sitting through the ceremony officiating at the banquet etc what a long day to get through, in a recent interview, the queen pondered how heavy the crown had been and she was shown looking at it again, fingering it, the jewels and diamonds on it are dazzling and have a history of there own,one stone belonging to the Black Prince, she had said she will dedicate her life to serving her country and she has, never putting a foot wrong, but she must have been so grateful when it was all over, it must have been so exhausting also knowing the whole world was watching her, it rained that day my parents told me, it was one of those wet days England sometimes has and it can go on for weeks, yet the month is called flaming June, wether it’s a referral to the sultry sunshine or flaming bad weather is a matter of opinion, however Queen Elizabeth 11’s namesake and distant relative must have revelled in it like her mother before her, it was their day of triumph, there must have been dismal moments in Anne Boleyns mind when she felt she would never be queen and when she was sitting in King Edwards chair with the crown on her head and the orb and sceptre in her hands she knew she had finally done it, she was queen at last, and thus it was with her daughter, the odds against Anne and Elizabeth wearing the crown were very high, obstacles were in Annes way with a queen already on the throne and the pope and yet she had achieved her greatest ambition, she was married to King Henry and crowned and anointed, the First Lady in the land, when her fey young daughter woke up to see the sun rise on her coronation day she knew that she had achieved her mothers dream, she had fought against almost impossible odds to become queen of this sceptered isle and this time there were no sullen faces, booing or heckling, just complete undulating joy that this young woman, who reminded her people of her father with his sunny smile and tawny colouring, who had possessed a magnetism that forever drew people to him even when he was fat and old, was now queen and as she told them time and again, she loved them as if they were her own children, she vowed to do what’s right by them as she was their beloved mistress, she was England, and in the midst of terrifying adversity thirty four years she kept that promise as she rode among her troops at Tilbury and vowed to take up arms herself and die amongst them in the midst of battle, it was a complex woman Elizabeth had become, from the adored little princess of her parents, from the most high and mighty to that of just a kings bastard and the daughter of a convicted and disgraced mother, from a lonely girlhood whose life was fraught with danger she had come through it all, she had suffered imprisonment in the Tower and had been the focus of her stepfathers unwanted attentions, she had been part of the cause of distress to her beloved stepmother Catherine Parr and had endured banishment to the country, she had focused on her books and studying and had tried to put the unsavoury past behind her, she had been placed in the succession with her sister Mary but they both must have felt they would never be queen, their brother was King and could have had an heir, his early death smoothed the way for Mary but then they were both in danger of being captured by Northumberland after Edward drew up a new will, disinheriting them both and so Elizabeth had to now lay low and hide from Northumberland, Marys battle cry to those who she believed were her true English subjects brought the duke to his knees and the young girl queen Jane was deposed, Mary married her Spanish cousin and now Elizabeth was under suspicion, she was accused of being in the Wyatt plot and was taken to the Tower, a dreadful place where her mothers sad spirit must have roamed, we cannot imagine the terror she felt and when she was released she was housed in Sir Henry Bedingfields manor where she lived quietly but still under a watchful eye, Mary sadly left no heir and now it was the turn of Henry V111’s youngest daughter to fulfill her destiny, one misty morning in November whilst sitting under an old oak tree she learnt that she was queen, she had done it, she had fulfilled her mothers ambition who had fought to make her child the heir of England, she had been innocently done to death so Henry could have a prince yet fate decreed it was to be Elizabeth not Edward, who carried England to glory, the 16th century was dominated by queens, there was Catherine D’ Medici in France, Mary Queen Of Scots and now Elizabeth, out of them all and many of the European princes, Elizabeth was to prove the most successful, from her coronation portrait she stares out at us, she looks to me slightly vulnerable and much younger than her twenty five years, with her pale skin and rosebud mouth, her long golden red hair a kind of strawberry blonde shade rippling down her shoulders and back, her mothers large dark eyes dominate a face which hide a million secrets and a steely resolve, only she knew what she was thinking how she really felt, it was upto her now to rule this country that was her divine birthright and she was determined to make a success of it.

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