On this day in history, the 15th January 1559, at 12pm, Elizabeth I was crowned Queen. She was the third of Henry VIII’s children to become monarch and she was the last of the Tudor dynasty.
Elizabeth had inherited the throne from her half-sister Mary I, who had died on the 17th November 1558, and the lavish coronation had been planned for the 15th January on the advice of the Elizabethan scholar, astrologer, mathematician and astronomer, John Dee. Elizabeth’s childhood friend, Robert Dudley, had advised Elizabeth to ask Dee to draw up an “electional chart” to find the most auspicious date and time for her coronation, for the birth of a new age. Dee was obviously restricted by time, in that the coronation needed to take place within a few months of Elizabeth’s accession, so he chose the 15th January as the best date, although it was not perfect.
Elizabeth’s coronation day began in Westminster Hall, which had been decorated with her father’s sumptuous tapestries and his collection of gold and gilt plate. Blue cloth had been laid from the Hall to the Abbey and Elizabeth, wearing her crimson parliament robes, processed along this cloth which Starkey explains was then torn to shreds by people as souvenirs.
Elizabeth processed to the crossing in the Abbey and withdrew to a curtained enclosure to change. She was then led by Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle, up on to the stage where he proclaimed her queen in each of the four corners, asking the congregation if they would have her for their queen and listening for their enthusiastic replies of “Yea! Yea!”. Elizabeth then made the traditional offerings at the altar and then sat in the throne of estate to listen to the sermon. After the sermon, Elizabeth knelt for the Lords Prayer, took the oath and then withdrew to the traverse to change for the anointing part of ther service. Wearing a kirtle of gold and silver and leaning on cloth of gold cushions, which had been placed before the altar, Elizabeth was anointed on the shoulder blades, breast, arms, hands and head. She was then dressed in white gloves, a white coif and the white dalmatic (tunic) of a deacon. Now that she had sworn the oath and been anointed, she could sit in St Edward’s Chair and receive the sword, armils, mantle, ring and sceptre, and be crowned. She was crowned with three different crowns, one after the other, with fanfares marking each crowning.
Elizabeth was then dressed in gold, right down to her shoes, and with the sceptre in one hand and orb in the other, she processed onto the stage where she sat in the throne where her people greeted her and Oglethorpe and the Lords Spiritual and Temporal paid homage to their new queen by kneeling at her feet and kissing her cheek. The coronation pardon was then read and this was followed by the coronation mass, which included the Epistle and the Gospel being read out in both Latin and English. Elizabeth then kissed the Bible. Oglethorpe then defied his new queen by elevating the host, at whic point Elizabeth withdrew to change into her purple robes. The Queen then processed from the Abbey, through Old Palace Yard and back to Westminster Hall to enjoy her coronation banquet. Elizabeth was now the official queen and her coronation and accession had been a huge success.
You can read an account of Elizabeth’s coronation by an “anonymous Englishman” online at www.hillsdalesites.org
Also on this day in history…
- 1535 – King Henry VIII proclaimed that he was now Supreme Head of the Church of England:
“Memorandum that the King in his privy chamber, 15 January 26 Hen. VIII., in presence of Sir Thos. Audley, lord Chancellor, Thos. duke of Norfolk, treasurer of England, Thos. earl of Wiltshire, keeper of the Privy Seal, Thos. Crumwell, chief secretary, and others, ordained that his style should henceforth be “Henricus Octavus, Dei gratia Angliæ et Franciæ Rex, Fidei Defensor et Dominus Hiberniæ, et in Terra Supremum Caput Anglicanæ Ecclesiæ.”” LP viii.52
Notes and Sources
- Elizabeth: Apprenticeship, David Starkey (2000)
- CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH anonymous Englishman, “The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth,” C.G. Bayne, English Historical Review 22 (October 1907):666–671
- Illustrations: 1) Elizabeth I, Unknown Artist c. 1600 2) Elizabeth I – The Coronation Miniature
Nicholas Hilliard, c.1600