15 January 1559 – Elizabeth I is crowned

On this day in history, 15th January 1559, Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was crowned queen by Owen Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle, at Westminster Abbey.

Diarist Henry Machyn recorded:

“The xv day was the crounasyon [coronation] of quen Elsabeth at Westmynster abbay, and theyr all the trumpettes, and knyghtes, and lordes, and haroldes [heralds] of armes in ther cotte armurs; and after all they in ther skarlett, and all the bysshopes in skarlett, and the Quen, and all the fottmen waytyng a-pone the quene, to Westmynster hall; ther mett all the byshoppes, and all the chapell with iij crosses, and in ther copes, the byshoppes mytered, and syngyng Salve festa dyes; and all the strett led with gravell, and bluw [blue] cloth unto the abbay, and raylled on evere syd, and so to the abbay to masse, and ther her grasse [grace] was crounyd [crowned]; and evere offeser rede [ready] against she shuld go to dener [dinner] to Westmynster hall, and evere offeser to take ys offes at serves a-pone ther landes; and my lord mare and the althermen [aldermen].”

In the account of Elizabeth I’s coronation procession in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland is a transcript of a prayer that Elizabeth was said to have uttered at the Tower of London before her coronation procession the previous day, to prepare herself for the procession and her coronation. The queen lifted her eyes to heaven and said:

“O Lord almightie and euerlasting God, I giue thee most hartie thanks, that thou hast beene so mercifull vnto me, as to spare me to behold this ioifull [joyful] daie. And I acknowledge that thou hast delt as woonderfullie and as mercifullie with me, as thou diddest with thy true and faithfull seruant Daniell thy prophet; whome thou deliueredst out of the den from the crueltie of the greedie and raging lions: euen so was I ouerwhelmed, and onlie by thee deliuered. To thee therefore onlie be thankes, honor, and praise, for euer: Amen.”

Long live the Queen!

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


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12 thoughts on “15 January 1559 – Elizabeth I is crowned”
  1. She had come through such a lot, losing her mother and the status of her fathers heir, having to endure gossip about her parentage, the carefree days following her fathers death with her stepmother, only to be put in the awkward situation of having her new stepfather subject her to his embarrassing attentions, the dark days that followed when she was being interrogated by the council and suffering persecution from her sister, ultimately being imprisoned in the Tower and then joy! She was Queen at last, all her experiences had moulded her into the wary cautious woman she became and she would never suffer anyone to have more power than her, she would never relinquish that power to anyone and would reign with an iron hand for forty five years, I love that portrait of her, her golden red hair and fair skin she had inherited from her father, she also had his long slightly hooked nose, from her mother she had inherited her long oval face and striking dark eyes, all the more striking because she was so fair, she had entered the Tower a prisoner and poignantly had requested a French sword if she was to die, she re entered as a victorious monarch, Eric Ives had written maybe at last the headless woman lying in the church nearby was vindicated at last, I believe it was so.

    1. Persecution from her sister? Mary was well within her rights to arrest her sister who was implicated in a plot to kill her and replace her with either herself or another rival, already condemned for treason. Elizabeth had escaped the unwelcome attentions of her stepfather and possibly her stepmother too, although the latter may have been gossip, had found herself in a precarious position on more than one occasion, but she was not an innocent victim of Mary’s so called persecution. For one thing Wyatt had written to her, although she wisely destroyed the letter. Elizabeth may have at the end of the day been innocent of any actual plot, which is why she was released and kept under house arrest, before eventually being allowed to go home. Mary up to this point had showed Elizabeth every favour, every courtesy and every sign of treatment as a sister. Mary did not have to accept Elizabeth had any status at all as she believed that Anne Boleyn was not her father’s true Queen, or that Henry had treated Anne unfairly. But, during their time growing up the evidence is that she accepted Elizabeth as her half sister. They developed a reasonable relationship up to this point. After seeing evidence that marked Elizabeth out as a traitor that relationship broke and Mary spoke more about her not being Henry’s daughter. Why shouldn’t Mary put Elizabeth in the Tower? Frightening as it was, as Elizabeth must have thought about her mother, she had been accused of the crime of treason. Mary had no choice but to arrest and put Elizabeth in the comfort of the royal apartments in the Tower, where she wrote the letter which probably saved her, used illness as a political weapon, cleverly outfoxed those who rightly questioned her and then pretended to accept the Catholic faith. Elizabeth cleverly lied her way out and was fortunate that the evidence against her was slight. enough to reverse her situation. In fact, she could easily have been tried and sent back as she concealed her knowledge of Wyatt’s intentions and was guilty of misprison of treason. Elizabeth was no innocent victim of circumstances. She was a clever manipulator, only reigned at all because Mary made female monarchy acceptable and authoritive, plus Mary named her. Elizabeth was still legally a bastard and a Protestant, neither of which automatically made her acceptable to Parliament or Council. Elizabeth may have been popular, but so was Mary. Wild rejoicing welcomed both of them, although this changed in some areas towards the end of the reign. Mary named Elizabeth to avoid another Jane Grey situation, although she did so reluctantly, because she was sensible and sensitive to the need for a proper Tudor to reign, her father’s child. Elizabeth also lied about protecting the Catholic faith so Mary would name her. Naming Elizabeth was good sense, but Mary did not have to. Edward also dismissed Elizabeth as illegitimate and said Henry did the right thing in killing Anne in his device. Henry had also willed Elizabeth to reign after Mary, so maybe this also was on her mind. Mary was ill at the time, but still lucid enough to know what she was doing. Elizabeth was not entirely neglected by her father either and was now a very wealthy woman. As a possible heir to the throne she was a rival for the Protestant cause, giving Mary a right headache. Considering what had happened with Jane Grey, whose family were again in plots and attempts to kill Mary, with Elizabeth named to replace her, Mary was entitled to be suspicious of her half sister. In fact she would have been entirely legally entitled to try, condemn and execute a treasonous sister, and who are we to say she would be wrong? Hindsight can’t put us into the perilous situation that Mary faced, it was her life which was endangered, not that of everyone’s precious little Elizabeth, oh poor thing….Yes, I am ranting, sorry, just fed up with Elizabeth being seen as a heroic victim, when actually she was guilty of misprison of treason and from Mary’s point of view, evidence showing her as consenting to Wyatt even by her silence, meant that she wanted him to succeed. Mary was not persecuting, Elizabeth, on the contrary she gave her numerous opportunities to answer for herself, before concluding that there was not enough evidence to condemn her.

      1. I think Elizabeth was treated a bit harshly by Mary though, due to personal reasons those being the latters treatment by Anne Boleyn, I don’t think Elizabeth was ever a victim, certainly a victim of the circumstances that occurred as a result of the Wyatt plot, and the years following her fathers death with Seymour her new stepfather trying to seduce her, when he should have been protecting her, and yes I agree she wasn’t an angel, she was devious and crafty and often faked illness to get out of an awkward situation, but she was fighting to survive and also we have to remember some thought she was just a bastard and not even a kings bastard, but the result of the illicit union between Anne Boleyn and her musician, the lowly Mark Smeaton, yes Mary had to fight for her throne but Elizabeth faced uncertainty to as she had been her fathers heir, then bastardised then put back in the succession, she was also a girl which gave her a disadvantage, there was no question of Marys paternity but she had also had to suffer the stain of being bastardised so these two princesses were really in much the same boat, I don’t believe Elizabeth did have anything to do with the Wyatt plot as I think she was too wary to be involved but the Tower was as now a secure fortress and only housed important state prisoners, if Mary believed her sister was guilty of treason then it was the only place for her but I can’t help but feel sorry for the girl who was after all only a teenager and had the most awful example in her mind, her nerves must have been shattered in that gloomy building, sisters should be close and support each other but both Mary and Elizabeth could never be due to their mothers enmity and the constant wrangling for power that comes with being closely connected to the throne.

        1. Hi Christine, love that devious and crafty, so definitely the daughter of Henry and Anne. Both were definitely devious and crafty, but she also learned great statecraft. The Tower as a state prisoner normally meant one thing…the axe or worse. Elizabeth had to think on her feet and taking time to write her letter was crucial. One thing is certain, Elizabeth had enemies. Who else but an enemy or spy in her household would know that she had received and destroyed a letter from Wyatt, son of her mother’s admirer and life time love, who gave her up, which gave away knowledge of his plans and confessed to being doe eyed over the Princess? Elizabeth, like everyone else at court was watched, but that didn’t stop others causing trouble. While Elizabeth didn’t actively take part or as far as we know respond to Wyatt, her knowledge of a plot was enough to lay suspicion at her door and remember thought crime seems to have been popular with Tudor treason laws. Hidden knowledge of a plot was the same as giving consent, it put people in danger. Mary, regardless of her feelings for a half sister she was never close to emotionally, given their age difference and parents history, had no choice but to arrest her. Elizabeth was twenty/one at the time, but her mid teen years had been difficult. Her stepfather had made advances to her, her favourite step mother had thrown her out, thinking her and Tom Seymour were having an affair. Her years from then went fine, Mary had made an effort, but with Elizabeth named as being a target to replace her, yea, I am not sure sisterly affection would triumph here. Even in normal families sibbling rivalry can go beyond the pale, even leading to hate, especially if there are numerous step parents and wide age gaps. Ideally yes, sisters should look after each other. In history, royal sibblings have had many differences. Look at Henry iis sons… three of them turned first on him, then on each other over who would inherit what. Louis the Pius three sons were constantly at war as the Empire of Charlemagne broke up into three kingdoms. Edward iv was the most recent bad example of brotherly love. His younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence, constantly rebelled, siding with Warwick against him. He also put about rumours of Edward being illegitimate, tried to get Parliament to declare him King instead. Parliament refused and Edward rallied. When Edward was forced into exile and Henry vi returned to the throne, Clarence again rebelled, changing sides again when Edward returned. Seven years later Clarence went to far, defied his authority, took legal steps he was not entitled to, boasting he was the lawful heir, talking again about Edward being illegitimate and his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville being dodgy. Edward had him tried for treason, put in the Tower and several months later, privately killed. (Yes it is actually recorded that Edward had him drowned in a vatt of wine). He certainly was not allowing brotherly love to get in the way of his security on the throne. If Mary felt threatened by her half sister, especially when she had survived one family threat from her cousin, it is logical that she didn’t allow sentiment to get in the way.

          Elizabeth, however, must have really felt the worst, especially as her mother, who was entirely innocent, went into the Tower and only emerged to have her head cut off 18 days later. She must have been frightened and very worried. I think some of her illness was due to fear and stress. Elizabeth, however, has to be congratulated, her quick thinking and manipulation of her gaolers and clever responses to those who questioned her, all saved her life. As with her paternal grandfather who survived being raised away from his home by strangers, the loss of his father before birth, being left on a battlefield alone when he was ten, being forced into exile aged 14, being more a prisoner than a guest of his Burgundean host, a number of attempts to kidnap or kill him, before the House of York imploded and his lucky victory at Bosworth, Elizabeth had good reason to feel delivered by Divine intervention. Her supporters certainly believed this and it was her seemingly miraculous ascent to the throne, against all the odds that allowed Elizabeth to become a legend and mystical figure. Orthodox Catholic Christians may have had doubts about her legitimate claim, all of Europe continued to refer to Elizabeth as illegitimate, legally she was never restored to the status of being legitimate, but I bet on the day she put on that crown, nothing else mattered. This moment made her legitimate and to hell with the lot of them. Elizabeth was Queen and nobody would rule her. Elizabeth in this moment was definitely the daughter of Henry Viii and Anne Boleyn.

        2. Sorry…correction, should be support from Brittany not Burgundy. Henry Tudor could hardly get help from his nemesis sister. Reply below.

      2. Hi Banditqueen, I also believe that some of Elizabeth’s illness was genuine caused by very real fear, most illnesses suffered from people were physcomatic, constant worry and stress can bring on upset stomachs and in this age a lot of people are being diagnosed with Ibs, this peculiar condition seems to be a 21st c thing but it could have occurred back then, Elizabeth knew that the punishment for treason was death and she had enemies at court, the Protestants looked forward to the day she might be queen but the Catholics called her Nan Bullens bastard, the Spanish ambassador was always ready to drop poison into Marys ear and after Jane Greys death Elizabeth was known to ask if the scaffold was still in place, after Catherine Howard and Jane Rochford were questioned by Cranmer, Jane suffered a nervous breakdown, this shows the extent of the terror she felt, although Elizabeth did often feign illness to avoid awkward situations, I think some of her ailments were very real when you consider the shadow of the axe was hanging over her when she was detained in the Tower, and all her life she suffered from headaches and palpitations of the heart, yes Royal siblings were often at loggerheads, the sons of Henry 11 as you mention were never close and in fact he was closer to his two bastard sons, one of who he called his favourite and was with him on his death bed, the sons of William The Conqueror were constantly squabbling, his eldest son was killed whilst out hunting yet it was rumoured to be murder, however the Tudor court was a dangerous hotbed of political intrigue and without their autocratic father to protect them, both Mary and Elizabeth must have felt lost and needed all their wits to survive, when Edward died Dudley tried to arrest both princesses yet they managed to elude him, Mary then raised an army and rode to the capital where Dudley was captured and on his knees begged forgiveness, so yes the path to the throne for these two daughters of Henry V111 was never smooth, I feel Mary could have been a more successful monarch had she not married Philip but chose an Englishman, that was what the country would have preferred but unfortunately she fell in love with him and had to have him, he was not popular and there was fear he would bring the inquisition to England, he himself disliked England and was not an attentive husband, leaving poor Mary often which caused her much sadness, there were the burnings at Smithfield which caused widespread horror and little by little the affection people had for her began to ebb away, her mother had been so popular but Mary began to be hated and the people looked towards Elizabeth as their saviour, Elizabeths coming to the throne was seen as a joyous time of celebration as she appeared to draw England out of the dark horrific age of Mary into a golden age of hope and salvation.

        1. You are absolutely right, Christine, Mary fell in love with a portrait, (sounds familiar), but to be honest her options were probably limited. Spain made a strong political alliance on paper, even it wasn’t the popular choice, but an English noble match was being offered and in the end could have been better. There is only one thing….the only realistic candidate, Edward Courtney was a 21year old with mental retardation. He was not a suitable match, even if he was on offer as popular. France was out of the question and unlike Elizabeth, who at 25_when she succeeded Mary didn’t have time on her side. Mary did well to formulate a treaty which kept Philip as a consort only and politically silent, but I think things had changed considerably with Spain, power wise, the Inquisition was now more powerful, they were moving on other lands, etc, since the arrival of her pretty mum as a young girl of 14 some 53 years earlier. Mary got a lot of things wrong, but she also got a lot right, including making the authority of the crown, especially for a female ruler stronger, which allowed Elizabeth to be more easily accepted. I think that had I been born a Tudor or other royal Princess I would resign or go to a convent. Life was just too dangerous.

        2. Both Mary and Elizabeth were the children of strong exceptional parents so they took all of it in their stride, and yes I think I’d have rather gone to a convent than rule in the 16 th century although that does make me appear a bit of a wimp but it was such a turbulent age, dangerous for men but even more so for women who were seen as totally subservient to their husbands, we have to remember women had no rights were merely chattels therefore the idea of having a female ruler was ludicrous to the men of that age, it went against all the moral fabric, the idea that women were meant to be in the home overseeing the housekeeping and bearing children, they were not suitable for ruling they were emotional weak creatures, they could not ride at the head of an army they could not engage in warfare, they were also seen as frail carnally, more easily led astray and wicked seducers of men, the reason why Elizabeth I feel was so successful as a ruler was because although she played on her femininity, she had an almost masculine mind and it was governed by cool logic, unlike her tragic cousin the queen of Scots, who was such a bad example of queenship, Elizabeth never let her personal feelings get in the way of good judgement, she was also a much more merciful prince than her sister or father and never liked condemning anyone to death, (the memory of her mother was ever present) she was in love with the Earl of Leicester yet the gossip surrounding the sudden death of his young wife was enough to make her realise had she married him, she could well lose her throne, she could not be seen to have had a hand in that, monarchs had to be above reproach, the scandal of murder would have been particularly hard to live down and she would never risk her position, she skilfully kept suitors at bay whilst promising them she may consider their hand in marriage yet all the whilst never intended to marry any of them, she frustrated her council time and again by refusing to enter into the matrimonial state yet hated any of her ladies marrying as if she was secretly envious, what was the real reason behind her aversion to marry? I think the answer lay in her traumatic upbringing, she was told her father had sent her mother to her death, she then saw her fifth stepmother executed again on her fathers orders and therefore could well have associated wedding bells with death, horror – total submission of women to man, who the law said was their lord and master, also there was the horrors of childbirth, it was very common and her much loved stepmother Catherine Parr had died because of it and she could have feared dying the same way, as she grew older she may have decided marriage was not a state to be enjoyed but to fear, she wanted to be queen yet must have thought she never would be with two siblings before her, there was the threat of Catholic Spain who deemed her a bastard and her path was full of untold dangers, is it any wonder that when she finally did become queen having endured plots, imprisonment, the stain of bastardy she was determined never to let anyone share her glory with her.

  2. It was a glorious day for Elizabeth, but she may have doubted whether she would become queen, given that her half-sister had shown a marked preference for their Catholic cousin, Lady Margaret Douglas, and there were also rumours that Mary I planned to nominate Mary Stuart as her heir. The strained relationship between Mary and Elizabeth meant that Elizabeth never nominated a successor in her own lifetime, for she was well aware that the successor could become the focus of plots and conspiracies.

    Eric Ives suggests that Elizabeth’s accession vindicated Anne Boleyn, but I am always cautious about this kind of thinking, just as I think we need to be careful when exploring how Elizabeth may have felt about her mother. Unlike Mary, she did not pass a law declaring herself to be legitimate; to do so would have cast aspersions on her father, but ultimately it was a risky move because, in the eyes of Catholic Europe, the illegitimate and heretical Elizabeth was not the rightful queen of England. By failing to declare herself legitimate, Elizabeth made herself vulnerable for the rest of her days, her reign open to question.

    Mary Hill Cole has written a fascinating chapter in a book, in which she notes that Elizabeth passed a separate bill that restored her as heiress to her mother. Mary I, by contrast, had her government enact the Queen’s Title Act, which declared that she was legitimate, the true heir of Henry VIII, and explicitly referred to Elizabeth’s bastardy. Mary declared that her parents’ marriage had been valid, and the Act stated that Henry VIII’s other children were ‘bastards’. Elizabeth was unable to pass a similar Act, for if she did so, she would be condemning her father, whose memory she revered.

    Cole, however, has found an intriguing piece of evidence in the Act of Restoration in Blood, in which Elizabeth discreetly referred to her mother as her ‘dearest Mother’. But the Act did not restore Elizabeth’s legitimacy and it did not declare the Boleyn marriage to be valid. She remained illegitimate and a focus of discontent. Her enemies believed that Mary Stuart was the rightful inheritor of Mary I’s crown, not Elizabeth.

    Was Anne Boleyn vindicated by her daughter’s accession? Perhaps, but the evidence is ambiguous. Elizabeth rarely referred to her mother and we do not know her feelings towards her. By contrast, she revered her father’s memory and he was awarded pride of place in the coronation pageants. Elizabeth of York, the new queen’s grandmother, was also a significant figure in the pageants, and it appears that her namesake sought to emulate her. John Foxe, in his Acts and Monuments, described Anne Boleyn as a pious, charitable queen, but he showed an unwillingness, even an aversion, to writing about Anne’s downfall and quickly moved on to talk of other evangelicals. Anne Boleyn continued to remain a figure of contention; she was slandered by Catholics and even Protestants were ambivalent towards her. Eric Ives has provided evidence that several Protestants questioned Anne’s morals and were not convinced of the genuineness of her evangelical beliefs.

    The point is, we often think of Elizabeth as thinking of her mother when she became queen and arrived at the Tower for her coronation, but I am not sure that she did, and I’m not convinced that Anne was vindicated because her memory was hardly revered in Elizabethan England. Many were content not to talk about her and even Protestant writers blandly stated that she was virtuous but did not say anything else; some even questioned her morals, while Catholics were openly hostile to her. Elizabeth did very little for her mother’s memory and identified far more with Henry VIII. It’s open to question whether the portraits contained in the ring of 1575 are of Elizabeth and her mother; it is possible that the portrait is of a younger Elizabeth or even of Katherine Parr, who influenced Elizabeth’s views on queenship and enjoyed a warm relationship with her stepdaughter until the Seymour scandal. I would say that it was only much later on, after Elizabeth’s death, that Anne began to be reassessed, it was not necessarily in her daughter’s lifetime. Her name, for a long time, remained contentious.

    1. Elizabeth never spoke her mothers name in public it’s true and she did often speak of her father and liked to draw comparisons between the two of them, historians have often commented on her silence over her mothers demise but it could be Elizabeth decided it was in the past and should stay there, we mustn’t forget her father had their marriage declared null and void, thus making Elizabeth once her fathers precious heir a bastard, to draw attention to Anne Boleyn meant raking up all the old accusations about her alleged adultery and Elizabeth’s parentage, we do not know how she felt about her mother but she revered her father, lots of Anne Boleyns relatives and friends were still at court and I believe they would have told Elizabeth nice things about her mother, how pious she was, her charitable works, and also how much she loved her daughter and would often have her sit next to her on a cushion, how she loved to dress her in fine clothes etc, Elizabeth as she grew older would have made up her own mind about her mother and decided even if she never mentioned her in public, she would keep faith with her in her heart, at her coronation there was a life size effigy of her next to her father so she was in the coronation celebrations, there is also another sign that she did keep faith with her mother, all her life she wore a ring which she never took off, after her death it had to be forced off and it was found to contain a locket, once opened the observers were surprised to see two miniature portraits, one of Elizabeth herself, and the other of Anne Boleyn, just like today people have tiny photos of their parents in their wallets or captured on their phones, this poignant gesture tells me that Anne was not deserted by Elizabeth and treasured her memory all her life.

  3. Claire – I’ve never read your QE1 quote before. It’s so moving. She actually likened herself to Daniel in the Lion’s den and spoke of ‘greedy and raging lions’?! Goodness. It is no wonder she felt that only the supernatural could have saved her – she feels so incredibly lucky to have survived at all! I am very touched. Glad to have had this opportunity to read it. Thank you.

  4. Here is the relationship of Elizabeth I and Dr Dee. who did such a good job of his chart for Elizabeth to choose the date of her coronation. I like the idea of Elizabeth as Deborah, the judge of Israel for a long time, she would have taken that on board, a typical Tudor image. Elizabeth looks very regal in her gown, which actually belonged to her sister, it was her coronation gown altered to fit Elizabeth as she admired this item. As a natural show woman, she would have loved the ceremony, showing off her regalia, her gracious self and the welcome of the city. Elizabeth would be a great Queen, not a perfect one, but she was off to a good and expectant start. I love this painting. It’s very grand and iconic. As a dress it is also very simple, the flamboyance being in the details of the robes themselves. It was a symbolic day, for Elizabeth did reign for over 45 years. Anne Boleyn would have been proud to see her daughter reign and old Harry may even have cracked a smile. He was fond of Elizabeth, in spite of his initial reaction to her mother’s alleged adultery and treason and did make efforts in her growing up, education, development and saw she was well provided for after his death. Elizabeth had a great deal of wealth which attracted desires and designs for her hand before her succession. She was also seen as an alternative to Mary, which drew her, willing or not, into the Wyatt plot to kill Mary, although she probably would not have consented to that. Elizabeth was popular in London especially and liked up the adoration that she received her. She knew how to play to the crowd, act the part, something her father had probably taught her.

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