On this day in history, Saturday 23rd June, the eve of their joint coronation, King Henry VIII and his queen consort, Catherine of Aragon, processed through the streets of London, from the Tower of London to Westminster in preparation for the coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Chronicler Edward Hall gives the following account of the procession (I have modernised the spelling):

“And the morrow following, being Saturday, the 23rd day of the said month, his grace with the Queen, departed from the Tower, through the City of London, against whose coming, the streets where his grace should pass, were hanged with tapestry, and cloth of arras. And the great part of the south side of Cheap, with cloth of gold, and some part of Cornhill also. And the streets railed and barred, on the one side, from over against Gracechurch, unto Bread Street, in Cheapside, where every occupation stood, in their liveries in order, beginning with base and mean occupations, and so ascending to the worshipful crafts: highest and lastly stood the mayor with the aldermen. The goldsmiths’ stalls, unto the end of the Old Change, being replenished with Virgins in white, with branches of white wax: the priests and clerks, in rich copes, with crosses and censers of silver, with censing his grace and the queen also as they passed.

The features of his body, his goodly personage, his amiable visage, princely countenance, with the noble qualities of his royal estate, to every man known needeth no rehearsal, considering, that for lack of cunning, I cannot express the gifts of grace and of nature, that God hath endowed him with all: yet partly to describe his apparel, it is to be noted, his grace wore in his upperest apparel, a robe of crimson velvet, furred with ermines, his jacket or coat of raised gold, the placard embroidered with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, great pearls, and other rich stones, a great baudericke about his neck of great balasses (rubies). The trapper (trappings) of his horse, damask gold with a deep pursell of ermines, his knights and esquires for his body in crimson velvet, and all the gentlemen, with other of his chapel, and all his officers, and household servants, were apparelled in scarlet. The barons of the five ports, bore the canopy, or cloth of estate: For to recite unto you, the great estates by name, the order of their going, the number of the lords spiritual and temporal, knights, esquires, and gentlemen, and of their costly and rich apparel, of several devices and fashions, who took up his horse best, or who was the richest beseen, it would ask long time, and yet I should omit many things, and fail of the number, for they were very many: wherefore I pass over, but this I dare well say, there was no lack or scarcity of cloth of tissue, cloth of gold, cloth of silver, broderie [embroidery?], or of goldsmith’s works: but in more plenty and abundance, than hath been seen, or read of at any time before, and thereto many and a great number of chains of gold, and bauderickes, both massy and great.

Also before the king’s highness rode two gentlemen, richly apparelled, and about their bodys’ trapper they did bear two robes, the one of the Duchy of Guyenne and the other for the Duchy of Normandy, with hats on their heads, powdered, with ermines, for the estate of the same. Next followed two persons of good estate, the one bearing his cloak, the other his hat, apparelled both in goldsmith’s work and embroidery, their horses trapped, in burnished silver, drawn over with cords of green silk and gold, the edges and borders of their apparel, being fretted with gold of damask. After them came Sir Thomas Brandon, Master of the King’s Horse, clothed in tissue, embroidered with roses of fine gold, and traverse hs body, a great baudericke of gold, great and massy, his horse trapped in gold, leading by a rein of silk, the king’s spare horse, trapped bard wise, with harnesss embroidered with bullion gold, curiously wrought by goldsmiths. Then next followed the nine children of honour, upon great coursers, apparelled on their bodies, in blue velvet, powdered with flower Delices [devices?] of gold, and chains of goldsmith’s work, every one of their horses, trapped with a trapper of the king’s title, as of England, and France, Gascony, Guyenne, Normandy, Anjou, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, etc. and wrought upon velvets, with embroidery and goldsmith’s work.

Then next following in order, came the Queen’s retinue, as lords, knights, esquires and gentlemen in their degrees, well mounted, and richly apparelled in tissues, cloth of gold, of silver, tinsels, and velvets embroidered, fresh and goodly to behold. The Queen then by name Katheryne, sitting in her litter, borne by two white palfreys, the litter covered, and richly apparelled, and the palfreys trapped in white cloth of gold, her person apparelled in white satin embroidered, her hair hanging down to her Back, of a very great length, beautiful and goodly to behold, and on her head a coronal, set with many rich orient stones. Next after, six honourable personages on white palfreys, all apparelled in cloth of gold, and then a chariot covered, and the ladies therein, all apparelled in cloth of gold. And another sort of ladies, and then another chariot, then the ladies next the chariot, and so in order, every after their degrees in cloth of gold, cloth of silver, tinsels, and velvet, with embroideries, every complement of the said chariots, and the draught harnessses, were powdered with ermines, mixed with cloth of gold: and with much joy and honour, came to Westminster where was high preparation made, as well for the said coronation, also for the solemn feast and jousts, therein to be had and done.”

The king and queen were crowned on 24th June at Westminster Abbey.

Notes and Sources

Picture: From the “Coronation Ode” by Thomas More.

  • Hall, Edward (d. 1547), Hall’s chronicle : containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550, J Johnson, London, 1809, p. 507-509.

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10 thoughts on “23 June 1509 – The coronation procession of King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine”
    1. IIRC, Henry was about 18 at the time of his coronation … and teenagers to this day see themselves as immortal

  1. Sic transit gloria mundi – worldly things are fleeting ….. but the people, our ancestors, would have held memories of this spectacle all their lived lives long – whence, ‘panem et circuses’.

  2. What wonderful pageantry!!! All the worshipful mayoral people and crafts and nobles, in their robes and colour everywhere, it was alive with smells and sound and excitement. Then came the King and Queen, looking beautiful and fair and the people went wild. A golden couple and the early signs were for a golden world. Henry and Katherine looked happy and in love and it was a wonderful time and a wonderful day for everyone.

  3. The poor had a hard life and so this glorious occasion was a wonderful day for them, the King in his youth was said to be so handsome he must have appeared like an Adonis descended from Olympus, to have a handsome King was something to cherish, and every woman in the crowd must have fallen in love with him, the queen too although small was very regal and she was described as having a lovely face and long auburn hair cascading down her back, they were a very popular couple, the young attractive King and his Queen, and the promise of a golden future.

  4. Since it is June 24th here in the USA and very hot and muggy, I can’t imagine wearing the clothes that are described here. I can’t help but think that most of the people in the procession were probably wishing for it all to be over, so that they could get out of their hot and heavy clothes. I know that I am putting a damper on the description of the procession, but I can’t help but think I am right..

    1. Hi Gail your right and our summers here tend to very humid as well, they certainly wore loads of layers, and hats petticoats etc, the men wore stockings and tunics but I think the poor folk were more comfortable as they possibly only wore a smock and a dress and the men could go bare chested or wear their shirt sleeves rolled up, also they could cool off in the fountains whearas the nobility and the King and Queen to could not, it would be a terrible breach of protocol, I always feel the outfits they wore were very impractical regarding the summer months but that was the fashion, they must have sweated dreadfully and been very uncomfortable.

      1. Just come back from our recent two weeks sweat box in the Wye Valley and had to wring out my teeshirts. I am going to just wear a long sheet next time and nothing else, save pants, to keep cool or maybe a hajab and burka, to keep cool, again with nothing underneath, save undies. These ladies and gentlemen must have been swealtered and a few cool buckets of water used afterwards. Glorious days, but wow, in the heat of London, wow.

        1. Yes, Chris, marvellous, but very, very hot. Lovely, quiet, beautiful, historic, heart of Beaufort country and Herbert country, England on one side of the river, Wales on the other, but the temperature in the high 80s meant sitting by the river most of the time, with a cold beer…so hard. Enjoyed the castles and scenery, but now had to come home. Oh well.

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