Mary I ny EworthOn 28th September 1553, Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, travelled in a decorated barge to the Tower of London to prepare for her coronation. She was accompanied by her half-sister Elizabeth and as they pulled up to Tower Wharf, they were greeted by music and cannons firing.

The chronicle of Queen Jane, and of two years of Queen Mary, and especially of the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyat, written by a resident in the Tower of London recorded:

“Note, that the xxvij. of September, the quenes majestye cam to the Tower by water towarde hir coronatione, and with hir the lady Elizabeth hir sister, with diverse other ladyes of name, and the hole counsayll. The lord Paiget bare the sworde before hir that daye. Before hir aryvall was shott of a peale of gonnes.”

It was traditional for monarchs to go to the Tower before their coronations and process from there to Westminster, and it was also traditional for Knights of the Bath to be created before a monarch’s coronation. Mary created fifteen Knights of the Bath on 29th September, and these knights included Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey; Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, and William Dormer. As the ceremony consisted of the monarch dubbing the Knights when they were naked, in their baths, the Earl of Arundel had to stand in for Mary.

Mary left the Tower on her coronation procession on the 30th September 1553.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1599 – Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, strode into Elizabeth I’s bedchamber unannounced and saw the Queen without her makeup or wig, without her “mask of youth”.

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12 thoughts on “28 September 1553 – Mary I Prepares for her Coronation”
      1. Poor Mary, if we believe the portraits, she wasn’t ver pretty, not that that is of any real importance, but Elizabeth was good looking in her youth at least. Before she reached the “sans hair, sans eyes, sans teeth, sans everything “stage. Not sure about the order of the list of “sans” things.

        1. Hello Rachel, not sure the date of this portrait, but it must be of a mature Mary in her late thirties at least, and Mary may have aged prematurely due to the mistreatment she suffered or a decline in her health. I have seen other portraits of Mary, including a striking one showing her aged 16 -18 in Grimsthorpe and another from when she was a year older. I have seen portraits from her teenage years and one in her twenties. A couple may have been dismissed, but enough exist to show that she was a very attractive young woman. Why this one is not as flattering May be due to the unfortunate decline in health that she suffered from her late thirties and there is also a possibility that the portrait may not be a good likeness. These are portraits not photos….a good selfy would be helpful.

        2. Rachel and Banditqueen,
          I purposely picked this portrait because Hans Eworth’s series of portraits date to 1554, just a few months after Mary’s coronation, so would be a fair representation of what she looked like then, in her late 30s. She had, of course, suffered from health problems and late 30s was seen as quite old from a Tudor point of view, so I don’t think she was attractive then.

          I’m not sure when the Grimsthorpe painting was done but the Master John one dates to 1544 so 10 years earlier. The earliest one if the Lucas Horenbout miniature which dates to when Mary was 9 (1525). I didr if it’s actually Catherine of Aragon, as I felt that the sitter didn’t really look like a child – see – but Horenbout’s one of Catherine dated the same year is of a much older, and larger, woman – Mary looks quite a mixture of her parents in the miniature.

        3. Mary seems to have taken a common trajectory for The Tudors in that she was considered pretty and attractive in childhood (her hair was considered especially lovely). But, lost her looks as the years went on. In Mary’s case this was no doubt exacerbated by the physical result of the psychological distress of her childhood and adolescence. It didn’t help that she was shorter than average and was very short sighted so it gave her appearance of peering all the time, I’ve read Mary lost all her teeth in her twenties in several of her biographies. But, I’m not sure what the contemporary reference for that is. I don’t think her sense of style helped either. She loved clothes, but, the Spanish Ambassador commented that the dresses she chose made her look frumpier than she actually was. So, its perhaps not surprising that the portraits of her from her reign are not particularly flattering. It probably didn’t help that Elizabeth was at the height of her attractiveness at this time either as a point of comparison.

          I should also comment, that Elizabeth losing all her hair does not seem to be accurate. There are several contemporary accounts near the end of her reign which describe her grey hair poking out from under her wig. She did have trouble with her teeth, however, but, managed to hold on to them for a decent span for 16th century standards. The thing that probably hit Elizabeth’s look the most is when she nearly died from Smallpox in the 1560s. The pox permanently scarred her skin and is one of the reasons she started wearing the famous white make up.

  1. I am struck by the fact that Mary was accompanied by Elizabeth as she was when she came to London and with whom she had journeyed from East Anglia to the capital to end the Jane Grey affair. The sisters seem to have been affectionate and close at this time. Anne of Cleves shared a carriage with Elizabeth. Mary had been denied this her lawful succession and coronation for a long time. I really hope she enjoyed the day.

    1. It makes sense that Elizabeth would accompany Mary, I think. Their relationship had been good during the latter years of their father’s reign. While, they hadn’t seen each other all that much during Edward’s time on the throne, they hadn’t been in conflict as Mary had been with their brother either. So, at that moment there was nothing immediately impeding a friendly relationship. They probably both also knew that after the challenge to the succession they had to show a united front in order to show the strength of the Tudor dynasty. For Elizabeth it was probably the natural thing to do also. There was every chance at that point that Mary could live/reign for a long time and have heirs. So, Elizabeth probably knew she had to get in the good graces of her sister.

      1. Absolutely – at that stage both Mary and Elizabeth had been wronged by the Device for the Succession and Jane Grey’s installation in Mary’s place, so they had common cause in reasserting their own togetherness in being the rightful heirs of Henry and Edward. It must have been a joyful time for Mary in particular, so she would doubtless prepared to be magnanimous towards Elizabeth. Alas, it wasn’t to last and Mary’s unhappy memories of the rivalry between her mother and Elizabeth’s mother came to permanently fracture their relationship.

        On a slightly related note, given that she was also a guest at Mary’s coronation, I seem to recall reading somewhere that Anne of Cleves also fell out with Mary after this time and was suspected (possibly by Renard?) of involvement in Wyatt’s Rebellion. Does that ring a bell with anyone?

        1. I hadn’t heard that before, but it didn’t take much to turn up several mentions of it. The first, found here, discusses Anne of Cleves.

          “She enjoyed, and was apparently very good at, her public role as queen, achieving a level of popularity with the people. Ironically, she was especially popular with the Protestant subjects, who assumed she was Lutheran and would bring Protestantism to England.

          She and Mary continued their friendship and, after Mary became queen, Anne returned to court and apparently involved herself with Mary’s marriage negotiations (with a different candidate in mind: Archduke Ferdinand, the emperor’s nephew). The disappointment of many, including Anne, when Mary selected Philip of Spain, combined with the Wyatt Rebellion, caused difficulties for Anne. Mary suspected her of being a conspirator because of her continued fondness for Elizabeth and her associations with her brother William, now the Duke of Cleves. Even though there was nothing linking Anne to the conspiracy, no guilt established, Anne’s relationship with Mary suffered a blow. Although Mary remained polite and corresponded, Anne was not invited back to court.”

          I also found an excerpt from Elizabeth Norton’s book Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII’s Discarded Bride:

          “According to Renard, Mary informed him that she believed Anne to be part of the conspiracy. This was partly due to her association with Elizabeth and also the still close association with her brother that she had demonstrated in her attempts to speak for the Archduke Ferdinand. On 8 February 1554, Renard had written that he expected the King of France to make war on England to prevent the marriage and also ‘because he has promised the Duke of Cleves, at the lady Elizabeth’s request, thus to revenge himself for Henry VIII’s repudiation of his sister, and in order to give the German princes an opportunity of turning their forces against your Majesty’s dominions’. This idea was considered by Charles V himself on 18 February when he wrote to Renard that the King of France had made the promise to attack England to the Duke of Cleves, ‘at his sister’s request – she who was abandoned by the late King Henry – and by the intermediary of the lady Elizabeth’. To the Emperor, the Spanish ambassador and, it seems, the queen herself, Anne was as involved in Wyatt’s rebellion as Princess Elizabeth…”


  2. The sad thing is that she was known as Bloody Mary when in fact she killed fewer people than her sister Elizabeth or her father Henry.

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