29 May 1533 – Anne Boleyn’s Coronation Pageantry Begins

Posted By on May 29, 2012

The Tudor river pageant, organised by Historic Royal Palaces marking the 500th anniversary of King Henry VIII’s coronation.

Queen Anne Boleyn’s coronation was a four day affair, beginning on the 29th May and culminating in the coronation ceremony on the 1st June, Whitsun.

The pageantry began at 1pm on Thursday 29th May when the London livery companies’ fifty barges set off from Billingsgate. These sixty to seventy foot long barges, escorted by small boats, were decorated with banners displaying the arms of the companies, streamers, bunting and cloth of gold. Minstrels entertained the fleet with music and in front of the Mayor’s barge was a “foyst”, or wherry, bearing a great dragon which was was “continually moving and casting wildfire”. This dragon was surrounded by “terrible monsters” and “wild men” also casting fire and making “hideous noises”. What a spectacle!

(You can get some idea of how the Thames looked that day by this photo of the river pageant organised by Historic Royal Palaces in 2009 for the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession.)

Then came the Mayor’s barge and the bachelors’ barge, which was full of musicians playing trumpet and other instruments. The bachelors’ barge was hung with cloth of gold and silk, and bore two huge banners displaying the arms of the King and Queen, along with streamers and bells. It also bore the arms of the company of “Haberdashers” and “merchant adventurers”, and on the starboard gunwale were thirty-six “scochyons”, or metal shields, showing the King and Queen’s arms impaled (the King’s colours on the right and the Queen’s colours on the left). These shields were fastened to hangings of cloth of gold and silver.

Another feature of this river procession was a wherry carrying Anne’s falcon badge. This crowned, white falcon stood on a gold tree stump surrounded by white and red roses, and “virgins singing and playing sweetly”.

The procession arrived at Greenwich Palace at 3pm to pick up the pregnant Queen and take her to the Tower of London. Anne appeared, dressed in cloth of gold, and boarded her barge. Anne’s ladies boarded a second barge and the King’s guard boarded the King’s barge – the King was not part of the procession. These three barges were joined by the barges of bishops and of courtiers. Noblemen in attendance that day included the Duke of Suffolk, the Marquess of Dorset, the Earls of Arundel, Derby, Rutland, Worcester, Huntingdon, Sussex and Oxford, and Anne’s father, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire. By this time there were “some 120 large craft and 200 small ones” on the Thames.

Letters and Papers describes how gun salutes heralded the Queen as she made her way along the Thames and that “when she came over against Wapping mills the Tower ‘lousyd their ordinaunce’ most triumphantly, shooting four guns at once.” Anne landed at Tower Wharf and was greeted by dignitaries lined up across the King’s bridge to the Tower’s private royal entrance, the Court Gate of the Byward Tower. Among the dignitaries were Sir Edward Walsingham, Lieutenant of the Tower, and Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower. When Anne entered the Tower, she was received by her husband, the King, “who laid his hands on both her sides, kissing her with great reverence and a joyful countenance”, before leading her to her chamber. The King and Queen then supped together.

Notes and Sources

7 thoughts on “29 May 1533 – Anne Boleyn’s Coronation Pageantry Begins”

  1. miladyblue says:

    This is always such an odd time for me while reading this great blog – not 10 days ago, we were just counting off the moments until Anne’s execution. Now, here we are, remembering her coronation, which was surely one of her great triumphs.

    I wonder what Anne herself would think of the contrasts in the tones of the posts during May!

    1. LINDA FOX says:

      I was thinking same thing !

  2. Mariette says:

    Thanks Claire, that must have been an amazing spectacle and we can only imagine the music and the sound and smoke of the tower guns firing. I wish I could be there to see Sunday’s Thames pageant! This clip from “A Man for all Seasons”shows what those barges may have looked like…

  3. WilesWales says:

    How wonderful it must have been for Queen Anne! She had no idea that marrying for love would end with such awful circunstances. I’m glad she had these days!

    I hope we get to see, and we will the Queen’s Jubilee! I remember her passing not five feet from me in her car with her canary yellow outfit and hat when she came to Tampa years ago. Hyde Park Avenue was on the route and I lived right there, and it being a time when I went to work later on was the only one out there. I was out of my breath’; I was so excited! Thank you! WilesWales!

    I will defend Anne Boleyn as long as I’m around! Queen Anne also gave Englad a very great gift, Queen Elizabeth I, the greatest absolute monarch that country ever had!

    “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in eyes:” ~ Pslams 118:23

  4. BanditQueen says:

    What a wonderful spectacle and they really did know how to party with these great events. I am not a fan of the royal family but I did enjoy seeing the newly made golden barge that had been hand made and hand crafted by apprentices to commemorate the Queens 60 years on the throne. It was based I believe on one that was made for King Charles II. It was lovely to see it all golden leading that convoy of small boats and the second larger barge, or ship with the Queen on. The description above seems to suggest that everyone played their part at least; the nobles assisting in the procession and in the actual coronation as well; well their rank demanded that and by now they had no choice but to smile and obey. The merchants and the elders came out to greet Queen Anne and all the good and the great were there in their finary. The Tower and city guns blasted in salute. A spectacle indeed; with fantastic dragons and dancers and shows and during the actual procession to the Abbey she had the pleasure of pagents and tabloes and children singing and making poems for Anne. But what did people feel inside? Did they welcome Anne because they wanted to or it was their duty? It would be nice to think that all those involved has accepted Anne as Queen, but the list of those who led her to her coronation included those who sat in judgement on her three years later.

    1. Jeanne says:

      I suspect the “every day folks” lined the coronation route FOR THE FREE WINE – my, my, people haven’t really changed much 484 years

  5. Mariella Moretti says:

    Coronation of Anna Boleyn: How sad, as you write today.
    Thank you Claire for your dedicaton to the woman we all admire for her intelligence, spirit of indipendence, gentleness with the poor, modernity of thought.
    R.I.P. Riposi in pace.
    Mariella, from Italy

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