29 May 1533 – Queen Anne Boleyn’s coronation river procession

Every year, I find it very odd to go from talking and writing about the events leading up to Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution in May 1536 to suddenly writing about the celebrations leading up to her coronation on 1st June 1533.

I find it hard to get my head around how Anne Boleyn could go from such a high, a real time of triumph, to such a low and to losing her life in just three years. It’s so very sad.

Queen Anne Boleyn’s coronation celebrations were spread out over four days and began with what must have been a spectacular sight for the citizens of London, a huge procession or pageant of barges and other vessels on the River Thames.

In today’s “on this day in Tudor history” video, Claire Ridgway, I describe this amazing river procession, using details from contemporary sources. Fire-breathing dragons, wild men, music, sumptuous decorations… it must have been a wonderful sight. It’s one I’d definitely like to go back in time for.

This video was based on an article I wrote her on the Anne Boleyn Files, so if you prefer reading articles to viewing videos then you can click here to read that now.

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12 thoughts on “29 May 1533 – Queen Anne Boleyn’s coronation river procession”
  1. I so agree with you Claire. No matter what your opinion of Anne Boleyn the story of her rise and very quick fall along with the death of those innocent men…well it’s something that you just can’t put your head around. It’s so sad and if Anne had given birth to a son it probably would not have happened.

    I don’t find any joy in the descriptions of this lavish procession or Anne’s coronation. In fact, for me, it makes her death even sadder.

  2. Were the royal apartments ever used between the two very different events?
    If not it must have been even worse for Anne to see those apartments exactly as she left them.

    1. There is no record of Henry VIII (or Anne) visiting the Tower between that time.

      I think the royal apartments were left empty until late1541 to early 1542 when some members of the Howard family were imprisoned in these rooms during Katheryn Howard’s fall. And then later there was Katheryn herself of course.

  3. Wasn’t there in incident during preparations for this procession where one of Henry’s men spitefully tore the badges off of Katherine of Aragon’s own barge so it could be used and Henry was quite upset with him? I can’t remember where I read that.

    1. Yes, Michael, I have read that as well, she did indeed use the same barge as Katherine and used her own badges in the place of those from Katherine. When you think how much all this cost its no wonder they recycled something and maybe Anne insisted as she was the “true” Queen and Katherine wasn’t. Henry often did some things just to make a point.

      I remember the procession we had for the present Queen on her 60th anniversary which included a new royal barge and a copy of a golden seventeenth century barge and the Queen was greeted with canon and bells and a great flotilla of little boats. That’s a bit like how imagine this event. The mechanical dragon must have been awesome to behold and I imagine the beautiful sights of the white falcon badge for purity and generosity and the Queen in her gold and silver gown and her ladies and the music and how wonderful it must all have been. This was a show for the people and Henry wanted to show Anne as a true Queen, just as he and Katherine had been heralded on their joint coronation at Midsummer 1509. The people watching may or may not have cheered, we don’t know but the guns booming welcomed her in triumph at the Tower. Henry welcomed her as she stepped inside the mighty fortress and they went to relax in the newly refurbished sumptuous royal apartments. Anne would be pampered like a royal pussy cat and have everything she desired. It is indeed ironic that she would be held here as a prisoner three years later as would her daughter, Elizabeth eighteen years afterwards. Kathryn Howard would also kept here in her last few days because it was the only place suitable for such royal prisoners. Henry was determined that all should know that Anne was his one and only lawful wife and true Queen. He went further and had Anne crowned with the crown of Saint Edward, reserved only for Kings. It added to her sacredness. That made her ultimate fate all the more extraordinary.

    2. I have read about that incident also Michael, apparently Anne or someone decided to have Katherines emblems removed from her personal barge so Anne could use it, but Henry V111 was quite angry and steadfastly refused saying it was Katherines own barge and would not be used, it was a strange way for Henry to behave as he had banished her from court and put Anne in her place, he had demanded she give up the crown Jewels to Anne and given her everything he possibly could, so why make a fuss about an old barge, Norsh Lofts has a theory there were cracks in the couples relationship even then but maybe it was just Henry having a flash of remorse for the way he had treated his first wife, maybe he had a flash of memory of the times Katherine had used it in happier times? Whatever his reasoning Annes celebrations were going well and it was to culminate in her biggest triumph, her longed for coronation.

      1. I don’t know if this is possible or if I’m just being facetious but Henry his whole life acted like a spoiled child so perhaps he was upset because it wasn’t his idea? I don’t know but you’re right, considering how Henry treated Katherine that was a very strange response.

        1. Henry was like a spoiled child, but then it was his upbringing, cosseted and pampered all his life no one saying no to him, Royal children were used to having their own household from an early age, used to having servants doing their bidding and when older having women falling themselves over at his feet, every whim satisfied had Henry not been born Royal I believe his character would have been very different, when his older brother died he was then heir apparent which made him the second most important person in the kingdom after his father and mother, everything he wanted he had with a flick of his fingers, other royals were the same, suffused with importance from an early age they were aware they were special, not like the common people, Henry was aghast when he met Anne Boleyn here was a lady who dared say no to him, she fuelled his interest and his desire, part of his obsession with her was really down to her refusal to be his mistress, once caught he lost interest and probably wondered why he had thought she was so special, these feelings are inevitable and made their relationship turn sour, Annes behaviour did not help her either had she been of a more calmer nature she would not have turned Henry from her, her acid tongue continued to nag and berate him, I believe it was that that was the cause of her downfall not so much her inability to give the King a son, she made an enemy of Cromwell whearas once they had been friends that was her mistake, I believe had she been on good terms with him no such ludicrous charges would have been concocted against her, Cromwell would have been loathe to have an innocent woman murdured whom he still regarded and held in high esteem.

  4. It is unbelievably tragic when we look back on those events and see how Anne’s world changed dramatically in just three years, from joy to sorrow from merriment to misery and this she must have pondered on when she was in her prison, when we know the lengths Henry went to marry Anne the way he split the kingdom apart for her, only to completely abandon her in such short a space of time, tells us more about this man than it does his second queen, the spectacular display (and how I wished Holbein or some other artist had captured it in oils), must have been beautiful to behold, the fire breathing dragon surrounded by colourful mythical monsters accompanied by the gaily decked barges the music, and the weather must have been good because it would have been mentioned in the description, what a lovely magical sight and there was Anne’s own personal emblem – the crowned falcon on top of a stump surrounded by white and red roses, those roses that symbolised the two ancient dynastic houses of York and Lancaster, Henry V111’s mother was a York princess and through her blood Henry staked his right as King of England, the Thames must have been a pretty sight that day sunlight glinting on the grey waters and the Londoners must have come down to watch in awe, it would have been a fun day out for them, for the poor it would have seemed like fairyland then the kings beloved, whom the Londoners sneered at they who called her in derision Nan Bullen, appeared in shimmering cloth of gold they must have eyed her with envy and curiosity, all eager to look upon the face of the woman whom had caused such havoc in their kingdom, met by the king in the Tower, they then went into dine together, and the people saw her disappear into that mighty fortress which was as we all know, not only a place of gloom for the unfortunate but also the Royal Mint was there, the armoury and the beautiful apartments where the monarch stayed in before his coronation, this was the first of many celebrations Henry did in honour of his second queen and wife, and it was proof of his great love and devotion for her, he wished to show his subjects and the world that this woman was whom he had chosen as his consort, and her children would be his heirs, she was already pregnant and must have been feeling tired a lot and suffering all the emotional feelings that the raging hormones does to an expectant mother, but she was doing well and at her coronation her behaviour was faultless, Henry adored her what went wrong between then and the May of three years in the future? Had Anne been blessed with the gift of foresight, she would have been horror struck to know that her much longed for marriage which she and Henry had waited seven long years for would be over so quickly, that her next visit to the Tower would be as a prisoner and she was fated never to leave it, that day was full of jollity and festivity, and it must have carried through right round the city of London and even those of Henry’s subjects who did not like Anne Boleyn, must have been swept along with the tidal wave of merriment and mirth.

      1. Yes wouldn’t it have been wonderful, the work that went into the celebrations must have been organised about a year before, and I can just see Anne and Henry closeted together over wine and candlelight going over the whole event and deciding to have this and that, I bet the dragon was spectacular it would have been the crowning glory, over the years the Thames has been witness to many celebrations, and in this century the celebrations of Elizabeth 11’s anniversary was played out on the Thames with beautiful barges and colourful displays, but how I wish I could go back in time and just be a spectator to Anne Boleyns wonderful celebrations, people did not know it at the time but we reading about it nearly half a century later, and I am sure I speak not only for myself but many, that we are infused with envy that we were not there to witness it for ourselves.

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