30 September 1553 – Mary I’s Coronation Procession from the Tower to Whitehall

Mary I, Hans Eworth c. 1553
Mary I, Hans Eworth c. 1553

At 3pm on Saturday 30th September, Mary I left the Tower of London to the sound of guns firing and church bells ringing. This was her coronation procession and the next day she would be crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey.

You can read a primary source account of Mary’s coronation in The chronicle of Queen Jane, and of two years of Queen Mary, and especially of the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatclick here to read (pages 28-30) and you can read my article from 2011 about it at Mary I’s Coronation Procession.

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8 thoughts on “30 September 1553 – Mary I’s Coronation Procession from the Tower to Whitehall”
  1. i want to comment on Mary I. I want to ask what dod Mary do for her country? Otherthan bring back hysterical Catholicism ? If you really look at her life, She did nothing for her country other than burn over 300 prostants. Her pushing to burn Heratics an obsession of her shows what a deeply distrubed mentally ill woman she was! I believe she suffered from Bi – polar illness. No matter what people think about Henry’s first daughter she will always go down in history as Bloody Mary Tudor!
    I think the movie Elizabeth with Cate Blanchette really showed how Mary I accurately was. She was no beauty thats for sure! And I think she was jealous of Princess Elizabeth too.

  2. Mary did something’s for her country that Elizabeth was credited with fiscal reform,colonial exploration and expansion of the navy.we only remember her by the name Bloody Mary but all monarchs before and after the Tudors had people executed.Mary was a product of having a bad childhood seperated from her mother it must have been very hard for her

  3. Also, burning for heresy was not uncommon. Elizabeth and her father escape attack, not because they didn’t kill people who believed differently, but because they called it “treason” and had people hung, drawn and quartered instead of burning them.

  4. It is important to remember that Mary is the victim of 400 plus years of Protestant propaganda. Judith Richards has produced an excellent reappraisal of Mary in the context of her reign and the era that she lived. If anyone has questions about the character of Mary Tudor, why she burned Protestants, her achievments as a hands on monarch, even the context of her religious reversal; this is a book that I recommend.

    I am not a sufferer from bio polar disease, but from what I have read Mary does not show any of the outlandish behaviour or the other symtoms of this severe disability. It is possible that she had some mental or physical disability that was inherited and many things have been speculated; but it could be fairer to put her extreme religious policy to nothing more than deep devotion and a sincere conventional desire to keep England Catholic. Her intention was not to burn as many Protestants as possible but to bring them to obediance using a variety of accepted methods; her regime had a highly successful propaganda and textual promotion machine that was in fact winning the war. Her reign was not a disaster for England any more than the short and violent one of her brother Edward.

    Mary was greeted with enthusiasm and managed to regain her hold on authority having been prevented from taking her legal status as Queen bloodlessly. It should also be recalled that Mary was the first Queen regnant and that she cared deeply for the English people. She even appealled to them, showing her coronation ring and stating that they were her children and to England she was married when she wanted them to assist her to put down the rebellion by Thomas Wyatt. It was Wyatt that had first used violence in the extreme and he was marching on London when she made this appeal, causing the city to reject Wyatt and to open its gates rejoicing to Mary their Queen.

    Mary was also clement in her dealings with those who had supported Jane Grey and for some time even refused to execute her young cousin, seeing her as an innocent. It was only when Janes father and Northumberland led a second treasonous uprising that she put them on trial. Even in her dealings with Wyatt and his supporters she was far less bloody and more clement than she should have been. Yes Wyatt and the leaders were executed but in small numbers and far less than either Elizabeth or her father had executed. Even members of the council who had been involved were pardoned and some even regained their powers.

    What makes the persecution under Mary stand out and so shocking is that 283 people were burned in five years; extreme in the English experience if not in the continental experience. The immortalization of these executions by John Fox from the time of Elizabeth has also seered them into the English imagination and allowed people to focus on this side to her rule, rather than anything else. We are right to be horrified; even as we are right to be horrified at the slaughter and butchery of over 200 innocent priests and 183 lay people under Elizabeth; plus the butchery of monks under Henry Viii; and the practice of human sacrifice by pre Columbian civilizations in Central and Southern America. However; in the 21st century it still amazes me that we cannot accept that such things were because this was what the majority of people believed was the correct way to deal with what they saw as threats to the social order or for the good of the social order. It was not done because these people were simply cruel; things were not that simple. Mary was being conventional in her dealing with heretics as she saw the many varieties of Protestantism around England since the 1520s. Heresy was seen as the most henious of crimes and the death sentence was preserved for such crimes. We may not like this idea, but that is the way things were viewed in Mary’s time. We may not agree with such horrible and terrible deaths and it seems biazarre that people who claimed to be Christians could pass laws that led to the deaths of their fellow Christians; but religiion was polarized in the 16th century; and people did not see those who held extreme views different from their own or the crown as brother and sisters in Christ; quite the opposite in fact. It is a terrible inditement on our history; but it is a statement of fact and one that we cannot escape no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.

    Mary was not personally responsible for every single death nor was it her intention to execute anyone who was not a Catholic. In fact many who were not were actually dealt with quite tolerantly. Richards points out that many ways in dealing with heresy existed and in a number of cases reported the authorities simply did not investigate or wrote them off as being ridiculous. Many others were simply fined or given warnings; still more recanted; and still others were given mild punishments. The majority of people in England under Mary were still Roman Catholic; even though the country had not been in communion with Rome since 1531. Mary was right to bring back the faith of her childhood; the faith of the majority, the faith that she was raised in; and she was also careful in how she brought it back; listening to her council to proceed carefully and slowly. She agreed to some changes first and then brought about the formal reconciliation with Rome only after the consent of both Houses of Parliament. Her government may have been over jealous in the way it went about its duty, but actually most cases brought came from within local communities and had little to do with the crown as prosecutions go. The main state trials of the bishops stand out of course; but even some of them were not merely prosecuted for heresy and should have been tried for treason instead.

    Mary had a stable government; a good fiscal policy, attempted to keep England out of Philips wars; although at the very end of her reign; when her health was failing she consented to the use of troops which sadly lost us Calais. What is often not mentioned is that we also took part in a great victory at Saint Quention. But this was a last attempt to save English territory which would have been lost at some time in any event as there was actually no money to maintain the garrison there for much longer anyhow. Mary also made sure that England was ruled by her and not Phillip and that her marriage treaty ensured that he was excluded from anything to do with running things in England. She also personally became involved in projects for the poor and defended English authority when the Papacy interferred in some important matters of state in 1557. Mary normalized the idea of a Queen being able to rule on her own and with full authority, bringing England round to the idea of female Kindship and power; something that allowed Elizabeth to be accepted without any problem at all. Mary’s religious policy was not a disaster for England; that is a complete myth. It has been shown in several new studies to have been a success; with more and more people accepting the unique form of Catholic faith that she restored to England. Had Mary not died when she was 43 and had she been blessed with children or been blessed to have succeeded her father; then she may have ruled long enough for England to have remained Catholic. I agree with Richards who concludes that if this was the case; she would not be seen in the light of paranoid Protestant propaganda or historians who are focused on her persecutions and nothing else; and some of the hysteria that often happens at the mere mention of her reign simply would not exist.

    1. Forgot to mention that Mary also re-organised the Navy and the way that it was financed, building three new super ships, two to replace old ones lost, including a New Mary Rose and one called Philip and Mary. These three ships were based on the Spanish designs and were much larger than the English ones. This was the first real opportunity to get a look at advanced Spanish technology and to incorporate it into English warship design. The three superships were templates for the latter expansion of the Navy under Elizabeth. Also thanks to the re-organisation of state funding and continual funding for the navy and for naval training, we had a strong base for future expansion onto the high seas. She also sponsored the arts and drama, local and national culture, gave funding and expansion to the universities, saved Oxford and Cambridge Universities from probable failure and closure through investment and sponsored several projects to help the poor, sick and destitute in London, including several new hospitals and organised social care. As to comments on what she looked like: what difference does it make whether she was good looking or not? In any event as with the portrait on the previous day’s post, this portrait has been chosen to show what Mary looked like at the time of her coronation. She was now in her late 30s and had suffered from several illnesses that would affect her looks. In her youth she was a pretty child, she was a beautiful young woman, and just as Elizabeth was, she was redhaired and good looking well into her 20s. Portraits well up to the age of 28 plus show her as beautiful. Again, not that it matters; just that some people think that because she was no looker at this age that is somehow reflective of how she looked all her life or her character. Elizabeth lost her own looks in 1562 when she was scarred by the smallpox and almost died. As for Cate Blanchetts portrayal, this was not accurate. Elizabeth was written and produced by the same person who made the Tudors: Michael Hirst. Mary’s court in the film was shown as being full of foreigners, dark and dismal while Elizabeth had the benefit of being young and gay and dancing around in idealic country settings. In fact Elizabeth could be just as ruthless, just as dark, far from happy and gay, could be personally cruel and childish, bad tempered and lived a far from idealic life growing up. According to John Edwards the contrast is nonsense and based on nothing but propaganda. I completely agree.

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