30 September 1553 – Mary I’s Coronation Procession

Posted By on September 30, 2011

On Saturday 30th September 1553, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, 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.

The procession leaving the Tower consisted of the Queen’s messengers, trumpeters, esquires of the body, the knights of the bath (including 15 young noblemen who had been knighted that morning), heralds, bannerets, the council, the clergy, the Garter knights, the nobility, foreign ambassadors, merchants, soldiers, knights and then the Queen’s entourage. In Mary’s personal entourage were the Earl of Sussex, acting as Mary’s Chief Server; “two ancient knights with old-fashioned hats, powdered on their heads, disguised”, representing the dukes of Normandy and Guienne; Stephen Gardiner and William Paulet carrying the seal and mace; the Lord Mayor of London carrying the gold sceptre; the Sergeant at Arms and the Earl of Arundel carrying the Queen’s sword.

After this huge procession came the Queen herself in an open litter pulled by six horses in white trappings. She was “richly apparelled with mantle and kirtle of cloth of gold” with a gold tinsel cloth and jewelled crown on her head. Anna Whitelock writes of how she was dressed as a queen consort, but then England had never had a queen regnant, had it?

Mary was escorted by the wives of the Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Arundel and Sir William Paulet, as well as the mother of Edward Courtenay, on horseback. Behind her was a carriage bearing her sister, Elizabeth, and Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, followed by noblewomen and then “royal henchmen dressed in the Tudor colours of green and white”. This mile and a half procession must have been quite an exciting spectacle for the people of London!

Anna Whitelock goes on to describe the various pageants and displays on Mary’s route from the Tower to Whitehall:-

  • “An array of civic pageantry at Temple Bar
  • A triumphal arch decorated with verses praising her accession, created by the Genoese merchants
  • An image of Judith, the Israelite heroine, at Cornhill, created by the Florentines
  • The conduits running with wine at Cornhill and Cheap
  • The singing of verses in praise of the Queen at Cornhill and Cheap
  • At St Paul’s, the Queen was addressed by the recorder of London and presented with a purse containing a 1000 marks of gold by the chamberlain. John Heywood, the playwright, then delivered an oration in Latin and English, at the school in St Paul’s Churchyard and then at St Paul’s Gate choristers held burning perfumed tapers.
  • Minstrels played and children sang songs at Ludgate

Finally, Mary I reached Whitehall and retired for the day to prepare herself for her coronation at Westminster Abbey. What an amazing day of triumph and celebration it must have been for her. She had won, she was Queen.

Notes and Sources

Also on this day in history…

  • 1515 – Margaret Tudor flees to England
  • 1544 – Henry VIII returns to England after his victory in Boulogne
  • 1585 – Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel and son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, is received into the Catholic Church by Jesuit William Weston at Arundel Castle
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