Part of coronation celebrations in medieval and Tudor times was the Order of the Bath ceremony, where men were created Knights of the Bath.
In 1533, Anne Boleyn’s coronation, this event took place in the Tower of London on the night of the 30th/31st May. Eighteen Knights of the Bath were created:
- The Marquess of Dorset
- The Earl of Derby
- Lord Clifford
- Lord Fitzwater
- Lord Hastings
- Lord Mountegle
- Lord Vaux
- Sir Henry Parker, Lord Morley’s son
- Sir William Windsor, Lord Windsor’s son
- Sir John Mordaunt, Lord Mordaunt’s son
- Sir Frances Weston
- Sir Thomas Arundel
- Sir John Huddelston
- Sir Thomas Poynings
- Sir Henry Savile
- Sir George Fitzwilliam
- Sir John Tyndall
- Sir John Germayne (Hall says Thomas Germayne)
Letters and Papers adds further names: “Mr. Corbet, Mr. Wyndham, John Barkely… Ric. Verney of Penley… Rob. Whitneye of Gloucestershire”.
George Younghusband, in his book on the Tower, describes this traditional coronation ceremony in relation to the coronation of Henry IV. He writes that forty-six baths were arranged in one of the halls of the White Tower. Each bath had a canopy over it and was filled with warm water and draped with clean sheets. The forty-six knights bathed and then a procession, led by the King, entered the hall. The King the approached each Knight, still in his bath, and dipped his finger into the bath water and made the sign of the cross on the Knight’s bare back. While he did this, the King said:
“You shall honor God above all things ; you shall be steadfast in the faith of Christ ; you shall love the King your Sovereign Lord, and him and his right defend to your power ; you shall defend maidens, widows, and orphans in their rights, and shall suffer no extortion, as far as you may prevent it ; and of as great honor be this Order unto you, as ever it was to any of your progenitors or others.”
When he had done this to all forty-six knights, King Henry IV processed out of the hall. The knights then dried themselves off and were put to bed in “beds with rich hangings”, which had been placed behind their baths. After they had rested for a while, they were summoned to rise by the curfew bell of the Bell Tower. Their esquires helped them dress as monks in long brown woollen cassocks, with cowls, then they processed into St John’s Chapel as music played. Their new helmets, armour, swords and spurs had been arranged around the high altar, “and before these each Knight knelt in devotion, and watched his armour all night”.
That is what happened at Henry IV’s coronation in 1399 and it gives us a good idea of what took place on the night of 30th May 1533. Of course, King Henry VIII, as monarch, would have dubbed the Knights, not Anne.
Notes and Sources
- Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall, p800
- LP vi. 562
- The Tower from Within, Major-General Sir George Younghusband, p107-108