Elizabeth I - Coronation Portrait
Elizabeth I - Coronation Portrait

I wasn’t going to do a blog post today but I just had to after listening to episode 3 of BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week on Tracy Borman’s “Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen”. Why? Because yet again, Borman talks about the influence that Anne Boleyn had over her daughter, even though she died when Elizabeth was just 2 years and 8 months old.

Today’s episode, which is mainly about Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting, starts off talking about Elizabeth I’s coronation. Elizabeth I was inheriting a country that was in a very bad way. At the end of Mary I’s reign, England was wracked with political uncertainty, religious divisions, a poor economy and widespread poverty, and had become embroiled in quite disastrous foreign wars, so for many people Elizabeth was a symbol of hope. She was youthful and attractive, compared to the aging and barren Mary I, and she came to the throne with the blessing and support of her people. However, Elizabeth knew how fickle this support could be and knew that the first step to winning the respect of her people and court was to win their love.

The first thing that Elizabeth I did when she came to the throne was to organise a lavish coronation as an exercise in public relations. The interesting thing for us Anne Boleyn fans is that she used her own mother’s coronation, the coronation of a disgraced queen, as her model.

You can click here to read the details about Anne Boleyn’s coronation and to see a video about it, but here are the things that Elizabeth used in her coronation in memory of her mother or that were inspired by the amazingly lavish ceremony that Anne had to show England that she was its true Queen:-

  • Symbolism and imagery – Elizabeth lined the streets of her processional route with beautiful scenery, including a vignette of Anne Boleyn as Queen.
  • The Virgin Mary – Anne had used representations of the Virgin Mary at her coronation but her daughter took this one step further by becoming the Virgin Mary. Elizabeth cultivated the image of she, herself, being the Virgin Mary on Earth, the Virgin Queen and Gloriana – a divine presence on Earth. Tracy Borman, in her book, writes of how this imagery secured the love of her subjects and is the image that Elizabeth is still famous for cultivating.
  • Elizabeth’s outfit – Elizabeth modelled her coronation outfit on her mother’s, appearing in a beautifully brocaded silk surcoat and an ermine trimmed mantle

We do not have a portrait of Anne Boleyn at her coronation but the above portrait shows Elizabeth at hers and gives us some idea of how Anne may have looked.

You can read a brief account of Anne Boleyn’s coronation in the “Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6” – scroll down to the third box.

Read more about Anne Boleyn’s daughter Elizabeth I at our sister site www.elizabethfiles.com where you can also check out our new range of Elizabeth jewellery.

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10 thoughts on “The Tale of Two Coronations”
  1. Eizabeth’s long flowing hair reminds me of the comment that at her coronation “Anne was all in her hair”. Both Anne and Elizabeth were public relations geniuses, who understood the importance of image and message

  2. I agree with Laurel – both Anne and Elizabeth were geniuses at cultivating their public images and knowing the message an image can convey.

  3. It was a common practice at the time for Royalty and prominent nobles to cultivate afiliation with divinity. The practice is very old, dating back into ancient Egypt (the King is considered the living embodiment of the deity Horus, while alive, and the Queen is the living avatar of Isis.)

    Queen Kleopatra VIII used her image as “isis” very successfully to court favor and popularity among the Egyptian public (something her Ptolemaic ancestors did not do.)

    Louis XIV identified closely with Apollo, adorning Versailles with various art and atatuary confirming him as the “Sun King” of France. His most famous mistress, Francoise, is most commonly known as Athenais.

    Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henri II and a formidable stateswoman in her own right, cultivated her image as the “moon mistress,” appearing regularly in black, white, and silver and featuring the moon (symbol of Diana) in her clothing.

  4. Another part of Elizabeth’s image was the raport she had with the people. It was said that when Elizabeth made her progress to her coranation it took longer than expected because she kept stopping to thank the people for their gifts. She had a wonderful easy, charming manner with her subjects. This contrasted favourably with her sister Mary who was more reserved and shy in dealing with the general public.

  5. I somewhat disagree with the statement: “Elizabeth modelled her coronation outfit on her mother’s, appearing in a beautifully brocaded silk surcoat and an ermine trimmed mantle.”

    Interesting to keep in mind that as you pointed out, Elizabeth was inheriting a kingdom that was quite frankly, in a bad way in many respects. She implemented her savvy, economically prudent manner by NOT ordering, as you have pointed out “…a whole new coronation outfit, instead, she showed her practical side and her interest in economising, by recycling her half-sister’s hand-me-downs. She had Mary’s coronation mantle and matching dress altered to wear in her coronation portrait and also for the eve of coronation procession, and then she wore Mary’s crimson velvet parliament robes as she walked from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey.”

    Therefore, it seems that Elizabeth’s coronation day glam was more of an improved fashion spinoff of Mary’s style than that of Anne’s. She most likely had Anne in mind, on that of all days – but as Elizabeth began her reign ‘strapped for cash’ so to say, I’d like to think that she took what she had to work with (from Mary) and like Anne, definitely made it her own with her incredible sense of style!

    1. “Hand-me-downs” is hardly an appropriate phrase for the highly valuable garments and furs worn by Royal predecessors.

  6. I have to disagree with the statement that Anne was a public relations genius! I don’t think she was. I agree that she was a fashion icon for certain, but public relations had nothing to do with that! The people hated her. Catherine and her supporters can only be blamed for part of this hate.

    Henry was the public relations genius, that Elizabeth inherited that skill from, not Anne. She made a few really VERY bad public relation choices throughout her time with Henry.

    I am reading “Elizabeth’s women” right now and there are some points that irk me much, but I am not done with the book yet, so I will wait how it all “turns out” until I make up my mind about it 🙂

  7. Claire, once again you have gone above and beyond your call of duty in presenting this comparision of coronations as well as to the video on another site (including the statement that all cornonations were to take place at Westminster by Edward the Confessor’s command (who was succeeded by William the Conqueor in 1066, along with the Domesday book 9 (and not meaning to be contraversial, it is safer to say, that all Indo-Europeans now are descendants of William the Conqueror in some way, and even more so by the Black Plague of 1348, as it was only the nobility who had the means and monely to get out of the towns and into the country, as did King Edward III, so it is also safe to say that all Indo-Eruopeans today are the descendants of the nobility of Europe (I can back this up also with sites for you to get your DNA analazed if one wishes to do so).

    True, I believe that she might have used some (meaning at least one) of her half-sister’s hand-me-downs to wear, but it has been establsihed in Claire’s report that most ot this was covered up, and might have been seen by those of the most high.

    What I find VERY interesting are the comments from Aimee. Her comparisions with Egytian symbols used of Horus and his mother, Isis which are most beautiful. It was Kleopatra (thank you for the correct spelling, but the last Kleopatra was the VIII), and her additons to this.

    The French Louis IV “The Sun King” who formed that Academy de la Danse in 1669 as the first school of the modern Ballet, and the Academy de las Music (I use the English spellings so as to not make a mistake in keying), and Diane de Poitiers whose accomplishments to history are amazing. They both must have played an immense influence on Anne during her younger days in France.

    These kinds of great facts only add to the facts and wonderful contritbutions of Anne’s coronation, but to Elizabeth’s as well, are just the kind of things that make English history more than interesting to those of us of whom have more than a keen interest in Anne and Elizabeth. Thank you, and once again, thank you, Claire, as these comments as a result of your dedication make everything that much more fun as a mmember, WilesWales

  8. Claire,
    You mention in your list of coronation items a vignette of Anne Boleyn as queen. Have you ever read or seen a description of this? Was it similar to a life size cutout that we see with celebrities? I remember reading an account of this Loooong time ago, and the book said it was a large cloth hung over the street, and Elizabeth passed under it. The version I read also said that Henry VIII was on the picture too.

  9. I think it fanciful to suggest that Elizabeth modeled her coronation on that of her mother’s. In all her life Elizabeth rarely mentioned her mother and never did publicly. She wore a ring that housed a miniature of her mother, in a secret compartment. Nobody knew it was there until the ring was taken off her finger when she died. The public still remembered Anne, and many that attended Ann’s coronation would have been at Elizabeth’s. Unfortunately as Ann’s name was still ‘mud,’ the coronation was not the time or the place for her daughter to be paying any kind of recognizable homage, and Elizabeth would not have wanted to draw attention to a precarious situation as many still believed her to be a bastard child of Henry VIII, more so than Mary, as many believed Mary wasn’t, no matter what the king said. Throughout her reign Elizabeth avoided the dangerous issues surrounding her mother, but honored her privately Instead. Elizabeth became her own woman, and cultivated that. Interestingly, whilst Ann was ‘The wh*re,’ Elizabeth became ‘The Virgin.’ Perhaps that was her way of redeeming and honoring her mother (by turning out great).

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