June 23 – A coronation procession for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon

On this day in Tudor history, 23rd June 1509, twelve days after their marriage, King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon processed through the streets of London dressed in their finery.

This was their coronation procession.

In this video, and transcript below, I share contemporary descriptions of the king and queen’s appearance and outfits, the procession, and the streets of London. It must have been quite a spectacle.


At 4pm, on this day in Tudor history, Saturday 23rd June 1509, the eve of their joint coronation, King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, processed through the streets of London, from the Tower of London to Westminster in preparation for the coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Chronicler Edward Hall gives an account of their procession and how the king and queen were dressed that day. Here are his descriptions of the king and queen:
First the king:
“The features of his body, his goodly personage, his amiable visage, princely countenance, with the noble qualities of his royal estate, to every man known needeth no rehearsal, considering, that for lack of cunning, I cannot express the gifts of grace and of nature, that God hath endowed him with all: yet partly to describe his apparel, it is to be noted, his grace wore in his upperest apparel, a robe of crimson velvet, furred with ermines, his jacket or coat of raised gold, the placard embroidered with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, great pearls, and other rich stones, a great baudericke about his neck of great balasses (rubies). The trapper (trappings) of his horse, damask gold with a deep pursell of ermines…”

And the queen:
“Queen then by name Katheryne, sitting in her litter, borne by two white palfreys, the litter covered, and richly apparelled, and the palfreys trapped in white cloth of gold, her person apparelled in white satin embroidered, her hair hanging down to her Back, of a very great length, beautiful and goodly to behold, and on her head a coronal, set with many rich orient stones.”

According to Hall, the streets were “hanged with tapestry, and cloth of arras”, and also railed and barred, and some parts, like the south-side of Cheap and Cornhill, were hanged with cloth of gold.

As for the rest of the procession, Hall describes how the king’s knights and esquires wore crimson velvet, while his gentlemen, “others of his chapel”, officers and household servants wore scarlet. The barons of the Sink Ports bore the cloth of estate. Hall says if he tried to describe everything and everyone, he “should omit many things, and fail of the number, for they were very many”, but goes on to say “I dare well say, there was no lack or scarcity of cloth of tissue, cloth of gold, cloth of silver, broderie [embroidery?], or of goldsmith’s works: but in more plenty and abundance, than hath been seen, or read of at any time before, and thereto many and a great number of chains of gold, and bauderickes, both massy and great.”

The King’s master of the horse, Sir Thomas Brandon, was described as “ clothed in tissue, embroidered with roses of fine gold, and traverse hs body, a great baudericke of gold, great and massy, his horse trapped in gold, leading by a rein of silk, the king’s spare horse, trapped bard wise, with harnesss embroidered with bullion gold, curiously wrought by goldsmiths…”

The queen’s retinue of lords, kinghts, esquires and gentlemen were richly apparelled “richly apparelled in tissues, cloth of gold, of silver, tinsels, and velvets embroidered, fresh and goodly to behold” and the ladies were in “cloth of gold, cloth of silver, tinsels and velvet, with embroideries” and “every complement of the said chariots, and the draught harnessses, were powdered with ermines, mixed with cloth of gold”
What sumptuous costumes!

Hall finishes his account by saying that the procession “with much joy and honour, came to Westminster where was high preparation made, as well for the said coronation, also for the solemn feast and jousts, therein to be had and done.”

The king and queen were crowned the following day, 24th June 1509, at Westminster Abbey.

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