October 1 – Mary I is crowned queen


On this day in Tudor history, Sunday 1st October 1553, Mary I, daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was crowned queen.

Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, presided over the ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

Mary I’s coronation was a moment of real triumph for her, and she was England’s first official queen regnant.

Let me share some details from primary sources about Mary’s I’s coronation ceremony, and also the sumptuous banquet afterwards, which saw the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Arundel on horseback in the hall, and a challenge being made…


On this day in Tudor history, Sunday 1st October 1553, Mary I was crowned queen at Westminster Abbey by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.

Mary was the first official queen regnant of England and was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She reigned from 19th July 1553 to her death on 17th November 1558.

On the morning of 1st October, Mary travelled by water to the Old Palace and then waited there until 11 o’clock, when she processed into the abbey on foot, walking on blue cloth that had been laid down for her. She is described as wearing “blue velvet, lined with powdered ermine, having the same circlet on her head with which she came through London the day before”.

Before her, processed the Bishop of Winchester, gentlemen, knights and councillors, the Earl of Arundel carrying the ball and sceptre, the Marquis of Winchester carrying the orb and the Duke of Norfolk carrying the crown. The barons of the Cinque Ports carried a canopy over her as she processed and ambassador Simon Renard recorded how, as Mary entered the abbey, she “mounted a scaffolding that was erected at the church for this purpose, and showed herself to the people”. Renard goes on to say that “The Queen’s coronation was proclaimed to them and the question asked of them if they were willing to accept her as their queen. All answered: Yes;”.

The chronicle of Queen Jane and of two years of Queen Mary adds that Bishop Gardiner went to the four corners of the abbey and asked “ If any man will or can allege any cause why queen Mary should not be crowned, let them speake now:” and then the people in every place of the churche cryed, ” Quene Mary! quene Mary!””

Ambassador Renard then states that “the ordinary ceremonies were then gone through, the Queen making an offering of silver and silken stuffs. The Bishop of Winchester, who officiated, gave her the sceptre and the orb, fastened on the spurs, and girt her with the sword; he received the oath, and she was twice anointed and crowned with three crowns.”

For the anointing, Mary stripped down to a petticoat of purple velvet and lay in front of the altar. She was then anointed with holy oil on her shoulders, breast, forehead and temples by Bishop Gardiner. She then put on her crimson robes of state to receive the sword, the sceptre and orbs, and to be crowned with the crown of Edward the Confessor, the Imperial Crown and then a specially custom-made crown. The ermine-furred crimson mantle was then put about her shoulders, and she sat in the coronation chair as nobles paid homage to their new queen.

The Bishop of Chichester, George Day, preached a sermon that day, and it was on the obedience owed to a monarch.

The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of two years of Mary adds that Bishop Gardiner also proclaimed the queen’s pardon “wherein was excepted all prisoners in the Tower, the Fleet, certain in the Marshalsea, and such as had any commandment to keep the house, and certain other.”

At 4pm, the ceremony came to an end, and Mary processed from the abbey to Westminster Hall for her coronation banquet. Merchant-tailor and citizen of London Henry Machyn recorded in his diary the following account of Mary’s coronation banquet:
“and there the duke of Norfolk rode up and down the hall, my lord the Earl of Derby he [high] constable, the Earl of Arundel he [high] boteler, and my lord of Bergavenny chief larderer, master Dymoke the queen(‘s) champion; and there was [great me]lody; and the Earlof Devonshire bore the sword, and the Earl of Westmorland bore the cape of maintenance, and the Earl of Shrewsbury bore the crown, and the duke of Norfoke [was earl] marshal, and the Earl of Arundel lord steward, and the Earl of Surrey was doer under the duke his grandsire, and the Earl of Worcester was her grace(‘s) carver that day at dinner, my lord Windsor was (blank); and at the end of the table dined my lady Elisabeth and my lady Anne of Cleves…”

When Machyn says that the Duke of Norfolk rode up and down the hall, he means exactly that, the Duke of Norfolk was on horseback at the banquet.

Simon Renard adds that the Earl of Arundel was also on horseback, and that the meats were carried by the Knights of the Bath and goes on to say “When the banquet was over an armed knight rode in upon a Spanish horse and flung down his glove, while one of the Kings-of-arms challenged anyone who opposed the Queen’s rights to pick up the glove and fight the Champion in single combat. The Queen gave him a gold cup, as it is usual to do. Meanwhile the earls, vassals, and councillors paid homage to her, kissing her on the shoulder…”

I would love to go back in time and be at that coronation banquet, wouldn’t you?

It must have been a tiring day for the new queen, but a moment of triumph for her after all she’d been through to become queen.

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One thought on “October 1 – Mary I is crowned queen”
  1. If I could go back and ask one of these old chroniclers some questions, some of them I would ask would be these.

    Was Mary particularly fond of blue? Other rulers wear red or gold, etc. but Mary not only wears blue, but has a blue carpet.

    She wore the same “circlet” on her head both days. Why? Was there some personal sentimental or symbolic reason for this? Most women would wear something different each day.

    I would like to know more about which prisoners were excepted from the royal pardon and why.

    And what’s this business about kissing her on the shoulder? I never heard of that before.

    Westminster Hall is large, but I wonder how the tables were arranged to allow at least two men on horses to ride through without knocking things over. More details!

    Like so many of us, I need a time machine!

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