This short post covers the coronation itself.
Let’s begin with one genealogical table to get the big picture.
The dynastic storyline is not complicated. The Tudor monarchs died out because Elizabeth never married and produced an heir. She was England’s virgin queen.
- After Queen Mary died, she formed a proto-council to decide on who would be on her Privy Council.
- William Cecil headed the transition. Elizabeth and Cecil had been allies for a while. He was from St. John’s College, Cambridge. He was bright and competent. William was hired as her primary secretary of state, which came with a lot of power—like a proto-prime minister. One foreign ambassador called him “King Cecil.”
- She addressed him as “Sir Spirit,” meaning as a ghost haunting the secret alleys and hovering over her, or their human spirits were intertwined.
- Cecil would steer Elizabeth’s government for many years and keep her safe. He also headed—spearheaded—Elizabeth’s Secret Service. Catholic plotters were on the loose.
- One name came up for Elizabeth’s Master of the Horse: Lord Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (see Private Relations, below).
- The Catholics had thought all was lost, while the Protestants thought the opposite, but Elizabeth’s stance on religion was unclear at this stage. She attended mass privately at Somerset House and was reported to have told people to pray for the Pope.
- Now neither Catholic nor Protestant was sure of which side would gain the most political and legal power to persecute the opposite denomination.
- Maybe she was sending the message that true religion lie between man and his Maker. Religion was invented by the clergy, and she disliked or mistrusted clergymen.
- She attended mass at the Chapel Royal during Christmas. But then she issued a proclamation on 30 Dec to read from the Gospel and Epistles in English and follow the English litany, written by Elizabeth’s godfather Thomas Cranmer for her father Henry VIII.
- Cranmer was a Protestant. But at one time he recanted his new religion (Protestantism), but this was not enough for Mary, and he was burned at the stake in 1556. While the fire was rising, he recanted his old recantations, so apparently he died in the new faith.
- In any case, Elizabeth’s Middle Way almost wrecked her coronation because she had difficulty finding bishops appointed by or under Mary to preside over her ceremony.
- In any case, she was crowned on 15 Jan 1559. She left her hair down to indicate she was a maiden or virgin.
- That date was prosperous and propitious date and was chosen by her astronomer “Dr.” John Dee, from St. John’s College, Cambridge.
- Later in her reign, Elizabeth and Dee hared an interest in alchemy, turning base metals into gold. She ordered a suite of rooms at Hampton court to be reserved for the alchemist’s equipment.
- The materials alone for the ceremony and all its attendants cost £16,000, a huge amount. (In comparison, her annual income by her father’s will was £3,000, which allowed her to live very comfortably).
- On 12 Jan she went to the Tower to prepare herself, and then to the eve-of-coronation procession. She went past the Tower’s menagerie of animals, including lions, and she stopped and said a prayer of thanksgiving for her deliverance from imprisonment, just like Daniel from the lions’ den.
- As she went through the City, people cheered. Some said, “Remember old King Henry!” She smiled, reports said.
- She saw five pageants along the way, people acting out scenes,
- One was her genealogy or another was the personified virtues that talk of ruling justly and personified Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel.
- One pageant said in English that Scripture was the Word of Truth. She had asked for a certain Bible in advance, but was told to wait. Yet there it was at the pageant! “She … kissed it and with both her hands held up the same, and so laid it on her breast, with great thanks to the City therefore” (qtd in Starkey 269).
- The fifth pageant was about Deborah the Hebrew prophetess who rescued Israel from an evil king of Canaan and ruled over Israel for forty years. She ruled for forty-five years.
- Elizabeth reached Westminster Abbey, and after change of clothing she was led to St. Edward’s Chair, where she was arrayed in gold from head to foot, including the crown. She held the golden scepter in her gloved hand and the golden orb (the world) in the other hand.
- She stepped up to the throne on the stage, and the people acclaimed her.
- The lords temporal and spiritual paid homage, kissing the Queen’s cheeks. She was now their liege lord.
- Pardons were offered: the whole of Mary’s followers, like the council who had ordered Elizabeth’s imprisonment. No one was prosecuted for ill treatment of the princess-now-Queen.
- When mass was offered and Bishop Oglethorpe raised the Host, Elizabeth slipped to her closet and did not communicate or take part. Instead she changed into her purple robes and went on to the coronation banquet.
- She was now queen. No one could predict that she would rule and reign for forty-four years
- Now she would bring about reform slowly and moderately, at first, since the majority of the country was still Catholic.
- “Elizabeth had risen from bastard child of an adulterous traitress to Queen of England” (Haigh 9).
(Jane Grey, Queen of Nine Days: she was not a Tudor)
Elizabeth I, Part 3: The Coronation
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—, Mary I: The Daughter of Time, Penguin Monarch Series (Allen Lane / Penguin, 2016).
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—, Elizabeth: The Later Years (Penguin, 2016)
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—, Chronicle of the Tudor Queens (Sutton 2002).
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David Starkey, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne (New York: Harper Collins, 2001 [in England in 2000]).
Anna Whitelock, Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court (Bloomsbury 2013).
John D. Woodbridge and Frank A. James, Church History from Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: the Rise and the Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual and Political Context, vol. 2, (Zondervan, 2013).