Henry VIII & Katherine of Aragon: The Rose and the Pomegranate’s Coronation

Henry VIII and KOA coronation

On Sunday June the 24th 1509, Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon were crowned jointly at Westminster Abbey. The procession began three day before when they took possession of the Tower. After seven long years of living in a political limbo, waiting in vain to marry the next in line to the throne, her dreams had finally come true. She and Henry had taken everyone by surprise with their marriage. The handsome boy who had accompanied her to the altar when she married his eldest brother Arthur seven years ago took after his maternal grandfather, Edward IV. Like him, he was determined to show everyone that he was his own man and that he would marry the woman of his choosing. Although he claimed that his father had made him promise to take his brother’s widow as his wife, not many believed this tale, yet they were all eager to please their new King who was a great contrast from his late father. When he and Katherine were married, the ceremony had been very low key; their coronation was however was beyond splendid. For Katherine, this must have all seemed remotely familiar. When she married Prince Arthur, she had been greeted with pageantry that lasted for days. This was no different. Henry wanted to spare no expense. The King, as one of his courtiers [Lord Mountjoy] said, was not after “gold, gems, or precious metals, but virtue, glory, and immortality.”

Westminster Hall where the royal couple processed to on the eve of their coronation.  After hosting a great dinner, the two retired to the Painted Chamber.
Westminster Hall where the royal couple processed to on the eve of their coronation. After hosting a great dinner, the two retired to the Painted Chamber.

Two days after Henry and Katherine took possession of the Tower of London, the city of London prepared to welcome their new king and queen-to-be. At about four o’clock the celebrations began with guildsmen lined in the streets. The Lord Mayor (Stephen Jennings, once a merchant) was among them, standing erect, wearing his golden chain of office while the other aldermen were close by alongside the guards who were in charge of crowd control. Henry and Katherine emerged from the Tower wearing resplendent gowns, each with their separate entourages. Henry beneath a canopy of cloth and state, wearing a crimson robe, golden coat studded with precious gems, mounted on a huge worse draped in golden fabric. Katherine followed him, riding in a litter borne by white horses, and wearing a beautiful white gown, similar to what she wore when she married Prince Arthur. Her hair was loose, as was the tradition of Consorts to symbolize their purity. Around her head was a golden and pearl circlet.

Among her retinue was none other than the newly knighted Thomas Boleyn. Henry VIII made it his duty to continue the tradition of creating new Knights of the Bath on the eve of their coronation. Besides him was the King’s best friend, the rakish Charles Brandon, the ambitious Duke of Buckingham who was dressed for the occasion, wearing gold and diamonds.

The two empty thrones were waiting for them in the Abbey where they would be crowned the following day. No doubt, they were eager to get it over with as a heavy rain poured down on them that Saturday. Many of their courtiers took shelter until the shower stopped. But Katherine –as her new husband- did not. They were born royals, and Katherine above all, trained to be Queen all her life. She had seen her mother ride through the camp, greeting soldiers, putting aside her servants’ discomfort as they saw her injured men. In Isabella, Katherine had learned that a Queen was Queen not just because of her lineage, but because of her bearing. And Katherine was ready to show that as her mother before her, she was going to take on her new role seriously. However, seeing her ladies’ discomfort and acknowledging that she could not let her litter be more ruined (her dress and hair were already ruined, Katherine like so many was drenched in rain water); she took refuge with them on a nearby tavern called the Cardinal’s Hat.
Despite Katherine’s greatest efforts; she could not avoid the superstitious ideas that were running through everyone’s mind. A rain on a day like this, on the eve of their coronation, on mid-summer’s day was seen as a bad omen. This was an age where omens were taken seriously, where superstition was seen as logic, and were the former were used as evidence of God’s anger or discontent.
The royal entourage managed to reach Westminster Palace where they dined with their guests before retiring to the Painted Chamber.

Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey.

The following morning was better than expected. The ceremonies were resumed and they were crowned at Westminster Abbey.  As the day before, the two were splendidly dressed and as with Henry’s father and namesake, his grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, wept. Only this time they were of relief and joy because her son’s dynasty –against all odds- had survived and now the new generation would be crowned.

“Westminster Abbey was a riot of color. Quite in contrast with the somber, bare-stone interiors of medieval churches today, these pre-Reformation years made worship a tactile and sensual experience, with wealth and ornament acting as tributes and measures of devotion. Inside the abbey, statues and images were gilded and decorated with jewels, walls and capitals were picked out in bright colors and walls were hung with rich arras. All was conducted according to the advice of the 200-year-old Liber Regalis, the Royal Book, which dictated coronation ritual. The couple were wafted with sweet incense while thousands of candles flickered, mingling with the light streaming down through the stained-glass windows.” (Licence)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Catholic Church in England, William Warham, conducted the ceremony. In a demonstration of precedence, Henry’s throne was raised higher than Katherine’s. “Like his father” Patrick Williams writes in his biography on Queen Katherine, “Henry VIII was crowned not just King of England but also King of France.” An ancestral title stretching all the way to Edward III who started the one hundred years war with the intention of winning more French territory. His descendant Henry V had conquered France with his son becoming the first English King of France. But he had also lost it. England had no French territory left except Calais, a small province that still served to remind England of its days of glory. Henry VIII would prove to be like many of his Lancastrian relatives, a man who ambitioned too big, but too soon.

Buckingham as Lord High Steward carried the Crown of St. Edward which was used to crown Henry, on his right, the Earls of Surrey and Arundel carried the scepter and the orb. After Warham made the traditional speech, reaffirming Henry as King of England and asking the people if they accepted their new king; he anointed Henry with the holy oils then placed the crown on his head. Then it was Katherine’s turn. Seated in her smaller throne, she was anointed on the breast and forehead, then given the scepter and rod, and finally had the crowd of St. Edith placed on her head.

After the Mass they went to St. Edward’s shrine behind the high altar to change their garments of state for more adequate clothing for the banquet that was waiting for them at Westminster Palace.

Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon from Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1971). In the middle is Katherine of Aragon's coronation robe.
Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon from Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1971). In the middle is Katherine of Aragon’s coronation robe.

There was no one in the realm that didn’t praise their new king and Queen. Besides Lord Mountjoy, Thomas More, who was young at the time, wrote extensively on the virtues of the new king and queen, adding a year later that “this lady, prince, vowed to you for many years, through a long time of waiting remained alone for love of you.” Days after their coronation, the King and Queen moved to Greenwich to enjoy a series of jousts that were made in their honor, seated in a wooden box with their royal devices, the rose and the pomegranate engraved there as well as the letters H and K intertwined.

Sources:

  • Katherine of Aragon by Patrick Williams
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I of Castile by Julia Fox
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
Advertisements

The Coronation of the Last Tudor King: Edward VI

Edward VI. The last Tudor King.
Edward VI. The last Tudor King.

Edward VI was the last Tudor King and the first true Protestant King of England. On the eve of his coronation, Edward made his procession from the Tower of London to Westminster. There were many pageants that greeted the boy-king as he rode horseback dressed in a jerkin of white velvet decorated with diamonds, rubies and pearls.

“His gown was a fine mesh of gold with a cape of sable, whilst the horse he rode upon was draped in crimson satin beaded with pearls.” (Skidmore)

The Imperial Ambassador Francois Van der Defelt was not impressed and when he met the king, he spoke to him in French to which his uncle, the Lord Protector and now Duke of Somerset, reproached him and told him he should speak in Latin instead because the king “understood better than French.” Defelt had no more good things to say about the King or the Archbishop of Canterbury who refused to speak to him because of his Catholic beliefs.

edwards-coronation-procession-1547

As for the pageantry itself, it was nothing short of glorious. Everything went according to plan. Protocol was followed. The Marquis of Dorset [Henry Grey, husband to Frances Brandon and father to Jane Grey] carried the sword of justice in his role as Constable of England and Edward was flanked by John Dudley and his uncle [Somerset]. Next came the Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, the pensioners and the other guard.

Pageants greeted the young king. These were not rehearsed and many had to be improvised. Of these was one of children who each represented one of the four virtues: Grace, Fortune, Nature and Charity.

Another had a huge fountain topped with a “crown of imperial gold” garnished with pearls and other precious stones and sprayed jets of wine through pipes into the street. And there was one which had a stage where a scaffold had been erected. Beneath its roof was brilliant iconography with the sun, stars and clouds. On one of these clouds was none other than the image of a phoenix descending on to a mount, covered in red and white roses and hawthorn bushes.

Like with his first Tudor ancestors, Edward VI’s procession on the eve of his coronation served to leave its mark on history. The Tudors knew the importance of imagery and how powerful it was to manipulate or rewrite history. At the same time, it evoked the tales they themselves kept perpetuating of their legitimacy. For example the phoenix was his mother’s badge, standing on a golden tower with its wings spread up and nature flourishing as a result. Edward was making a powerful statement, and his uncle helped too perhaps, about his parents’ marriage as lawful and true. And also establishing his legitimacy. His sisters would do the same for their coronations [especially Elizabeth whose glorious pageantries marked the contrast between her future reign and her sister’s]; emphasizing on their legitimacy and lineage through their parents. The female consort played an important role here. Although she was not physically present, she could still be seen [and remembered] through her insignia. Secondly, the red and white roses were powerful symbols and reminders of the legitimacy of the Tudor line, or what they called their right to inherit the throne. It reminded everyone of the wars fought between brothers and cousins, that ended with the destruction of Houses Lancaster and York (represented by the red and white rose) and the ascension of the Tudors who brought about peace when their first monarch, Henry VII (considered the heir to the Lancastrians) married the beautiful Elizabeth, Princess of York.
The truth we now know is very different but it was a tale that worked very well for the Tudors and it simplified the conflict, and it gave their line legitimacy.

The Coronation of Edward VI, Shrove Sunday

Along the road he encountered more pageants, one which glorified his namesake and one of England’s most celebrated Kings: Edward the Confessor and another his country’s patron saint, Saint George. After he passed these, he encountered other ones that probably made a greater impression for the boy who was a committed Reformer. On Fleet Street a child representing ‘Truth’ epitomized the cause of the English Reformation and he said a few lines:

“Then Shall England, Committed To Your Guard, Rejoice in God, Which Hath Given Her Nation, After an Old David, A young King Salomon.”

David as everyone remembers was the legendary biblical King, father of the wise Solomon who succeeded him after his death. This told Edward that although his father started the break from Rome, it would be up to Edward like a new Solomon, to follow his work and improve it by carrying on with Reforms to ‘purify’ the church.

The procession had lasted nearly five hours and ended at six o’ clock.

The following day, the real show began when Edward was taken by barge to Whitehall where he was received by the guard and pensioners. Passing them into the chamber of Court of Augmentations, he donned the Parliamentary robes he was wearing and put on a robe of crimson velvet ‘furred with powdered ermines’. From there he went to Westminster Abbey under a canopy borne by the barons of the Cinque Ports. At his right and left was the Earl of Shrewsbury and Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham. John Dudley, the Marquis of Northampton –Catherine Parr’s brother, William Parr- and his other uncle, Thomas Seymour bore his train.

At his entrance into the Abbey, Cranmer began the address, asking the congregation “Will ye sirs at this time, and give your wills and assents to the same consecration, enunction, and coronation?” To which they responded “Yes, ye, ye, God save King Edward!”

In spite of the great response it received, the coronation had been altered significantly from the precepts set in the Liber Regalis (c.1375) and certain ceremony and addresses cut down not to wear the King, but more than that, because it was against the new tradition that Cranmer and the Reformers wanted to impose for their “new era”. The crowd who was aware of the changes, was explained by Cranmer the reason for this changes in a sermon to the King. He said that the alteration was due to the fact that before, Kings had atone for their actions to the clergy or somebody else, including their people. This time Kings were infallible. They were demi-gods of a sort. Edward as the Reformist king would account to no one and the clergy had no right “to hit Your Majesty in the teeth”. Nevertheless, he reminded that as God’s anointed sovereign he still had to have certain virtues for he was a messenger of Jesus and his representative on Earth.

“Your Majesty is God’s vice-regent and Christ’s vicar within your own dominions, and to see, with your predecessor Josiah, God truly worshiped, and idolatry destroyed, the tyranny of the bishops of Rome banished from your subjects, and images removed. These acts be signs of a second virtue, to revenge sin, to justify the innocent, to relieve the poor, to procure peace, to repress violence, and to execute justice throughout your realms. For precedents, on those kings who performed not these things, the old law shows how the Lord revenged his quarrel; and on those kings who fulfilled these things, he poured forth his blessings in abundance. For example, it is written of Josiah in the book of Kings thus: Like unto him there was no King before him that turned to the Lord with all his heart, according to the Law of Moses, neither after him arose there any like him.
This was to the prince a perpetual fame of dignity, to remain to the end of days.”

After the Mass was finished, Edward took his place on the throne and was first crowned with the St. Edward’s crown then the Imperial crown and finally his own which was made for the occasion and was lighter than the previous two. Then he was given the orb and scepter to hold on each hand. His most prominent uncle [Somerset] knelt before him and swore an oath of loyalty. He was followed by Cranmer and the rest of the nobility.

With this done, they followed their newly anointed King to the Great Hall of Westminster to take part in a sumptuous feast. The reign of Edward VI had begun.

Sources:

  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore
  • Ordeal by Ambition by William Seymour
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle

GLORIANA’S CORONATION

The Countdown is officially over! The day has come when we remember Elizabeth I’s coronation:

Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown artist. National Portrait Gallery.
Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown artist. National Portrait Gallery.

On Sunday, January 15 1559 Elizabeth Tudor was crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey.

The day began after Elizabeth made her way from the Tower of London, dressed in crimson parliament robes walking on blue cloth which had been laid for her all the way to the Abbey. The Spanish Ambassador, Feria, refused to be present but the Venetian Ambassador,Schifanoya was there and he reported everything he saw. According to him and other contemporary accounts, as Elizabeth made her way to the Abbey, there were stages erected for her that depicted once again her noble lineage through her father and his parents, and included Henry VIII’s collections of tapestries -especially one depicting the Acts of the  Apostles based on the designs by Raphael. This symbolized the late Tudor monarch’s devotion and Bess further emphasized hers after she emerged from a curtained sector where she changed into her new clothes, and then was led by the Bishop of Carlisle to the stage where she was proclaimed Queen.

The customary question was asked. If the people would like Elizabeth to be their Queen or not, and the people cried “Yea, yea!”. Then the trumpets sounded, the organs were played and the bells rang and Elizabeth and the Bishop descended to the altar where she knelt before it to hear the sermon and then took the oath.

After this was said and done, she withdrew to the traverse to change for the final part in the ceremony, the anointing. She emerged wearing a kirtle of gold and silver. Prostrating herself before the altar, leaning on cloth of gold cushions, she was anointed on the shoulders, breast, hands, arms and forehead.

Elizabeth I played by Anne-Marie Duff in the BBC mini-series "Virgin Queen" (2005) With her hair hung loose and clothed in gold from head to toe, she was crowned looking every inch of a Queen and the icon she would later be revered.
Elizabeth I played by Anne-Marie Duff in the BBC mini-series “Virgin Queen” (2005)
With her hair hung loose and clothed in gold from head to toe, she was crowned looking every inch of a Queen and the icon she would later be revered.

Three crowns were placed on her head, after which she was completely arrayed in gold and to everyone who was there, she seemed indeed, seemed not human but like a golden figure, an icon, almost god-like as her father always tried to appear.

Elizabeth ever the pragmatist, had intended to create a hybrid of the Protestant Church her brother had enforced on the population and the Marian Catholic reformed Church her sister had also tried to enforce. As Starkey explains:
“It was now time of the coronation mass, which followed, with Elizabeth’s personally enforced innovations. The Epistle was read twice, first in Latin and then in English. Then the bishop brought the Gospel. This too was read twice, in the old liturgical language and again in the Tudor vernacular, which has, to us, become almost as remote, beautiful and hieratic as the Latin. Elizabeth now repeated her gesture of the day before and kissed the Bible -and, it is safe to guess, the English one.”

Furthermore Jasper Ridley adds in his respective biography of Elizabeth:

“After he [Bishop of Carlisle] had crowned her, a Mass was held in Latin; but the celebrant, her chaplain, spoke the words of consecration in English and did not elevate the Host.”

The Coronation pardon was then given and the Queen traveled from Westminster Abbey to the Palace Great Hall to enjoy her coronation banquet. As she passed the great crowds, she greeted them with that same smile from her accession and it won them over again.

"She still wore the heavy weight of the crown and carried the orb and scepter. She was smiling broadly and greeted joyfully by the thousands who pressed up to congratulate her." (Starkey)
“She still wore the heavy weight of the crown and carried the orb and scepter. She was smiling broadly and greeted joyfully by the thousands who pressed up to congratulate her.” (Starkey)

Elizabeth was now the new undoubted Queen, her coronation had been a complete success.

Sources:

  • Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
  • On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Elizabeth I by Jasper Ridley
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lise

12 JANUARY 1559: Elizabeth prepares for her upcoming coronation

Elizabeth played by Lalla Ward in "Crossed Swords".
Elizabeth played by Lalla Ward in “Crossed Swords”.

We are doing a countdown to Elizabeth I’s coronation so we start with January 12. On the twelfth of January Elizabeth lodged on the Tower of London, preparing for her upcoming coronation. She and her train passed through the most important streets of London and Westminster until reaching their final destination. She followed the protocol described in Liber Regalis -A royal manual for such occasions.

“In short, the processions was -and was designed to be- a test of the sovereign’s popularity. Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, barely passed. Henry VIII had spared no expense and everywhere there were his and Anne’s initials or cipher, ‘HA’, laced by a lover’s knot. But the women especially hated the flashy mistress made good and as she passed mocked her by crying out, ‘Ha, ha!’, in parody of her royal cipher. That, at least, is what Chapuys, Anne’s inveterate enemy, claimed. But Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn’s daughter, passed her test with flying colors.” (Starkey)

Previously, two months ago when she received word of her sister Mary I’s death, tradition had it that she was sitting on an oak tree as her namesake and great-grandmother Elizabeth Woodville had been when she met the dashing King, Edward IV. Upon receiving the regal ring, Elizabeth told the messenger citing from the Psalm 118:

Elizabeth Psalm

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes”

After years of struggling, and being at the heart of intrigue, Elizabeth’s time had come. The reign of Gloriana was about to begin.

Sources:

  • Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
  • Elizabeth I by Jasper Ridley
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway