Saturday, 2 March 2013

A Queen is Crowned

Mary I was the first Queen of England to rule in her own name and not as a Queen consort (more on this later). Since England had never had a Queen that was not already either married or betrothed it was a very special occasion - one that Mary had been waiting for her entire life.
So let's take a look at the coronation that paved the way for female rulers of England.

Mary Tudor - the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon - was crowned on October 1, 1553. But Mary's coronation varied from that of her recently deceased brother and her father. Since the Reformation in England, the rituals had been mostly converted into Protestant rites - but Mary was an ardent Catholic.

The Ceremony

There are no surviving paintings of
Mary's coronation but this Great Seal
of herself and Philip II, depicts her with
loose hair (normal at coronations),
a crown and her hand on the orb.
The Queen herself
Mary was dressed in an ermine-trimmed purple gown and had a circlet around her head. The circlet itself was said to be irreplaceable and believed to contain so many precious stones that its worth could not be made up in pounds. But the circlet was heavy - some spectators reported that Mary occasionally had to support the circlet with her hands to keep it on her head!

The Ceremony

Anna Whitelock describes the coronation ceremony of Mary I in her book "Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen". According to Whitelock Mary arrived at the Abbey at 11 o'clock and was wearing state robes - just as a King would have done. After having knelt on a velvet cushion at the altar while the bishop of Chicester said prayers above her head, Mary would retire with her ladies to change into another gown: this time for the anointing.
Then Stephen Gardiner would anoint her with holy oil and the state robes would be placed upon her shoulders. Mary received the sceptre, the sword and the orb and then the actual crowning: first with the crown of Edward the Confessor, then with the Imperial crown and lastly with a custom made crown. A Queen had hereby been crowned and Mary was now: Mary I.

Royal Entourage 
Princess Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves accompanied Mary as she made her way to the abbey. They were both placed in seats that was reserved for especially honourable guests. When Mary entered the church and was to make her way to the altar, she had an entourage that indeed was fit for a Queen. Before Mary herself there was a procession consisting of: the bishop of Winchester, knights, gentlemen, the Earl of Arundel, the Marquess of Winchester and the Duke of Norfolk.

A closer look ...

As mentioned before, Mary's coronation presented the need of a few changes in the event. These are below:

Who crowned her?
Therefore, it was not the archbishop of Canterbury that crowned her as was custom but instead Stephen Gardiner (whom she would later appoint as her Lord Chancellor). Mary was determined not to be crowned by the current archbishop of Canterbury because he happened to be Thomas Cranmer - an eager Protestant who had been Mary's enemy for many years and was now a prisoner at the Tower.
This engraving supposedly
depicts Mary I at her coronation

Unholy Oil

Due to Mary's insistence on being crowned a Catholic Queen, she refused to be anointed with the same Holy Oil that had been used to crown her Protestant brother, Edward VI. To solve the problem, Mary contacted the bishop of Arras and asked him to send her oils that had not been "tainted by usage in a Protestant ceremony". The bishop readily consented and only apologized for the lack of grandeur of the cases that contained the oil.

A Queen for all to see
It was common to erect a plateau for royal events and the coronation of Mary was no exception. She had to climb twenty steps to reach the plateau where her coronation would take place and then move ten steps more to the throne itself - the royal chair had been raised on a dais of its own. Thus, Mary overlooked the entire abbey and every spectator was able to see her.

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