Celebrating the Coronation of Elizabeth Tudor on 15 January 1559
“My lords, the law of nature moves me to sorrow for my sister; the burden that is fallen upon me makes me amazed, and yet, considering I am God's creature, ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield, desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be the minister of His heavenly will in this office now committed to me. And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so shall I desire you all ... to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth. I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel” Elizabeth Tudors words upon the accession to the throne, November 1558
January 15th 2012 marks the 453rd year of The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth I to the throne. To mark this occasion and those leading up to the day; I would like to take you back in time as it was written back in 1899 by Jacob Abbott in one of the earliest biographies of Elizabeth Tudor, ‘History of Queen Elizabeth’. An old hardcover book beautifully engraved which I found and bought in a second hand shop for five dollars!
The end of 1558 is drawing to a close, Princess Elizabeth’s half sister Queen Mary I of England has just passed away, an announcement by Parliament is made, Princess Elizabeth is located at Hatfield and told of the news that by the grace of God she is now Queen of England. Kneeling down, she exclaimed in Latin, “It is the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful in our eyes.”
The queen summoned her privy council to attend her, and in their presence appointed her chief secretary of state Sir William Cecil. He was a man of great learning and ability, and he remained in office under Elizabeth for forty years. He became her chief adviser and instrument, an able, faithful, and indefatigable servant and friend during almost the whole of her reign. He was at this time about forty years of age, Elizabeth was twenty five. She pronounced, in the hearing of the other members of council, the following charge:
“I give you this charge that you shall be of my privy council, and content yourself to take pains for me and my realm. This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any gift; and that you will be faithful to the state; and that, without respect of my private will, you will give me that counsel that you think best; and that, if you shall know any thing necessary to be declared to me of secrecy you shall show it to myself only; and assure yourself I will not fail to keep taciturnity therein. And therefore herewith I charge you.”
Arrangements were completed for Elizabeth’s journey to London, to take possession of the castles and palaces which pertain there to the English sovereigns. She was followed on this journey by a train of about a thousand attendants, all nobles or personages of high rank, both gentlemen and ladies. She went first to a palace called the Charter House, near London, where she stopped until preparations could be made for her formal and public entrance into the Tower; not, as before, through the Traitors’ Gate, a prisoner, but openly, through the grand entrance, in the midst of acclamations as the proud and applauded sovereign of the mighty realm whose capital the ancient fortress was stationed to defend. The streets through which the gorgeous procession was to pass were spread with fine, smooth gravel; bands of musicians were stationed at intervals, and decorated arches, and banners, and flags, with countless devices of loyalty and welcome, and waving handkerchiefs, greeted her all the way. Heralds and other great officers, magnificently dressed and mounted on horses richly caparisoned, rode before her, announcing her approach, with trumpets and proclamations; while she followed in the train, mounted upon a beautiful horse, the object of universal homage. Thus Elizabeth entered the Tower; and inasmuch as forgetting her friends is a fault with which she can not justly be charged, we may hope, at least, that one of the first acts which she performed, after getting established in the royal apartments, was to send for and reward the kind hearted child who had been reprimanded for bringing her the flowers.
The coronation, when the time arrived for it, was very splendid. The queen went in state in a sumptuous chariot, preceded by trumpeters and heralds in armor, and accompanied by a long train of noblemen, barons, and gentlemen, and also of ladies, all most richly dressed in crimson velvet, the trappings of the horses being of the same material. The people of London thronged all the streets through which she was to pass, and made the air resound with shouts and acclamations. There were triumphal arches erected here and there on the way, with a great variety of odd and quaint devices, and a child stationed upon each, who explained the devices to Elizabeth as she passed, in English verse, written for the occasion. One of those pageants was entitled, “The Sea of Worthy Governance.” There was a throne, supported by figures which represented the cardinal virtues, such as Piety, Wisdom, Temperance, Industry, Truth, and beneath their feet were the opposite vices, Superstition, Ignorance, Intemperance, Idleness, and Falsehood: these the virtues were trampling upon. On the throne was a representation of Elizabeth. At one place were eight personages dressed to represent the eight beatitudes pronounced by our Savior in his Sermon on the Mount—the meek, the merciful, etc. Each of these qualities was ingeniously ascribed to Elizabeth.
In another place, an ancient figure, representing Time, came out of a cave which had been artificially constructed with great ingenuity, leading his daughter, whose name was Truth. Truth had an English Bible in her hands, which she presented to Elizabeth as she passed. This had a great deal of meaning; for the Catholic government of Mary had discouraged the circulation of the Scriptures in the vernacular tongue. When the procession arrived in the middle of the city, some officers of the city government approached the queen’s chariot, and delivered to her a present of a very large and heavy purse filled with gold. The queen had to employ both hands in lifting it in. It contained an amount equal in value to two or three thousand dollars.
The queen was very affable and gracious to all the people on the way. Poor women would come up to her carriage and offer her flowers, which she would very condescendingly accept. Several times she stopped her carriage when she saw that any one wished to speak with her or had something to offer. A branch of rosemary was given to the queen by a poor woman in Fleet Street; the queen put it up conspicuously in the carriage, where it remained all the way, watched by ten thousand eyes, till it got to Westminster.
The coronation took place at Westminster on the following day. The crown was placed upon the young maiden’s head in the midst of a great throng of ladies and gentlemen, who were all superbly dressed, as acclamations and shouts of “Long live the Queen!” could be heard.
During the ceremonies, Elizabeth placed a wedding ring upon her finger with great formality, to denote that she considered the occasion as the celebration of her espousal to the realm of England; she was that day a bride, and should never have, she said, any other husband.
She kept this, the only wedding ring she ever wore, upon her finger, without once removing it, for more than forty years.
Jacob Abbott, History of Queen Elizabeth. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1899