The Coronation of Mary I on 1 October, 1553

Image - Queen Mary I enthroned and flanked by angels with the destruction of the duke of Northumberland and the rebels depicted in the background to the right. Coram Rege Rolls, 1553. 

Mary went to Westminster Abbey for her coronation. She walked the short distance from Westminster Palace, treading on a blue carpet specially laid for the occasion, between railings erected to keep back the crowds. She was accompanied by those bishops loyal to her, and she wore a great crimson velvet mantle with a long train borne by her Chamberlain and by the Duchess of Norfolk. 

When she reached the abbey, the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, and the other officiating clergy received her, beneath a golden canopy. Bells pealed, trumpets sounded, the great organ played and the choristers sang. All the peers and peeresses were in their ermine-trimmed robes and the gentlemen of the royal household were decked out in either scarlet satin or crimson velvet, according to rank. In the place of honour, before them all, stood Lady Elizabeth, her scarlet mantle over an ermine-trimmed gown with an extra-long train, a small gold crown on her red hair. She pointedly ignored the imperial ambassadors, but she had a charming smile and gracious words for their French colleague every time she passed them. 

The entire floor of the abbey had been covered with blue cloth, and a high platform had been erected before the altar. The Bishop of Winchester led Mary to each of the four corners saying to the congregation, 

“If any man will or can allege any cause why Queen Mary should not be crowned, let them speak now!”

For a moment there was silence, and then the assembled company acclaimed her with one voice, shouting triumphantly, 

‘Queen Mary!  Queen Mary!’

Having changed her garments for a robe of white taffeta beneath a mantle of purple velvet, Mary sat down upon the coronation chair. The Bishop of Winchester anointed her with the special oil brought from Brussels and then he placed three crowns upon her head, one after the other, as Tudor coronation ritual required. The first was St. Edward’s crown, the second was the imperial gold crown of England and the third was a very rich crown made specially for her. It weighed more than seven pounds, and inside it was a purple cap of state. The Te Deum was sung, Elizabeth and all the peers swore an oath of loyalty to her, and then Mary knelt while the Bishop sang Mass. Her own crown was upon her head and in each hand she held a sceptre:  the king’s and the one usually given to a queen consort.

It was almost five o’clock in the afternoon before the ceremony was over, and exhausted, she walked from the abbey in her purple mantle, the crown still upon her head, the king’s scepter in one hand and in the other the orb, ‘which she twirled and turned in her hand as she came homeward’.  The Great Hall of Westminster Palace had been set with long tables for the coronation banquet, and she took her place beneath her canopy of state. At the same table, but a respectful distance away, sat Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves on one side, and the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, on the other. 

The Duke of Norfolk, as Earl Marshal, and the Earl of Arundel, as Lord Steward, supervised the proceedings on horseback, and no fewer than three hundred and twelve dishes were set before the Queen by the dignitaries who served her. Her champion rode into the hall to throw down his gauntlet in the traditional challenge to any who might oppose her, and she drank to his health from a gold cup, which she then presented to him.

Outside, the hundreds of people who had watched the comings and goings scrambled on the ground to tear up the blue carpet and snatch at the vast quantities of waste food thrown out from the kitchens. They even tore down the railings and carried them away too. It was late in the evening when Mary finally thanked the foreign ambassadors for attending, and retired to her own apartments, while her excited subjects still sang and cheered outside. 

Mary I By Rosalind Marshall, Published in association with the National Portrait Gallery, London HMSO, 1993.

Please feel free to leave any comments,


Sharon said…
I never knew the details of her coronation before. Thanks for this! Very interesting woman.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Sharon, welcome and thanks so much for your kind words and comment. Mary I was such a fascinating woman, indeed!