Guest Post – The Events of the Day (Coronation of Elizabeth I)

At one time, there was a Queen-in-Training whose journey to Queenhood was far more treacherous than that of our current crop of princesses. Thanks to our guest author, geogirl, for this post describing the day Elizabeth I began her reign. This is the second of three parts, “On This Day”, “The Events of the Day”, and “Coronation Finery”.

At about two o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday 14 January, Elizabeth made her royal entry into London from the Tower in a procession with over 1000 horses. It  had snowed a little and people spread sand and gravel outside their houses to mitigate the muddy roads.  She was carried on a litter, covered in white cloth of gold, and lined with pink satin. It was carried by two mules, attended on either side by a line of footmen in scarlet cloaks and escorted by a further line of Gentlemen Pensioners .

Coronation Procession Portrait – Royal Museums, Greenwich

The instructions and etiquette for Elizabeth’s state processions were documented in a book known as the Little Device, which had originally been compiled in 1377 for Richard II and had been used at most coronations since. The coronation service used was that of Edward II’s (in 1308) and spoken in Latin for the last time. The service was translated into English by 1601. 

Also for the last time, there was a Catholic mass.  The Little Device stipulates that the monarch was to enter Westminster Hall at seven o’clock in the morning.  After being (in)censed by the Archbishop of York, the queen walked the short distance to the abbey in procession, flanked by the Earls of Pembroke and Shrewsbury and her train carried by the Duchess of Norfolk. She was followed by other nobles carrying the coronation swords, the orb and three crowns which were borne by the Kings of Arms.

  • According to eyewitnesses, the coronation feast was in Westminster Hall had been decorated by the hanging of two enormous tapestries which had been bought by Henry VIII, representing the Book of Genesis and the Acts of the Apostles. 
  • The 200 guests were seated at four large tables, each divided along the centre to allow the red-caped servants to serve the food.
  • The organisers of the feast, the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal and the Earl of Arundel, the Lord Steward, rode around the hall mounted on horseback.
  • The feast began at 3 o’clock when the queen washed her hands. The highlight of the feast was the entry of the Queen’s Champion, ‘a country gentleman whose family has long been privileged to do this at all Coronations’, actually Sir Edward Dymoke, mounted and in a full suit of armour, who issued the traditional challenges, each time throwing down his gauntlet.
  • The feast ended at 9 o’clock in the evening, when the queen left for Whitehall. A joust organised for the next day had to be postponed as the queen was ‘feeling rather tired’.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 3 of 3.