Anne Boleyn- an indelible Queen
Anne Boleyn fans often associate May with her bloody and unjust demise but we cannot for a moment forget that May was also the month in which her coronation ceremonies began and must have been a time of great triumph and joy for her. After the many years of uncertainty she endured, these four days would have been a monumental relief. A time where she could be secure in the knowledge that she was on the brink of becoming an anointed Queen and mother to the future heir to the throne – in her mind, the Prince to continue the Tudor lineage and appease the king’s conscious.
The coronation ceremonies lasted four long and lavish days. On the first day, Anne would be escorted by river to the Tower where she would remain for two nights. On the third day a road procession would take place from the Tower to Westminster and on the final day the coronation and great banquet at Westminster Hall.
On Thursday 29th May 50 elaborately decorated great barges of the London livery escorted by many smaller vessels left Billingsgate en route for Greenwich. Rowing against the tide, it took the procession two hours to reach Greenwich.
As Eric Ives describes in his book The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (2004), they were dressed with:
Flags and bunting overall, hung with gold foil that glistened in the sun and with little bells that tinkled; the vessels were packed with musicians of every kind, and more cannon than seems safe on such a crowded waterway. The fleet was led by a light wherry in which had been constructed a mechanical dragon that could be made to move and belch out flames, and with it were other models of monsters and huge wild men, who threw blazing fireworks and uttered hideous cries (Ives 2004, p.173).
We can gather from this description that the river procession was an orchestrated work of art aimed at reeling in the populace with its sheer magnificence.
We are unsure as to whether or not the people of London had come out to greet Anne out of curiousity or loyalty to their king but what is known for certain is that the river pageant engineered by Henry for his ‘most dear and well beloved wife’ drew thousands of eager spectators.
Finally for Anne, after what must have seemed a gruelling wait, she boarded her own sumptuously decorated barge together with the principal ladies of her court. The rest of her women were transported in a second barge and the King followed behind with his guard dressed in their finest clothes. Eric Ives (2004) states that there were approximately 120 large crafts and 200 smaller ones in the river procession – what a site this must have been!
Anne arrived at the Tower under an almost continuous wave of canon fire and was met by a party of Tower officials and heralds that eventually led her to the king himself who, as ancient tradition dictates, was observing the proceedings in secret. The royal couple spent the next two days in the private apartments that Cromwell had personally made ready for the coronation enjoying the ancient court rituals associated with such an important occasion. Unfortunately, nothing remains of these apartments but you can visit the spot where they once stood between the White Tower and the main curtain wall.
During their two days at the Tower, 18 Knights of the Bath were created many with strong connections to Anne or her Howard relatives. Perhaps most notably, Francis Weston who in only three short years would embark on his final journey back to the Tower in terrifyingly different circumstances.
At 5 o’clock on Saturday 31st May 1533 the procession left the Tower en route for Westminster. Up to 300 people of varying degrees and importance made up the procession that made its way slowly past the waiting crowds. There were 6 customary points for pageants on route through the city and all these plus an additional 3 locations were lavishly decorated for Anne. Henry had proven his undying love and devotion for his new wife by exceeding the pageantry of his first wife’s coronation ceremony.
Anne travelled in a litter of white satin with white cloth of gold inside and out. Her beautiful dark hair was worn loose to her waist and she dressed in “filmy white, with a coronet of gold” (Ives 2004, p.177). Ives describes the scene in great detail:
Over her was a canopy of cloth of gold held up by the barons of the Cinque Ports. Then came her own palfrey, also trapped in white. Twelve ladies in crimson velvet rode behind, then two carriages- one white, one red- and thirty gentlewomen on horseback, this time in black velvet. These were followed by the king’s guard in two files, one on each side of the street…and last all the servants in the livery of their masters or mistresses (Ives 2004, p. 177).
Sources pertaining to the reaction of the populace vary greatly and so it’s difficult to say with any certainty how the new queen was received. But undoubtedly Anne, with her child stirring deep in her belly and the adoration of her husband enveloping her every move would have felt untouchable.
And on the 1st June 1533 after what must have seemed a lifetime of waiting, Anne Boleyn entered Westminster Hall ready to be crowned Queen of England. She was dressed in “coronation robes of purple velvet, furred with ermine, with the gold coronet on her head which she had worn the day before” (Ives 2004, p.178). The procession then walked the 640 m to the high altar of the abbey where Anne Boleyn took her place on St. Edward’s Chair and cemented her spot in history.
She was now an anointed queen and no longer merely mortal. Set above all others and witnessed by God Himself- only death could remove her.
Anne Boleyn- an indelible Queen.
Ives, E. 2004, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing.
Anne Boleyn’s coronation- 29th May 1533
The Tudor chronicler, Edward Hall, wrote this account of Anne Boleyn’s coronation.
On Thursday 29 May, Lady Anne, marquess of Pembroke, was received as queen of England by all the lords of England. And the mayor and aldermen, with all the guilds of the City of London, went to Greenwich in their barges after the best fashion, with also a barge of bachelors of the mayor’s guild richly hung with cloth of gold with a great number to wait on her. And so all the lords with the mayor and all the guilds of London brought her by water from Greenwich to the Tower of London, and there the king’s grace received her as she landed, and then over a thousand guns were fired at the Tower, and others were fired at Limehouse, and on other ships lying in the Thames.
And on Saturday, the last day of May, she rode from the Tower of London through the City with a goodly company of lords, knights and gentlemen, with all the peers of the realm, richly appareled. She herself rode in a rich chariot covered with cloth of silver, and a rich canopy of cloth of silver borne over her head by the four Lords of the Ports, in gowns of scarlet, followed by four richly hung chariots of ladies; and also several other ladies and gentlewoman riding on horseback, all in gowns made of crimson velvet. And there were various pageant made on scaffolds in the city; and all the guilds were standing in their liveries, every one in order, the mayor and aldermen standing in Cheapside. And when she came before them the Recorder of London made a goodly presentation to her, and then the mayor gave her a purse of cloth of fold with a thousand marks of angel nobles in it, as a present from the whole of the city; and so the lords brought her to the palace of Westminster and left her there that night.
On 1 June Queen Anne was brought from Westminster Hall to St Peter’s Abbey in procession, with all the monks of Westminster going in rich copes of gold, with thirteen mitred abbots; and after them all the king’s chapel in rich copes with four bishops and two mitred archbishops, and all the lords going in their parliament robes, and the crown borne before her by the duke of Suffolk, and her two sceptres by two earls, and she herself going under a rich canopy of cloth of gold, dressed in a kirtle of crimson velvet decorated with ermine, and a robe of purple velvet decorated with ermine over that, and a rich coronet with a cap of pearls and stones on her head; and the old duchess of Norfolk carrying her train in a robe of scarlet with a coronet of gold on her cap, and Lord Burgh, the queen’s Chamberlain, supporting the train in the middle.
After her followed ten ladies in robes of scarlet trimmed with ermine and round coronets of gold on their heads; and next after them all the queen’s maids in gowns of scarlet edged with white Baltic fur. And so she was brought to St Peter’s church at Westminster, and there set in her high royal seat, which was made on a high platform before the altar. And there she was anointed and crowned queen of England by the archbishop of Canterbury and the archbishop of York, and so sat, crowned, in her royal seat all through the mass, and she offered at the said mass. And when the mass was done they left, every man in his order, to Westminster Hall, she still going under the canopy, crowned, with two sceptres in her hands, my Lord Wiltshire her father, and Lord Talbot leading her, and so dined there; and there was made the most honourable feast that has been seen.
The great hall at Westminster was richly hung with rich cloth of Arras, and a table was set at the upper end of the hall, going up twelve steps, where the queen dined; and a rich cloth of estate hung over her head. There were also four other tables along the hall; and it was railed on every side, from the high dais in Westminster Hall to the platform in the church in the abbey.
And when she went to church to her coronation there was a striped blue cloth spread from the high dais of the king’s bench to the high altar of Westminster on which she went.
And when the queen’s Grace had washed her hands, then came the duke of Suffolk, high constable for that day and steward of the feast, riding on horseback, richly dressed and decorated, and with him, also riding on horseback, Lord William Howard as deputy for the duke of Norfolk in his office of marshall of England, and there came the queen’s service followed by the archbishop’s with a certain space between, which was all borne by knights; the archbishop sitting at the queen’s board, at the end on her left hand. The earl of Sussex was sewer, earl of Essex carver, earl of Derby cup bearer, earl of Arundel butler, Viscount Lisle panter, and Lord Grey almoner.