The Coronation of Mary I

On this day in history, Sunday 1st October 1553, Mary I was crowned Queen at Westminster Abbey by Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester. The following description of Mary I’s coronation ceremony is based on Anna Whitelock’s description in the chapter “God Save Queen Mary” of her book “Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen”.

At 11am, Mary processed into the Abbey, dressed traditionally, as a male monarch would be, in the usual state robes of crimson velvet. Before her, processed the Bishop of Winchester, gentlemen, knights and councillors, the Earl of Arundel carrying the ball and sceptre, the Marquess of Winchester carrying the orb and the Duke of Norfolk carrying the crown. A canopy carried by the barons of the Cinque Ports was carried over the Queen as she processed along a raised walkway to the coronation chair.

Gardiner opened the ceremony with the following address:-

“Sirs, Here present is Mary, rightful and undoubted inheritrix by the Laws of God and man to the Crown and Royal Dignity of this realm of England, France and Ireland, whereupon you shall understand that this day is appointed by all the peers of this land for the consecration, injunction and coronation of the said most excellent Princess Mary; will you serve at the time and give your wills and assent to the same consecration, unction and coronation?”

To which the congregation replied: “Yea, yea, yeah! God save Queen Mary!”

As was usual for the monarch, Mary then prostrated herself before the altar on a velvet cushion while prayers were said over her. Afterwards, the Bishop of Chichester, George Day, preached a sermon on the obedience owed to a monarch and then Mary made her oaths before lying prostrate once again in front of the high altar while the Abbey choir sang “Veni Creator Spiritus”. Accompanied by her ladies, Mary then went to change in preparation for her anointing. Dressed in a petticoat of purple velvet, she lay in front of the altar and was anointed with holy oil on her shoulders, breast, forehead and temples by Gardiner. Once again dressed in her robes of state, Mary then received the sword, the sceptre and orbs, and was crowned with crown of Edward the Confessor, the Imperial Crown and then a specially custom-made crown. The ermine furred crimson mantle was then put about her shoulders and she then sat in the coronation chair as nobles paid homage to their new queen.

Finally at 4pm, Mary walked out of Westminster Abbey, processing to Westminster Hall for the coronation banquet, where she was joined by her half-sister, Elizabeth, and her former step-mother, Anne of Cleves. There was much to celebrate. Mary was now the recognised queen of the realm, the first crowned queen regnant of England. Mary Queen Mary I.


14 thoughts on “The Coronation of Mary I

  1. This must have been Mary’s day of “revenge” and vindication. Although I am not a “fan”, I understand that she went through a lot, was declared bastard and so her coronation day was probably the happiest day of her life. Too bad she didn’t have a succesful reign.

  2. You always wonder what might have been: had her parents remained married; had she been married as a young girl to say her cousin Charles the Holy Roman Emperor and quite possibly have had children; if England had stayed in the Catholic fold. So much that might have happened if Henry hadn’t been so hell-bent on having a legitimate son. Anyway, I know this was the day she long dreamt of and knew she deserved (and did as Henry’s daughter & heir in his Act of Succession).

  3. It’s intriguing that Henry could have had a son anyway after his first wuife’s death in January 1536, he just would/could have “skipped” Anne Boleyn. As for Mary, she could hardly have married the Emperor because he married when she was only ten. She was 23 when he became a widower, but as is well known, he was disinclined to marry again. In the end she got the husband she wanted, even if he did not want her at all. Philip was forced to the marriage by his father. He definitely didn’t like English wives, he was extremely relieved when Elizabeth refused him in early 1559!

  4. It doesn’t really come as a suprise that Katharine would have insisted on Mary’s inheritance rights – after all, Isabella was heiress to Castile and Leon, and was herself a strong, educated and capable monarch in her own right. Katharine had seen to Mary’s education, making sure her daughter could inherit and reign in her own right, should she (Katharine herself, that is) fail to have a son.

    I am also wondering, would it be possible to request more information on Philip II? I keep reading WILDLY varying and contradictory accounts of his behavior – some saying that he was a model of a Renaissance Prince and later King, and others that he was a cold hearted, mean spirited bastard.

    I think information about Philip might help clear up some of the controversies of the era, and explain the politics that went on between himself, Mary and Elizabeth.

  5. Mary was the first Queen of England therefore we should all really adore her. Yes she is called bloody mary because she did some very unplesant things but that was how it was back then. Yes she imprisioned Elizabeth but never killed her, she knew that she would be queen after her and kept her alive. Also you could think of it like this- if we had never had Mary as our first Queen of England would we of had Elizabeth 1 and all the other queens? I don’t think so because men would of still of gotten the throne even if it was not their birth right.

  6. Mary was not the first Queen of England – go back to the early 12th century and you will find a lady called Maud/Matilda who was fighting her cousin Eustace for the crown.

  7. Hi Fiz,
    I didn’t say that Mary was the first Queen of England, I said that she was the first crowned Queen
    regnant. Neither Matilda or Lady Jane Grey, who was also proclaimed queen, were crowned. Matilda’s reign lasted just a few months and Lady Jane’s was 13 days. Hope that makes sense.

  8. Sorry, Fiz, just realised that I missed the word “crowned” out of my final copy of the post, even though it was in my draft and posts, so you were right to pick me up on it. Mary’s coronation and the ceremonies involved with it were difficult precisely because she was the first female monarch to be crowned, e.g. the ceremony of the Knights of the Bath, in which the monarch was supposed to bathe with the knights! Mary’s coronation was a huge deal because she was breaking the mould, she was a woman.

  9. I know Mary I isn’t the favorite. Isn’t that true of nearly her entire life? Yes she was Bloody Mary but she wasn’t the first sovereign to execute and yes there were lots of people were killed. But that’s how things were done. she didn’t kill Elizabeth and she didn’t want to kill Jane Grey. I don’t blame her for being mad at the world in all honesty. she had to watch her beloved mother be cast aside by the man Kat loved more than anything, knew that Kat died slowly and painfully and alone while Anne relished in the love of Henry. Mary was ignored and put aside was badgered about her legitimacy her birthright her religion. Was even told that ” if you wre my daughter I would beat your had against the wall” . Was threatened with execution. And when she finally did marry her husband was a loser and a cheater and though she wanted a loving husband and q happy family, she died unloved by a man and childless. I’m only giving a very brief and very basic rundown on her life because I hate typing on my iPod but I had to write something in defense of Englands first crowned Queen. She had her mothers passion for religion but little of her mercy and a good dose of Henrys temper. a dangerous Mix indeed. Unfortunately she had no true husband to guide her and coax her to be a loving queen and no baby to distract her. She did things the “wrong way” but history is told by the winner guys. She lost everything from the her dreams of a happy family to the expect and love of her people. If you look at it like that, she is someone to be pitied not hated.

  10. By the time Mary made it to the throne of England she had been too damaged from disfunctional lifestyle. Can you only imagine the feelings that she stored up throughout her young life. All of it had to peak out at some point and the seams of her life split right about the time she was crowned Queen of England. From that point onward it was down hill for poor Mary. The cherry on top was unloving husband she hooked up with out of desperation. Everyone left her or was taken away from her, even her husband.

  11. I always thought that the portrait of Mary showed someone who may have been a survivor, but she looks sad and so different from the young girl that she used to be. She survived losing her title as princess and becoming a bastard, she survived the official loss of her religion, and then she had to deal with her much younger brother telling her what to do, Not a good way to start your reign as the first crowned queen of England. I do not think she was prepared for the role of a monarch and probably expected a husband to help her. And that was a huge problem for her because at her age most Tudor women were already married for a long time and already had children. Having to produce an heir at her age must have scared her. She relied too much upon the Holy Roman Emperor and that was a mistake as well. Cardinal Pole did not help matters and he had been out of the country for too long to know what the current political and religious state the country was in. I think she relied on the advice of others too much and those advisors were not the best choice. Yet she did show that a woman could rule England and that must have helped pave the way for Elizabeth to take the throne.

  12. While it is extremely necessary to remember Mary’s extremely troubled and horrid past, it isn’t right to say she is one to be merely pitied, for all the peril and the distraught formed a woman so strong as to subdue or fight on key with all and any that dared to try and look down on her. Anne Boleyn; Mary was the only one ( not even bold king Henry) to challenge her, and shoot her down at every turn. Henry; she fought with probably the most dangerous king of England for years and years until finally her life was in true danger. She fought Katherine Howard; why, no one truly knows, but it is speculation that she may have heard of her dubious reputation, and she was younger than Mary. All of Edwards regime was her enemy, specifically the most powerful of men: Edward and Thomas Seymour, and even her dear brother Edward who was like her son. At one point Mary fought the whole parliament, most of them becoming so exasperated in her political correctness and skill in debate that they pulled an Anne Boleyn and started cursing at Mary and throwing fits. And probably her second most threatening rival, said to be the only other man she feared besides her father, John Dudley. He was a much skilled opponent but Mary even triumphed over him.

    These enemies were not your everyday pushovers, they held real power, a power over even the heiress to the thrown, that she was able to even stand her ground shows a great woman, as even most men would have cowered in fear. The strain and pain of her years proved not only to be a curse that emotionally scarred her, but a cruel blessing that made her strong.

    Mary’s reign is the opposite of a failure, it was a partly fulfilled dream thats benefits were reaped by a younger sister who became known as the ‘Virgin Queen’. Could Mary’s reign be called a failure? Many historians argue that if Mary would have ruled for evenhalf the time Elizabeth ruled, England would still be Catholic today and her reign would have been the ‘Golden Age’ of England. The doctrines and legislation passed during her reign were not just of religious sentiment (as most would like to claim) but political uniformity, that would help her younger sister in ways she could only imagine.

    I personally recommend ‘Bloody Mary’ by Carolly Erickson, it is both extremely insightful and has minimal bias. It pretty accurately describes the life of Mary before the crown and has a more in depth view of her reign and the different factors that had the biggest impact on it.

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