Elizabeth I’s Coronation a Lavish Affair: Proving She Was the Legitimate Heir

by AlexandriaIngham

Elizabeth I's coronation was held of January 15, 1559. It was a lavish affair to make it clear that she was the true Queen of England.

In 1558, Elizabeth I was declared Queen of England. Her Catholic half-sister, Mary, had died with no surviving children and the 25-year-old Elizabeth was the next in line. However, to many Catholics in the country, she was not viewed as the true heir. She was seen as the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and even Henry VIII’s last will and testament couldn’t change that fact. Some of the Catholics started looking at Elizabeth’s Scottish Cousin, Mary Stewart, as the next rightful English Queen.

Elizabeth Tudor had to do something to make it clear she was the legitimate heir to the throne. Her answer was the most lavish coronation, which was held on January 15, 1559.

Elizabeth I: The Daughter of Anne Boleyn

As the daughter of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I was instantly viewed with suspicion.

Elizabeth I was just 25 years old when she became Queen of EnglandElizabeth didn’t get the best start in life. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. At first, she displaced Mary Tudor, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon. For the first two and a half years she was a princess and constantly doted on. Upon her mother’s fall from grace everything changed.

Elizabeth quickly lost the title of princess and was simply Lady Elizabeth Tudor, another illegitimate daughter of the King of England. Her reputation was tarnished by that of her mother’s, something that she was never allowed to forget throughout her life.

After being made illegitimate it was clear, she could no longer become Queen of England. This was expected. After all, it stopped her great uncle, Edward V, officially being crowned king (along with some questionable acts that surround the Princes in the Tower) and caused problems for her grandfather, Henry VII, who was born through an illegitimate line of Edward III.

Elizabeth Tudor Imprisoned by Mary I

Mary I viewed her sister with suspicion, despite Elizabeth helping Mary claim the throne back from Jane Grey.

Henry VIII changed everything in his last will and testament. He had grown closer to his two daughters thanks to Katherine Parr, and declared that they were both back in the line of succession after his son, Edward. Elizabeth would come after Mary due to her age. There were no arguments from the English people. In fact, when Edward VI tried to change this order of succession, the English people revolted and supported the two half-sisters. Mary I became Queen of England and Elizabeth I was the first in line.

Mary knew that some of the Protestant supporters would revolt after she changed the religion back to the old ways. When they did during the Wyatt Rebellion and Elizabeth’s name was used to support it—despite the young lady not supporting it—Mary did the only thing she could. She locked her half-sister up in the Tower of London. Elizabeth remained there or under house arrest for the majority of her half-sister’s reign. The Catholics were against Elizabeth. Her mother was the reason for the end of Catherine of Aragon’s marriage and the reason Mary nearly didn’t become Queen of England.

Wizzley Articles About the Coronations of Kings Before Elizabeth I

Richard III and his wife Anne were crowned on July 6,1483. Richard is known for his death at Battle of Bosworth but do you know much about his younger years?
The Tudor line reigned for 118 years. It all started with Henry VII of England but his reign was not without its ups and downs.

Elizabeth I Chooses the Best Date for Her Coronation

Elizabeth had no choice but to make her coronation one of the best in recent times to make her legitimacy clear.

Elizabeth I made her coronation lavish to make it clear she was the true Queen of EnglandElizabeth knew that she would have many people against her. She knew about the support for her Catholic Scottish cousin, so she needed to act quickly. Unlike many other coronations that could take place several months and even years after succeeding to the throne, Elizabeth’s needed to be as soon as possible but on the perfect date. Mary I died on November 17, 1558, so before Christmas would have been preferred. However, it had to be after the New Year. This was the best date according to astrologer and mathematician, John Dee. However, in his eyes it wasn’t the perfect date.

Elizabeth ensured her coronation was a lavish event, so that it spoke to the people. Her father’s tapestries and gold collection decorated Westminster Hall and a blue cloth was used for the journey to the Abbey. During the crowning, three different crowns were used in succession and fanfares were played at each one. She had four changes of clothes throughout the day to mark different sections of the event. Her last change was into a purple dress, a color that resembled royalty at the time.

Incidentally, there are reports of Anne Boleyn wearing purple during her time at court after starting her relationship with the King. It caused a stir as Catherine of Aragon was still his wife at the time, but Anne made it clear that she was royalty. Whether this really happened will depend on the source read, but it seems fitting that both mother and daughter would use the color to make this type of statement.

Elizabeth I Never Distanced Herself from Anne Boleyn

Probably against better judgment, Elizabeth use her mother's coronation to create her own.

Anne Boleyn was the disgraced mother of Elizabeth ISomething that Elizabeth I refused to do was distance herself from the memory of her mother. She would have been raised hearing the stories, but it is clear that she either never believed them or knew that the people around her father and her father himself had some part in Anne’s downfall. Elizabeth’s coronation was the first sign that she would never forget that she was the daughter of Anne Boleyn.

The coronation was planned with Anne’s coronation from June 1533 in mind. The blue cloth that Elizabeth used was a way to make her the Virgin Mary. She was the Virgin Queen and used that imagery throughout the coronation. It was one step further than Anne’s coronation, which included various symbolisms of the Virgin Mary.

The gold outfit for the coronation was designed with Anne’s coronation outfit in mind. Unfortunately, there are no portraits of Anne’s coronation to do a direct comparison.

Finally, Elizabeth made it clear that she wanted to better her half-sister’s coronation, something that was still a living memory for the majority of the English people. She even worked on bettering her half-brother’s coronation. This was something Anne wanted to do with her own coronation, which lasted four days in total. Anne wanted to better Henry VIII’s and Catherine of Aragon’s joint coronation, as well as Catherine’s arrival to England and marriage to Prince Arthur.

Elizabeth was somewhat proud to be the daughter of the disgraced queen. In her later years, she was angry at a letter from the Pope that continued to disgrace her mother.

Elizabeth I succeeded in her reign over the English people. She faced rebellions and uprisings, but continued to find some even ground for the Protestant and Catholic religions. During the majority of her reign, she was loved by the English people. It was only at the end, during the 1590s, that she started making questionable decisions. She had the longest reign out of the children of Henry VIII and would have made her mother proud, and it all started from that lavish coronation in 1559.

Other Articles on Wizzley About Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I - the greatest queen, the best book subject. Here's where you can learn more about her
Elizabeth Tudor never married and is known best as The Virgin Queen. Why did she choose not to marry? Was it because of the actions of Henry VIII and Thomas Seymour?
The portraits of Elizabeth I don't show her true appearance. When she was 29, she contracted smallpox and it led to changes in her flawless appearance.
Updated: 01/15/2014, AlexandriaIngham
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AlexandriaIngham on 01/16/2014

Thanks, April. I've loved her since learning about her in history. I've not read the book, but I did see a documentary on the TV that was called the same thing--maybe an adaptation of the book? I saw it in a bookshop a few months ago and picked it up, so it's on the list of things to read.

April_M on 01/16/2014

I found this really interesting. I've always been fascinated with Elizabeth I.

Have you read 'The time traveller's guide to Elizabethan England'? Brilliant book.

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