Today in 1553 Mary I was crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey by Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester. It was a particularly important day in history because Mary was England’s first queen regnant, meaning she was the first queen to rule England in her own right.
On the eve of her coronation Mary had left the Tower of London for her coronation procession, where she was escorted to the Palace of Westminster to prepare for the coronation. She was accompanied by earls, lords, gentlemen and ambassadors and had two carriages following her, one of which contained her half-sister Elizabeth and her former step-mother, Anne of Cleves.
At 11am on the day of her coronation Mary processed into the Abbey in an open litter. The barons of the Cinque Ports carried a brocade canopy over her, exactly as they had done at her father’s coronation back in 1509. She was dressed in traditional crimson velvet robes, as a male monarch would be, and wore her hair loose. A queen consort traditionally wore white and gold for a coronation but as Mary was going to be ruling in her own right it was important that she be crowned more like a king to help emphasise her power and authority. Being the first queen regnant meant Mary had no precedent to follow either so she basically had to set her own standards.
Walking before her in the procession to the Abbey were knights, gentlemen, Councillors and the Bishop of Winchester. The Earl of Arundel, Mary’s Great Master of the Household, carried the ball and sceptre, the Marquis of Winchester carried the orb and the elderly Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (who had just been released from the Tower) carried the crown. Mary was carried in her litter up to the coronation chair which was on a raised platform so everyone could see her. Continue reading