Anne Boleyn’s Coronation Procession
31st May 1533
At 5pm Anne Boleyn left the Tower of London and progressed through the streets of London towards Westminster Hall. She was supposed to leave the tower at 2pm but there were some delays in organising such a huge event and so many people.
First in the massive procession came twelve servants of the French ambassador, Jean de Dinteville, wearing blue velvet with yellow and blue sleeves. They had white plumes in their hats and they rode horses which had cloth of blue with white crosses. Next came the gentlemen of the Royal Household, walking two astride. Then came nine judges wearing scarlet gowns. Following them came the Knights of the Bath which had been newly created the previous night. Next came members of the government, church and other men of noble status including the Archbishop of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Venetian Ambassador, the French Ambassador, the Mayor of London, other bishops, earls and marquesses. Also in this group were William Howard who was the acting Deputy Marshal and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk who was the acting Constable of England.
Following these noble men came Anne Boleyn herself. Anne wore a dress in the French fashion which was made of white cloth of gold and her hair was down and flowing over her shoulders. Upon her head she wore a coif and circlet which was set with very precious stones. She rode in a litter which was decorated also in white cloth of gold and pulled by two palfreys which were also covered in white demask. Covering the litter was a canopy of cloth of gold.
Behind Anne’s litter where was Lord Borough, Anne’s chamberlain and her master of horses, William Coffin. After these two men came Anne’s ladies, twelve which were dressed in crimson velvet (one of those ladies may have been Anne’s sister Mary!) Following these ladies were two carriages decorated in red cloth of gold which carried the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and the Marchioness of Dorset and perhaps even Anne Boleyn’s mother. Then came many more of Anne’s ladies riding horseback.
It should be noted that several important people did not attend the coronation pageant including the Duchess of Norflk and Sir Thomas More. King Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary Tudor (wife of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk) also did not attend but it should be noted that she was extremely ill at the time and close to death.
There is some debate as to the reaction of the crowds to Anne Boleyn and her huge and impressive coronation procession. Some reports state that the crowds were hostile or at least silent, refusing to take off their caps. Another reports states that the people saw Henry and Anne’s HA motif and read it as “HA HA” and laughed at the future Queen. Yet other versions of the event state that the whole affair was magnificent with enormous crowds. Unfortunately we do not know the true thoughts and reactions of the people watching, but whatever it was surely the procession must have been quite spectacular!
On the way of the procession there were several pageants which included one of Apollo and the nine muses on Mount Parnassus which was designed by Hans Holebin himself. Another pageant was of a large stump in which white and red roses spilled. A white falcon (the bird on Anne Boleyn had taken on her badge) came down from heaven and landed on the stump. Then came an angel which wore armour came down and gave the falcon a crown. A third pageant was of St Anne surrounded by her children and at this poetry was read which spoke of England’s hope that the child Anne was carrying would be a son. Another pageant had angels giving crowns to Anne and a woman stating that when Anne Boleyn gave birth to a son there will be a golden world. There was also a fountain which followed with wine and children which read Anne poetry.
When Anne Boleyn finally arrived at Westminster Hall she was welcomed by King Henry VII and then had some light refreshments before thanking everything and retiring to her chambers.
I can only imagine how Anne must have been feeling at this time. Seven long years of courtship, frustrating and waiting was finally coming to fruition. Not only had she married Henry VIII and had been recognised by God and law as his official wife, but now she was about to be crowned Queen and take her place by her husband, King Henry VIII’s side as Queen of England.
Yet in addition to this major event in Anne’s life it should also be noted that she was at this point in time six months pregnant. The strain of the procession and the coronation the next day must have been utterly exhausting for Anne, yet she held herself with great poise and dignity. After all in her mind and life she believed that she was carrying the future heir to the Tudor dynasty.
The Coronation Process of Anne Boleyn
Hu asdf Ives, E 2009, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.
Ridgway, C 2012, ‘31st May 1533 – Anne Boleyn’s Coronation Procession’, viewed 31st May 2012, Available from internet < http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/19003/31st-may-1533-anne-boleyns-coronation-procession/>.
Weir, A 1991, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, New York.