Tuesday 15 January 2019

Big Day

Today is a big day – yes, the 460th anniversary of the coronation of our greatest Queen, Elizabeth I. On this date in 1559, chosen by the astrologer John Dee, Elizabeh was crowned in Westminster Abbey – not by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had died on the day of her accession, but, all other candidates proving too controversial, by the relatively lowly Bishop of Carlisle, Owen Oglethorpe. The crowning itself was one element in a four-part ritual, which also included the Vigil Procession (in which Elizabeth sailed in the royal barge from Whitehall to the Tower of London), the spectacular Royal Entry into the City of London and Westminster, and the lavish post-coronation feast at Westminster Hall, at which the Queen's Champion, Sir Edward Dymoke, rode into the hall on horseback in full armour and issued the traditional gauntlet-throwing challenges called for on such occasions. The Queen had contributed some £16,000 of her own money (a huge sum then) towards the cost of all this splendid pageantry, and it seems to have been money well spent, as Elizabeth's subjects were duly awed and impressed by the grandeur of the royal spectacular.
  The coronation service itself showed Elizabeth's skill in navigating the dangerous strait between the conflicting demands of Catholicism and Protestantism. Indeed she managed to fudge things so effectively that none of the witnesses seems to have been entirely sure what happened. After the ceremony she was 'presented for the people's acceptance' amid a great tumult of fifes, trumpets, drums, organs and bells.
  Elizabeth had acceded to the throne on the death of her half-sister Mary, and her Council and other peers immediately came to Hatfield to pledge their allegiance. The young Queen, just 25 years old, addressed them thus:

'My lords, the law of nature moves me to sorrow for my sister; the burden that is fallen upon me makes me amazed, and yet, considering I am God's creature, ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield, desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be the minister of His heavenly will in this office now committed to me. And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so shall I desire you all ... to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth. I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel.'

You don't hear that kind of talk these days...

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