Saturday, June 1, 2013

Today in Tudor History: Anne Boleyn is crowned Queen of England!

Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn
It's common legend what tragedy would befall Anne not three years after becoming queen, but her coronation was an utterly triumphant day and all Tudor history buffs should celebrate it. June 1st, 1533, was Anne Boleyn's victory after seven years of intense strife for the throne, and to this day, few coronations have ever been so costly -- or so grand and memorable. It officially began two days earlier -- Anne spent the night in the Tower of London (where she would be imprisoned by 2nd May, 1536) and left on a royal barge the next morning. She was garbed in beautiful cloth of gold and led by a handsome entourage of Knights of the Bath. There is little basis to the legend that she was poorly received by hateful Londoners, although onlookers were certainly not so enthusiastic about having a new Queen. They would remain loyal to Catherine of Aragon until Anne gave them a male heir, and unfortunately, that never happened.

Anne Boleyn was at least six months pregnant, because within three months she would give birth to Elizabeth at Greenwich Palace in September. Her belly was visible through the dress, and she had her hand on it while sitting on St Edward's throne in Westminster Abbey. She was crowned with St Edward's Crown, which had only ever before been used to crown a male king-regnant. Historians conjecture this was because of Henry's strong belief that the child she was pregnant with was a male, and thus the next king of England. It wasn't -- but it was Elizabeth, who would someday preside over a golden age in British history. Her mother Anne Boleyn would be the last queen-consort ever to be crowned independently from her husband. Anne Boleyn's coronation would be followed by a great banquet in which Henry would be absent from, probably so that his presence would not detract from the new queen's singular glory. There would be fountains of wine in the street that the commons enjoyed, at least more than their new queen.

The past eventful months had led to this day -- Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII were secretly married (arguably for a second time), the Archbishop of Canterbury and Thomas Cromwell had worked tirelessly to set up laws which authorized them to rule on the king's marriage to Catherine of Aragon and then protect his new marriage from papal intervention, and of course there were preparations for the splendor of her coronation. Anne would rule a court of hundreds of servants that would be a center of art, learning, decadence and religious zest like no queen of England ever had before. She wasn't born to be queen of England, but it wouldn't be a stretch to say that she had the heart of one, or at least that she certainly knew how to play the part. Congratulations on your lucky day 480 years later!

More about Anne Boleyn's impact and legacy as queen-consort of England can be read, here.

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