The Coronation of Elizabeth I


“….I will be as good unto you as ever a queen was unto her people.”

These were the words of Elizabeth I on the eve of her coronation on this day, the 15th January, 1559. Not bad for a daughter of Henry VIII, who himself declared her illegitimate in his turbulent career as King of England. Fortunately, he would reverse this decision in 1544.

However, there were more troubled days ahead for Elizabeth, when her half-sister Mary imprisoned her briefly in the Tower of London in 1554. In the same tower her mother Anne Boleyn had spent her last horrible days as a prisoner before being beheaded on the orders of Henry VIII. Elizabeth had good reason to fear the same fate.

In a brief background to Elizabeth’s rise to the throne, England was a dangerous time for Protestants under Elizabeth’s half sister’s reign, in which, she shared a very stormy relationship. Queen Mary, a devote Catholic, imposed pro Catholic dogma and made efforts to restore papal rule again in England. She went to great lengths to prosecute Protestants which included the barbaric act of burning. Mary would earn the nickname “Bloody Mary” for her prosecutions of Protestants by her opponents.

Elizabeth’s tower imprisonment was a response to the Protestant rebellion that ensued during Mary’s reign. Was it an act of desperation on Mary’s part to imprison her Protestant sister ? Mary’s prosecution would largely fail, including her attempt to punish her sister for treason. Elizabeth would be released after no evidence of a conspiracy could be proved.

During the last months of Mary’s reign, it became clear that she was now mortally ill. Her parliament urged her to name her sister as heir apparent. She reluctantly agreed and approved the succession of Elizabeth. (A condition of Elizabeth’s succession was a promise of sorts that Elizabeth wouldn’t change her Catholic reforms and legislation. Elizabeth never kept her promise.)

After Mary’s death, Elizabeth survived a brief Catholic plot against her, to be largely hailed by the majority of English lords who were Protestant. The English parliament would be called to announce that Elizabeth would take her place as ‘queen of this realm’.

Below is a clip from the movie Elizabeth (1998) starring Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I. I have decide to share the scene of the coronation with you, to give you a feel of what it may have been like to be part of such a historic day in English history. Even though it is an interpretation of what may have happened, pay attention to her coronation robes which are very similar to the portrait at the top of this article. Enjoy !

Notes and Further Reading

Peter Ackroyd, The History of England Volume II: Tudors, MacMillan, 2012.

Christopher Hibbert, The Virgin Queen: A personal history of Elizabeth I, Tauris Parke, 2010.

“….I will be as good unto you as ever a queen was unto her people”: quoted in DK, History of Britain and Ireland, Dorling Kindersley, 2011

Categories: History

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. Informative blog post, Robert. I watched “Anne of a Thousand Days” again recently. What an amazing world the royals made during those times. The battle of religion and rule played such an important role. (First time I’ve seen you blog! you should share more often.)

    • Nice of you to find me ! I usually plug my blog on google+ publicly and through many of the different communities. Are you on wordpress too ? Please visit again. I usually post 2-3 times a week ! I haven’t seen “Anne of a Thousand Days” Will have to check it out.

  2. Great post. Religious belief seems to be under many of the words fighting and it’s around today too.

  3. Ya Robert, I’ve never seen your blog, but in the past I saw posts to communities. I have you in three circles like I do many friends, but I rarely see their posts either. The movie stars Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold! One of her best performances, not his, however. Great time period movie.

  4. Ah, Cate. My favorite actress in maybe my favorite movie. I just finished Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies and laugh every time the wee, inconsequential princess Elizabeth is offhandedly mentioned. Hah. We know what’s coming! Thanks for the post!

    • Indeed, Cate is a great actress. Also winner of the recent Golden Globe awards. (We) Aussies seem to rule the world (Hollywood at least) Lol. What did you think of the sequel to Elizabeth ?

      • Oh, hah. I didn’t realize I was building the Aussie ego with my statement. LOL!
        As to the sequel – I think it’s hard to match to story and spectacular character transformation of the first film. But seeing her in armor at the cliffs of Dover and the rousing speech is memorable. Sequels are tough.

  5. In Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast, they insinuated that she left the country in a dire financial situation. I’d never heard that. You usually get a single narrative on historical figures from such a distant time, but if you dig deeper…

    • I haven’t heard that either, will have to look into it. I plan on doing an article on her again for my Great Empires series. Mike Duncan is a legend. Have download all his new Revolution podcasts, but have yet to listen to any of them.

  6. Hello: I want to tell you, I really like your website, is very interesting, I will be visiting often, your friend, PE ….;)

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