Sunday, December 14, 2008

Question from Chloe - Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII's coronation

Here I have some questions about the coronation of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, that I have been wondering about as COA is my fave Queen. Any information would be very welcome!

1. Was there a coronation book for Catherine of Aragon. I have seen one for Ann Bullen, but cannot find any information about one for Catherine.

2. What crown was Catherine wearing/crowned with, again I can find this info. about Ann Bullen but not for Catherine!

3. Did Catherine have an orb or septre, I think it's probably unlikely but I would like a definate answer please.

4. Were there any pagents/processions along the way to tminster Abbey? If so does anyone know what they were about/looked like?

If you have any good information about the coronation that I didn't ask about that would still be most welcome, and I would be so thankful! :)


Foose said...

In Six Wives, David Starkey says that "No oath was administered to her, nor, as a woman, was she invested with the sword or spurs. But she was anointed on her head and the breasts; the coronation ring was put on the fourth finger of her right hand, the crown on her head, the sceptre in her right hand and the ivory rod surmounted with the dove in her left."

In the procession beforehand, he says, "She wore her hair like a bride; long and loose and covered only with a 'coronal set with many rich orient stones [that is, pearls].'" The sources for this appear to be Hall's Chronicle, the Great Chronicle and Sir Thomas More.

No mention of any orb (Catherine's hands seem rather full), or which crown she was crowned with. Starkey says that all was in accordance with "The Royal Book" (Ryalle Book), which was also used I think for Anne Boleyn. I know people have issues with Starkey, but he's pretty obsessed with "The Royal Book" and I think he might be trusted in his account.

I left Roy Strong's book Coronation at the office and I'll check it tomorrow. It has an enormous amount on Anne Boleyn's coronation, I recall, and not much on Catherine. But he might have some more info.

Anonymous said...

1) I have done an extensive search through some of my subscription-only rare book databases and found no mention of any surviving "coronation book" for Katherine of Aragon. I suspect there are two reasons for this. First, printing was still very new to England in 1509 (even compared to Anne's coronation in 1533), so it is unlikely that one was ever produced. Second, the one produced for Anne in 1533 had a very specific purpose: much-needed positive propaganda. The English Crown and court were very quick to appreciate the power of the printed word, and I suspect they had the coronation book issued as a way of presenting Anne in the best possible light ... something that was not needed at Katherine's coronation almost a quarter-century earlier. Because Anne was resented by the populace, it was necessary to legitimize her in the public eye as queen, in place of Katherine, and the coronation book (The noble tryumphaunt coronacyon of quene Anne wyfe vnto the moost noble kynge Henry the .viij, London 1533) "glamorized" Anne and put a "positive spin" on her assuming the role of queen consort in place of Katherine.

2) The crown worn by Katherine of Aragon is not described in any printed 16th century sources that I find.

Anne's coronation book does not describe the specific crown used for her either, other than to say that "her grace receyved her crowne w[ith] all the cerymonyes therof as ther unto belongeth." I would be very curious if you have any citation that refers to an identifiable and specific crown being used.

The crowns among the modern crown jewels were all made in or after 1660, so none of the crowns existing today was ever worn by either Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn.

3) Katherine did not have an orb. There is a little pamphlet that survives, written by Stephen Hawes in 1509, that contains a poem of praise (a panegyric poem) on the occasion of the coronation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. It is entitled A joyfull medytacyon to all Englonde of the coronacyon of our moost naturall souerayne lorde kynge Henry the eyght, by Stephen Hawes, printed in London in 1509.
Within the pamphlet is a woodcut engraving showing the actual crowning. The image is already posted here on this site (

In it, Henry is holding both an orb and sceptre. Katherine holds only a sceptre. Because the orb is called The Sovereign's Orb, it would make sense that there would be only one, to correspond to one sovereign. The second orb in the modern crown jewels, Mary's Orb, was made for the coronation of William and Mary in 1688 because they were co-sovereigns (unique in English history).

4) Pageants and processions ... yes, definitely! Lavish ones. For English sources describing them, check Fabyan's Chronicle (or "The Concordaunce of Hystoryes"), Hall's Chronicle (contains detailed descriptions of the clothing worn), Holinshed's Chronicle, or the Chronicle of the Grey Friars. Modern printed versions of each of these are usually available in large university libraries, and you might also find them online.

Another excellent source that probably contains very detailed descriptions might be the Calendar of State Papers, Foreign for Spain. I do not have them at hand, but I have to suspect that the Spanish ambassadors sent meticulously detailed descriptions of everything back to Katherine's relatives in Spain. Foose seems to have ready access to them, so maybe he/she can be prevailed upon to provide us with some excerpts.

Anonymous said...

Chloe, in doing some background research in follow-up to Foose's reference to Starkey and the "Ryalle Book," I ran across a new book just out from Cambridge University Press that may interest you: The Drama of Coronation: Medieval Ceremony in Early Modern England by Alice Hunt of the University of Southampton.

The book may be a bit dense and academic, since it deals with a lot of theology and how the Reformation impacted the coronation ceremony itself, but it seems the first chapter deals in great detail with the coronation of Henry and Katherine. It might provide the detail you are seeking, or the footnotes may refer to sources you can track down for that detail.

Foose said...

I checked Coronation this morning, and as I suspected Catherine of Aragon gets little attention. Interestingly, however, the author says that Henry dispensed with the orb in his coronation ceremony, although evidently he was pictured with one (as Phd historian notes). "It resurfaces in response to particular circumstances in 1547 for Edward VI" - perhaps Phd historian could elucidate?

I did rummage through Letters & Papers, and irritatingly there is no useful description of Catherine's coronation. Even her letters back to Ferdinand do not describe what must surely have been the supreme moment of her life. Perhaps verbal descriptions were provided by special envoys who attended the ceremony.

Possible other useful sources might be Holinshed's Chronicle, and Sir Thomas More, who did give an eyewitness description of the procession (but not of the ceremony).

Anonymous said...

i am currently reading "anne boleyn: a new life of england's tragic queen" by joanna denny.

in chapter 9, england's queen, denny states that:

"she was led across westminster abbey by the monks all dressed in gold, followed by bishops and archbishops in their jewel-encrusted copes and mitres. the crown jewels were borne in state by those of the highest rank. cranmer himself records: 'my lord of suffolk bearing before her the crown, and two other lords bearing also before her a septre and a white rod, and so entered up into the high altar, where diverse ceremonies used about her, i did set the crown on her head, and then was sung te deum'>

on a high dais before the altar, anne was anointed by cranmer, who placed the crown of st. edward on her head. this was a singular honour, for no other consort has ever been crowned with the same crown as the reigning monarch. effectively, henry was creating anne as his queen regnant. the king himself watched the whole ceremony from a hidden vantage point in order not to take pre-eminence."

that's not the first place i've read that anne was crowned with st. edward's crown. i also understand her to be the only queen consort in england's history to be crowned with the same crown as the monarch.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much all of you for your responces. Foose I agree that it is very irratating there is little descripion of the coronation! I have read Hall's account, which is very good and goes in to deatil, and I have read some of More's account. Thanks for letting me know other sources and good books. Thanks again! Any additional info I did not ask for would again nbe most welcome!

Anonymous said...

Foose, I have not yet had time to consult a reliable description of Edward VI's coronation ceremony, but if the orb was re-introduced "in response to particular circumstances," I have to assume that the circumstance was Edward's title as Supreme Head of the Church. Edward was the first English monarch crowned after that style and title were created, and his own staunchly protestant inclinations would have leant the title significant personal meaning. The orb itself, surmounted with a cross, symbolizes Christ's dominion over the world, and its use in English/British coronations beginning with Edward have symbolized the Crown's dominion over Christ's earthly church in England. Edward's pro-Protestant "handlers" (Seymour et al) were no doubt keen to make use of the orb's symbolism in order to promote their own agenda for reforming the English church.

Nikki, without having immediate access to Denny's book and her footnotes (if she has any), I have to say I am VERY skeptical about how reliable her account is. Please remember that Denny was a novelist, not a historian. As such, she wrote fiction ... she made up huge portions of her stories. And while her biography of Anne Boleyn was sold as non-fiction, it is nonetheless undoubtedly comparable to Mary Luke's "biography" of Jane Grey and really little more than historical fiction. The book jacket alone indicates that Denny invented much of the detail, rendering the book fiction. So unless she is very meticulous in her use of footnotes, I have to caution you not to believe every word Denny says, including in regard to Anne's coronation. Hall's Chronicle, from an eye-witness account, does not state that St Edward's crown was used, for example, leading me to question Denny's account.

Anonymous said...

In reference to Denny's book and the question of the use of St. Edward's crown being used for Anne Boleyn's coronation, I found the source! :)

Denny, as well as David Starkey in his "Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII", cite Hall's "Chronicle". Denny uses pages 798-805 and Starkey used page 803 - they both describe the crown being used as being St. Edward's and that Anne did have a smaller/lighter one made that was substituted and worn for the rest of the ceremony after the actual coronation.

Anonymous said...

Other books had made reference to Anne being crown with st. edward's crown. Maria Louis Bruce's Anne Boleyn pg 226,and J.J Scarisbrick 's Henry VIII,pg 313. The orignal source comes from "letter and Papers,foreign and domestic,of the reign of Henry VIII by Gairdner Brewer,and "Chronicle by Edward Hall.

Foose said...

I don't have the Alice Hunt book but I do have Jean Wilson's review of it from the Times Literary Supplement. There's still no mention of Catherine's coronation, but there's an interesting but somewhat cryptic tidbit about Anne Boleyn's coronation relating to her annulment:

"... it is clear that her coronation is contingent on her pregnancy; the child in her womb is assumed to be a boy. (This may explain Thomas Cranmer's annulment of Anne's marriage immediately before her execution.)"

I'm not sure how the annulment could be conditioned on the sex of the child, unless perhaps there was a tortuous elucidation of "free consent" - perhaps Henry's consent to marriage had been obtained on the promise of a male child. Or mistaken identity - he thought Anne was the future mother of a male child, not a female one. But this reasoning seems very tenuous.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to both Ashley and Anonymous for those references.

For those how might be interested, you can read the account in Hall's Chronicle via scanned images of an original 16th century printing in the library of the University of Pennsylvania at

Anonymous said...

thank you for finding other sources! i know i've read it in other places, but didn't have a chance to google yet.

Anonymous said...

Hall's Chronicle, page 798, describes how St Edward's Crown was used for Anne, but that after the singing of the Te Deum Cranmer replaced with the lighter model specially made for her. Anne Boleyn is the only consort to have worn St Edward's Crown.

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of 'coronation books', do take a look at the transcription I did of Wynkin de Worde's for Anne Boleyn in 1533:



Foose said...

Julia Fox, in her book Sister Queens, states that Catherine of Aragon was crowned with "St. Edith's crown." She makes this comment not in the chapter on Catherine's coronation, but on Anne Boleyn's:

"But [Anne Boleyn] was not crowned with St. Edith's crown, as Katherine had been. For Anne, it was St. Edward's crown itself."

The endnotes for the chapter do not state a source for this specific statement, so I'm not sure where she got her information.

I'm not familiar with this crown, although the name might indicate it is the pendant of St. Edward's crown, a consort's crown - Edith being the name of Edward's wife. However, I don't believe that this Edith, daughter of Earl Godwin, was ever beatified; St. Edith more usually refers to various Anglo-Saxon princesses who lived and died as virgins. One source I looked at said that "St. Edith's crown" was actually made for Mary of Modena, in the 17th century.