The Coronation of Henry and Katherina at Westminster Abbey

On 24 June 1509 Henry VIII and his bride, Katherina of Aragon, were crowned together as King and Queen of England. Henry was still a handsome teenage lad described as “cheerful and gamesome” with an unusually mild temper and an excellent sense of fair play. Katherina was a strawberry-blonde and beautiful princess who had overcome great sorrow and was known for her religious devotion and piety. The toothsome young royals were both beloved by their subjects and in love with one another; the kingdom rejoiced to see them on the throne and everyone assumed theirs would be a golden reign.

Catherine_of_Aragon_as_Mary_MagdaleneHenryVIII_1509 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, performed the ritual of royal investiture at Westminster Abbey. The earnest young sovereign swore his coronation oath and was anointed with holy oil before the Archbishop placed the crown of St. Edward the Confessor on Henry’s head. According to chronicler Edward Hall, the audience was “asked if they would take this most noble prince as their king and obey him. With great reverence, love and willingness they responded with the cry ‘Yea, Yea’.”  The Te Deum rang out as the freshly-made monarch was led to his throne by the preeminent bishops of his kingdom, where he received homage from the peers of his realm.

Throne

Humanists, who had been so key a part of Henry’s education, particularly rejoiced to see their favorite son take the crown. Thomas More proclaimed that Henry’s coronation “day consecrates a young man who is the everlasting glory of our age; This day is the end of our slavery, the fount of our liberty, the beginning of joy. Now the people, liberated, run before their king with bright faces.” William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, bragged that the new sovereign was “set not upon gold or jewels, or mines of ore, but upon virtue, reputation and eternal renown”. An older Henry would go on to behead More, imprison Blount’s daughter Gertrude, and judicially murder Blount’s son-in-law, Henry Courtney … but for the present there was only gladness among learned humanists to see one of their own made monarch.

Katherina was seated on a throne slightly lower than her husband’s and was crowned with much less ceremony. A thick gold circlet encrusted with sapphires, rubies, and pearls was lowered over her reddish-bright tresses while the crowd cheered and Henry beamed with delight to see his true love given her due.

The newly-crowned newlyweds then processed back to Westminster Hall for feasting and entertainment, surrounded by every noble who was physically able to attend them and cheered by an adoring throng.

Westminster Hall

Henry had wisely changed into a lighter crown for the duration of the celebrations, and sent St. Edward’s massive headdress back to the Tower under guard. Once at Westminster, “the lord marshal bearing his staff of office ushered all to their seats. Each noble and lord proceeded to his allotted place arranged earlier according to seniority. The nine-piece table being set with the king’s estate seated on the right and the queen’s estate on the left, the first course of the banquet was announced with a fanfare. At the sound the duke of Buckingham entered riding a huge charger covered with richly embroidered trappings, together with the lord steward mounted on a horse decked with cloth of gold. The two of them led in the banquet which was truly sumptuous, and as well as a great number of delicacies also included unusual heraldic devices and mottoes.”

At the end of the second course, Sir Robert Dymmocke, Henry’s chosen champion, charged into the hall on his palfrey. As was customary, Dymmocke threw down his gauntlet and issued a challenge to anyone who would dare suggest Henry was not the lawful king appointed by God. When no one contested Henry’s hallowed crown, the recently minted king gave his champion a gold goblet to reward him. After the feast, Dymmocke was allowed to test his prowess under the more congenial conditions of a tournament, which lasted well into the night.

In the wee hours of the morning, the tired but happy king and queen retired to the royal apartments of Westminster Palace, to rest before enjoying another several days of coronation celebrations. The future must have spread out before them, full of hope, full of dreams, and full of the confidence only the young and inexperienced can truly possess.

     

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