On this day in 1559—also a Sunday, and one that was “frosty and crisp, with a light covering of snow on the ground,” according to the historian Alison Weir—Elizabeth Tudor was crowned Queen Elizabeth I of England, France, and Ireland at Westminster Abbey. She had actually been queen for almost two months, her half sister, Mary, having died on November 17. But the astrologer John Dee was consulted, and after poring over his charts he decided that January 15 would guarantee a glorious and prosperous reign. Score one for Dr. Dee.
The Queen emerged [writes Weir] from Westminster Hall, wearing her coronation robes beneath a swirling mantle of embroidered silk lined with ermine, with fine silk and gold stockings and a crimson velvet cap adorned with Venice gold and pearls. To the joyous sound of fifes, drums, portable organs and all the bells of London’s churches, she went in procession from Westminster Hall to the Abbey along a blue carpet beneath a canopy borne by the Barons of Cinque Ports; she was followed by the Duchess of Norfolk, who bore her train. No sooner had Elizabeth passed than the crowds fell upon the carpet, tearing off pieces as souvenirs, and almost knocking over the hapless Duchess in the process.
The abbey “glowed with the light of hundreds of torches and candles,” Weir writes, and you can see that in this video, which not only attempts to reproduce Elizabeth’s coronation couture, but then throws in the candles for free.
A version of this post was originally published on January 15, 2012.
IMAGES: Elizabeth in her coronation robes (artist unknown); according to this site, this is the astrological chart consulted by John Dee in order to determine the queen’s coronation date; John Dee (artist unknown)