Thursday, June 1, 2017

St. Thomas More and Anne Boleyn's Coronation

On June 1, 1533, Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England, the last of Henry VIII's wives to be crowned. Edward Hall described the event:

On 1 June Queen Anne was brought from Westminster Hall to St Peter’s Abbey in procession, with all the monks of Westminster going in rich copes of gold, with thirteen mitred abbots; and after them all the king’s chapel in rich copes with four bishops and two mitred archbishops, and all the lords going in their parliament robes, and the crown borne before her by the duke of Suffolk, and her two sceptres by two earls, and she herself going under a rich canopy of cloth of gold, dressed in a kirtle of crimson velvet decorated with ermine, and a robe of purple velvet decorated with ermine over that, and a rich coronet with a cap of pearls and stones on her head; and the old duchess of Norfolk carrying her train in a robe of scarlet with a coronet of gold on her cap, and Lord Burgh, the queen’s Chamberlain, supporting the train in the middle.

After her followed ten ladies in robes of scarlet trimmed with ermine and round coronets of gold on their heads; and next after them all the queen’s maids in gowns of scarlet edged with white Baltic fur. And so she was brought to St Peter’s church at Westminster, and there set in her high royal seat, which was made on a high platform before the altar. And there she was anointed and crowned queen of England by the archbishop of Canterbury and the archbishop of York, and so sat, crowned, in her royal seat all through the mass, and she offered at the said mass. And when the mass was done they left, every man in his order, to Westminster Hall, she still going under the canopy, crowned, with two sceptres in her hands, my Lord Wiltshire her father, and Lord Talbot leading her, and so dined there; and there was made the most honourable feast that has been seen.

The great hall at Westminster was richly hung with rich cloth of Arras, and a table was set at the upper end of the hall, going up twelve steps, where the queen dined; and a rich cloth of estate hung over her head. There were also four other tables along the hall; and it was railed on every side, from the high dais in Westminster Hall to the platform in the church in the abbey.

And when she went to church to her coronation there was a striped blue cloth spread from the high dais of the king’s bench to the high altar of Westminster on which she went.

One guest was absent: Sir Thomas More, former Chancellor of England. He had been invited and Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham, Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and John Clerk, Bishop of Bath and Wales even sent him money to buy new clothing. He responded with a witty but perhaps mistimed joke, and warning, telling a story about an emperor and a virgin:

an emperor . . .  had ordained a law that whosoever committed a certain offense (which I now remember not) except it were a virgin, should suffer the pains of death, such a reverence had he for virginity. Now so it happened that the first committer of that offense was indeed a virgin, whereof the Emperor hearing was in no small perplexity, as he that by some example fain would have had that law to have been put in execution. Whereupon when his Council had sat long, solemnly debating this case, suddenly arose there up one of his Council, a good plain man, among them, and said, ‘Why make you so much ado, my lords, about so small a matter? Let her first be deflowered, and then after may she be devoured.’ And so though your lordships have in the matter of the matrimony hitherto kept yourselves pure virgins, yet take good heed, my lords, that you keep your virginity still. For some there be that by procuring your lordships first at the coronation to be present, and next to preach for the setting forth of it, and finally to write books to all the world in defence thereof, are desirous to deflower you; and when they have deflowered you, then will they not fail soon after to devour you. Now my lords, it lieth not in my power but that they may devour me; but God being my good lord, I will provide that they shall never deflower me. (From William Roper's Life of Sir Thomas More, his notes for the authorized biography by Nicholas Harpsfield.)

More was right to warn these three bishops; they accepted Henry VIII's Supremacy over the Church and even aided the monarch in his efforts to become the lay Vicar of Christ in England (thus they were "deflowered"). Clerk would die after travelling to the Duchy of Cleves to explain the annulment of the marriage between Henry and Anne of Cleves in 1540/1541. Tunstall would end up deprived of his bishopric during the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I and eventually die under house arrest; Gardiner would spend five years in the Tower of London during Edward VI's reign (thus they were "devoured").

Certainly Anne Boleyn would be devoured, reigning as Queen for fewer than three years.

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