Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Mass at Elizabeth I's Coronation

In 1953, as England prepared to see Queen Elizabeth II crowned, A.L. Rowse wrote an article filled with details about the preparation and celebration of Queen Elizabeth I's coronation on Sunday, January 15, 1559, culminating with her anointing and receiving the ornaments (gloves, sword, sceptre, and orb):

Now she was vested for the anointing; buskins, sandals and girdle put on, and over all a tabard of white sarsnet, the vestment called the colobium sindonis. Upon her head was placed a coif to protect the holy oil from running down – the coif, we know from the accounts, was of cambric lace; there were gloves of white linen and fine cotton wool to dry up the oil after the anointing. We do not know, but, presumably, Elizabeth was anointed in the five places usual then: palms of the hands, breast, between the shoulders, on the inside of the elbows, and lastly on the head. The anointing over, the Queen was invested and made ready for the delivery of the ornaments, the symbols of power. The gloves were presented to her by the lord of the manor of Worksop, who was the Earl of Shrewsbury – subsequently keeper of Mary Stuart and husband of Bess of Hardwick. The sword was offered to the Queen and redeemed by Arundel, as Lord Steward. Last came the delivery of the sceptre and the orb. Thus equipped, she was crowned, with all the trumpets sounding; and, though our account does not mention it, no doubt all the peers and peeresses put on their coronets at that moment. After that came the homaging. The Queen had re-delivered the sword and laid it on the altar, and now returned to her chair of estate. The Bishop of Carlisle put his hand to the Queen’s hand and did homage first. Then followed the temporal peers first kneeling and then kissing the Queen; the bishops likewise. This was a reversal of the traditional order followed at Mary’s coronation: with that pious devote the Church came first; Elizabeth thought more of the temporal than of the spiritual.

When the bishop began the mass, the Queen was seated holding sceptre and orb. The epistle and gospel were read in both Latin and English, and the gospel was brought her to kiss. She then made her second offering, going to the altar, preceded by three naked swords and a sword in the scabbard. There she kissed the pax. But immediately upon the consecration of the elements beginning, it seems undoubted that the Queen withdrew to her traverse*. Let us hope that she took the opportunity to have some refreshment, before the next stage, the procession to Westminster Hall for the banquet. She certainly changed her apparel and came forth in a ‘rich mantle and surcoat of purple velvet furred with ermines’.

For the last stage, she left bishops and clergy behind her in the Abbey – they had after all performed their function and served her turn – and carrying sceptre and orb in her hands, ‘she returned very cheerfully, with a most smiling countenance for every one, giving them a thousand greetings, so that in my opinion’ – says an Italian onlooker – ‘she exceeded the bounds of gravity and decorum.’ She could well afford to be pleased with herself. She had been crowned with full Catholic ritual without committing herself to the maintenance of her sister’s Catholicism, indeed leaving herself free to follow the course she thought best for the country.

*Rowse describes the traverse earlier in the article:

Lastly, we see the disposition of St Edward’s chapel; and we learn from this that the ‘Queen’s traverse to make her ready in after the ceremonies and service done’ is placed within it on the south side of the altar. Before the altar are placed the cushions for the Queen to kneel upon ‘when she shall offer to St Edward’s shrine’. Outside the chapel, in the sanctuary on the south side are placed ‘the carpet and cushions for the Queen to kneel upon when she taketh her prayers to Almighty God before she doeth to (be) anointed and crowned. The carpet is of blue velvet and the cushions of cloth of gold.’ Straight in front of the high altar is shown ‘the carpet of cloth of gold and cushions of the same for the Queen to be anointed’. This lay-out of the space clears up one or two points that have been matter of historical dispute; for example, it makes it quite clear that the traverse to which the Queen retired at an important moment in the service was off the stage entirely: it was into St Edward’s chapel that she withdrew.

These notes are part of the debate about what happened at the Coronation when the central religious service, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, was celebrated. Only one bishop would participate in the ritual of the Coronation (placing the crown on her head and anointing her), Bishop Owen Oglethorpe of Carlisle and he had previously disobeyed Elizabeth when she demanded he not elevate the Consecrated Body and Blood of Jesus when celebrating Mass at Court and therefore he probably celebrated Mass according to the Catholic Rite at her Coronation too:

He showed some firmness when called upon to say mass before the queen in the first days of her reign. Elizabeth forbade him to elevate the Host, which, according to a Roman authority, he insisted on doing (Strype, Annals, vol. i. pt. i. p. 73). The coronation soon followed. In the vacancy of the see of Canterbury, it naturally fell to the Archbishop of York to perform the ceremony; but Heath, alarmed by ominous presages of a change in religion, refused to officiate. Tunstall of Durham was too old, and perhaps shared in Heath's objection. It devolved, therefore, on Oglethorpe, as his suffragan, to take his metropolitan's place, and on 16 Jan. 1559, the other diocesan bishops attending, with the exception of Bonner, who, however, lent him his robes for the function, he placed the crown on the head of Elizabeth, but it is asserted that he never forgave himself for an act the momentous consequences of which he hardly foresaw, and remorse for his unfaithfulness to the church is said to have hastened his end.

There has been some debate about what happened however, since some reports are that Father George Carew, Elizabeth's new Dean of the Chapel Royal, celebrated Mass as Elizabeth I wanted it celebrated. The Wikipedia article on the Coronation seems to sum up the controversy and different views and sources:

The most controversial element of the ceremony was the Coronation Mass and Elizabeth's participation in it, since the three surviving eye-witness reports are either obscure or contradictory. There is no clear consensus amongst modern historians as to what actually occurred. It is evident that the Epistle and the Gospel were read in both Latin and English, a departure from the Catholic custom. At some point during the mass, Elizabeth withdrew to the "traverse", a curtained off area behind the high altar and next to St Edward's shrine, a private space in which the monarch could make the several changes of dress required for the ceremonial. David Starkey asserts that the mass was sung by Bishop Oglethorpe who elevated the host, prompting Elizabeth's early withdrawal.[31] John Guy[32] and Lisa Hilton both state that the royal chaplain, George Carew, sang the mass without elevation and administered Holy Communion to the queen inside the traverse.[33] A. L. Rowse states that Oglethorpe sang the mass and that Elizabeth withdrew before the consecration.[5] Roy Strong writes that Carew sang the mass without elevation, but that Elizabeth did not receive Communion, citing her reported conversation with the French ambassador in 1571 that 'she had been crowned and anointed according to the ceremonies of the Catholic church, and by Catholic bishops without, however, attending mass'.[34]

Here's another discussion. This is why history is always so fascinating: what really happened? what is the significance of what really happened?

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