January 15: The Coronation of Elizabeth I

Today, on January 15, in 1559, Elizabeth I was crowned queen of England at Westminster Abbey in London. To commemorate the event, History Today has re-published an article from A.L. Rowse first released in May 1953 in honor of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s worth a read.

liz1_coronation

The coronation of Elizabeth I, at the age of 25, was pivotal in the history of England. Not only was her reign one of the country’s most successful, but it also oversaw the segue of England from the uncertain days of the early Reformation to the religious sentiment that the Stuarts oversaw in the 17th century. Coming on the heels of the reign of her half-sister, Mary I, which had made martyrs of an estimated 300 Protestants and brought England back into the fold of the Catholic Church, religious sensitivity was at an all-time high and those of the Reformed faith were eager to do away with Catholicism altogether.

But Elizabeth’s crowning was also a personal victory, which could easily have gone sideways any number of times, from when she was declared illegitimate by her father at the age of two-and-a-half to when Mary I imprisoned her in the Tower of London for her supposed participation in Wyatt’s Rebellion of 1554. At various points in her formative years, it seemed that Elizabeth had everything working against her – her mother, Anne Boleyn, had been publicly hated, divorced and executed; she spent several years labeled the bastard daughter of Henry VIII; and even when she was included back into the line of succession, she came after her younger brother, the future Edward VI, and Mary I, both of whom it could be reasonably expected would marry and produce heirs.

That they didn’t, and that Elizabeth managed to duck and weave through the militant Protestant and Catholic reigns that preceded hers, seems almost as miraculous as the fact that she then saw England through the next 50+ years uninterrupted, without marrying.

elizabeth_i_procession_portrait

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