On January 14, 1559, Queen Elizabeth is said to have made her royal entry in a solemn procession from the Tower of London through the City of London to the Palace of Westminster, the day before her official coronation. She was carried on a stretcher, accompanied by lackeys, officials, courtiers, including her ladies-in-waiting and her bodyguard. In the historical painting “Portrait of the Procession of Queen Elizabeth” we have a very pompous depiction of what the procession of Elizabeth might have looked like. This colorful image was painted towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign, about forty years after she became queen. It is said to have been painted by an unknown Anglo-Dutch artist, but is now often accepted and attributed to Robert Pick the Elder. Motives for the painting vary, but some say it served as a timely political propaganda tool to remind us of her tumultuous ascension to the throne.
Elizabeth’s ascension to the English throne can be compared to a rollercoaster ride with its emotional ups and downs. At birth, she was heir presumptive to the throne, but was marginalized and declared illegitimate as a result of the political maneuverings of her father Henry VIII during his tumultuous reign as King of England. He promptly reversed his decision in 1544, but still, after his death, the line of succession bypassed Elizabeth and her half-sister Mary in favor of their younger half-brother, Edward VI.
Apparently, luck did not smile favorably on Elizabeth or Mary. During Edward’s reign, influenced by the regency council, the young King Edward renounced both of his sisters’ longstanding claims to the throne, causing controversy in favor of his once-removed cousin Lady Jane Grey. The succession plan, thwarted by problems, immediately caused a crisis, especially after Edward’s death when Lady Gray attempted to legitimize her claim to the kingdom. But in a rare show of solidarity, the daughters of Henry VIII struck back, organizing at the head of a large army and galloping to London to reclaim what they considered their sovereign right. Populist Mary, ahead of her sister Elizabeth, was proclaimed Queen of England.
England was a dangerous place for Protestants, especially for the Protestant Elizabeth under Queen Mary, a devoted Catholic. Mary saw fit to impose her pro-Catholic dogmas on the whole kingdom and even made efforts to re-establish papal rule in England. She also went to great lengths to persecute and persecute Protestants in her kingdom. (Mary earned the nickname “Bloody Mary” for her efforts.) Mary even imprisoned Elizabeth briefly in the Tower of London in 1554, the same tower where Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, spent her last terrible days in captivity before she was beheaded. orders of Henry VIII. With this in mind, Elizabeth had good reason to fear the fate of her mother.
Elizabeth’s imprisonment in the tower was a direct response to the Protestant uprising that took place during Mary’s reign. Some believe it was a desperate act. Fortunately, Mary’s prosecution failed, including her attempt to punish her sister for treason. Elizabeth will be graciously released after no evidence of a conspiracy is proven.
In the last months of Mary’s reign, it became clear that she was mortally ill. Her Parliament encouraged her to name her sister Elizabeth as heiress. She reluctantly agreed and approved of Elizabeth’s succession. (A condition of Elizabeth’s succession was that she had to promise that she would not change Mary’s Catholic reforms and legislation. Of course, Elizabeth secretly had no intention of keeping her promises and, after Mary’s death, reversed her sister’s Catholic policy.)
After Mary’s death, as if she had not suffered enough humiliation, Elizabeth experienced a brief Catholic plot against her before the largely Protestant English Parliament finally called for Elizabeth to take her place as “Queen of this realm”. On the eve of her coronation, Elizabeth told the Lord Mayor and the people of London: “I will be as kind to you as a queen ever was to her people.” And with these timely words, Elizabeth I, in her coronation robe, adorned with Tudor roses and trimmed with ermine, became Queen of England at the age of 25 in Westminster Abbey, London, on May 15th.th January 1559.
This painting appears in the public domain.
*This article was first published on January 15, 2014. It has been updated here with a new title, introduction, and additional citation.