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Elizabeth I Crowned Queen of England

This Day in World History

January 15, 1559

Elizabeth I Crowned Queen of England

The day was frosty, and some snow lay on the ground. Nevertheless, thousands of Londoners and visitors turned out to see the 25-year-old Elizabeth I’s coronation in Westminster Abbey.

Elizabeth had succeeded to the throne the previous November, when her half-sister Mary I had died. Astrologer John Dee had chosen the date of January 15 for her coronation because it was a propitious day. That date also gave Elizabeth two months to plan her official entry onto the English throne—an entry she intended to make memorable to impress both her people with her readiness to rule and rival nations with English power and wealth.

The day before the coronation, Elizabeth was carried on a sedan through London’s streets to cheering crowds. She accepted interruptions from ordinary folk in the crowd, watched the five pageants staged at various stops along the way, and smiled when one member of the crowd shouted a fond remembrance of her father, Henry VIII.

On coronation day, a Sunday, she walked on a blue carpet from a palace to Westminster Abbey amid the pealing of all the city’s bells. The crowd swarmed onto the rich carpet behind her and tore it to pieces for souvenirs. The ceremony included traditions dating back hundreds of years, but some hints of change, too. Some English sections were added to the Latin ceremony—hers was the last coronation to be carried out in Latin— and Elizabeth held an English Bible, not a Latin one, when she was proclaimed “Defender of the True, Ancient, Catholic Faith.” After the ceremony, the new queen went off with guests to the coronation feast.

The coronation was quite a show and, for once, predictions of grandeur and glory proved true. After years of turmoil, England embarked on a long period of stability and brilliance under Elizabeth, who came to be called Gloriana.

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