Anne Boleyn's Coronation

Chapter 2 : By Barge to the Tower of London

On Thursday, 29th May 1533, the Mayor, Sir Stephen Peacock (aptly named, being a representative of the Haberdashers’ Guild), the Aldermen and representatives of the great City Guilds assembled in a flotilla of craft to row down to Greenwich.

Collar of SS

At the head of the procession was a boat filled with gunpowder, and a green dragon, breathing fire and making “hideous” noises. Next, came the Mayor, wearing his collar of gold “SS”, sailing in a barge with musicians playing shawms and sackbuts (types of harp and wind-instruments). The boat was decorated with banners of silk and gold and escutcheons displaying the arms of the King and Queen. Nearby, was a barge carrying a giant model of a crowned white falcon (the new Queen’s personal emblem) surrounded by singing maidens.

In total, some fifty gorgeously decorated barges rowed to Greenwich, all keeping at least the distance of two craft’s-length. At the water steps at Greenwich, the lords “spiritual and temporal” had been ordered to assemble by 3pm to watch Queen Anne enter her own barge.

According to Chapuys, the Emperor’s Ambassador, there had been some contretemps about Anne’s barge. It had been that of Queen Katharine, and had not only been commandeered by Anne’s Chamberlain, Sir Thomas Burgh, but the arms of Katharine had been defaced. Cromwell told Chapuys that the King had chastised the Chamberlain for his disrespect to the arms and for not using another barge, of which there were plenty.

Tower of London from the River Thames

The flotilla then turned and moved up the Thames towards the Tower. As well as the addition of Queen Anne’s barge, there were also boats carrying the Dukes, Earls and other high-ranking nobles. On reaching Wapping, word was sent ahead to the Tower which began its gun salute, firing four guns simultaneously. In all, some thousand rounds were fired.

On arrival at the Tower of London, Anne was received by Sir Edward Walsingham and Sir William Kingston, Lieutenant and Constable of the Tower respectively. She walked into the Tower grounds, attended by the Kings-at-Arms, and with her train held up by her step-grandmother, Agnes, Duchess of Norfolk and her Chamberlain. As she processed, the senior nobles came forward to greet her, until inside the gates she was met by her husband, who with a “loving countenance”, embraced her and kissed her. They went in to supper, which was followed by a sumptuous “void” (sweet course).

The following day, Anne rested at the Tower, preparatory to the procession through the City which traditionally marked the day before the coronation. On the Friday evening was the ceremony of the Creation of Knights of the Bath. Eighteen new knights were created, including Sir Francis Weston, whose star not only rose with Anne’s, but fell with hers only three years later.

Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey. Chapel of the Order of the Bath. Current order dates from 18th century.