Elizabeth of York: Life Story

Chapter 9 : Coronation

Despite Elizabeth’s marriage to Henry having been proclaimed as the resolution to the conflict between Lancaster and York, not all former Yorkists were content with the outcome. Her cousin, the Earl of Lincoln; Viscount Lovell, a close friend of Richard III, and other Yorkist adherents were planning rebellion. Lincoln left England, without permission, and went to the court of Burgundy, where Elizabeth’s aunt, Margaret of York, was Dowager Duchess and carried on an inveterate campaign against Henry.

Not long after, a young man by the name of Lambert Simnel, who was the pupil of an Oxfordshire priest, was taken to Ireland and there proclaimed to be Edward, Earl of Warwick. Warwick, was, in fact, safely in the Tower of London. He was brought out and paraded in public to negate the story, but Simnel was crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on 24th May 1487. Some ten days later, Lincoln, Simnel and others landed at Barrow-in-Furness with a small army.

On 18th June, Lincoln’s army was defeated at the Battle of Stoke and the Earl killed. Elizabeth could feel her son’s future was now more secure. Henry, never unnecessarily vengeful, employed Lambert Simnel in his kitchens. Warwick remained confined to the Tower, and Lincoln’s younger brothers, Edmund and Richard de la Pole, continued to live unmolested.

During the period of danger, Elizabeth and Arthur were at Kenilworth Castle, which Henry had made the base of his operations to defeat the rebels.

With this first challenge to his authority quelled, and Elizabeth fully recovered from the birth of Arthur (she is recorded as in poor health immediately after it), plans began for her coronation. A book of ceremonial had been drawn up before Henry’s coronation, assuming that they would be crowned together, and probably much of the ceremonial described in it was simply transferred to a ceremonial for an individual coronation. Writs were sent out in September 1487, summoning the peers to attend Elizabeth to her coronation, fixed for 25th November.

Two days prior to the coronation, Elizabeth came by barge from Greenwich to the Tower of London, preparatory to the customary procession through London to Westminster. She was attended by her mother-in-law, and had an escort of barges from the Lord Mayor and the City Guilds, manned by rowers in the guild liveries. One of the barges carried a fire-breathing red Welsh Dragon.

On arrival at the Tower, she was greeted by her husband and all of the peers who had not been in her retinue. That night, eleven Knights of the Bath were created. The next morning, Elizabeth, dressed in robes of white cloth-of-gold, her long, fair hair loose, and covered with a light caul and a circlet of gold, studded with gems, emerged from her room. The honourable position of train-bearer was carried out by her sister, Cicely of York.

Elizabeth was conveyed in a litter through streets hung with tapestry and other valuable cloth. En route there were child singers, and tableaux, and the streets were thronged with spectators and well-wishers.

The procession was led by Henry’s uncle Jasper, Duke of Bedford and Lord Steward. He was married to Elizabeth’s aunt, Katherine Woodville. The Great Chamberlain was the Earl of Oxford, author of the victories at Bosworth and Stoke, whilst Henry’s step-father, the Earl of Derby, was Constable, the Earl of Nottingham was Earl Marshal, and the Duke of Suffolk was also present.  The inclusion of Nottingham and Suffolk emphasises Henry’s determination to bring Lancaster and York together. Nottingham had been ennobled by Richard III at his coronation, and Suffolk being the father of John, Earl of Lincoln.

Amongst Elizabeth’s female attendants were Cicely of York; her maternal aunt, Katherine, Duchess of Bedford; her paternal aunt, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk; the dowager Duchess of Norfolk (whose husband had been killed at Bosworth, fighting for Richard) and the Countess of Oxford.

The following morning, Elizabeth entered Westminster Hall, dressed in purple velvet and ermine. She waited under a canopy of state until the procession formed up, then walked on a carpet that stretched to the entrance of the Abbey. There she was crowned as Queen, her husband watching from a platform, near the altar.

The ceremony over, the Queen returned to Westminster Hall for the coronation feast. She presided over this alone, Henry again watching from a window.

Shortly after her coronation, Elizabeth received further land grants, and was also affirmed by Parliament to have the status of 'femme sole', to grant leases and sell lands without her husband’s permission – something that a married woman could not generally do.

Shortly after the coronation, Elizabeth’s sister, Cicely, was married to Viscount Welles. Lord Welles, a devoted Lancastrian, was Lady Margaret Beaufort’s half-brother. This was another example of Henry’s determination to mingle Yorkist and Lancastrian blood.

The role of Queen was, of course, principally about bearing heirs, but it was also about promoting a harmonious court and creating a regal setting that would impress foreign visitors. This was particularly important to Henry. With a dubious claim to the throne, it was important for him to keep an impressive court, in an age when wealth was strongly associated with display. Despite a later reputation for meanness, Henry indulged in lavish ceremonial., in which Elizabeth also played a part.

In the spring of 1488, Elizabeth took a full part in the ceremonial surrounding the annual Garter feast. On the Sunday after 23rd April, dressed in her robes as Lady Companion of the Order, and accompanied, as always, by her mother-in-law, Elizabeth was carried in a litter drawn by six horses, draped in cloth-of-gold to St George’s Chapel at Windsor. She was accompanied by twenty-one of her ladies, including her sister, Anne of York. The ladies rode, their white horses all saddled in cloth-of-gold, decorated with the white roses of York.

Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York

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