At around 5:00pm on Saturday 31st May 1533, Anne Boleyn emerged from the Tower of London where she had been lodged since Thursday. She was dressed in the French fashion, ‘flimy white, with a coronet of gold’, and her loose hair flowed down to waist length. She rode in a litter drawn by two palfreys – small dainty horses-draped in white damask.
Some reports say the crowds failed to remove their caps to the woman who took over from Queen Katherine and Anne complained to Henry with the words, ‘Sir, I liked the city well enough but I saw a great many caps on heads, and heard but few tongues.’ Eric Ives believed the crowds were ‘more curious than either welcoming or hostile’ and he gave little credit to hostile reports. We don’t know what the truth exactly is, however Anne must have been relieved, after the many years wait, as the procession cleared the city boundaries at Temple Bar and continued its way to Westminster where she would be crowned.
St Gabriel’s was situated in the middle of the road and Anne’s procession stopped here for the first part of the day. There was a tableau designed to celebrate Anne’s French links and her friendship with France. It included children dressed as merchants who welcomed Anne to the City in both English and French. The procession was headed by twelve servants belonging to the French ambassador Jean de Dinteville who is shown in Holbein’s masterpiece The Ambassadors. It was a compliment to France to be featured like this.
After enjoying the tableau, the procession split around the church and continued on its way down Fenchurch Street, Anne’s ladies riding along behind their mistress.
On the corner of Fenchurch and Gracechurch Street she was shown a tableau designed by Holbein. No one said anything but meaning would have been very clear to the queen as she read the Latin verses held by actors representing the classical figures of Calliope, Apollo and the muses of art and learning:
‘Anna comes, the most famous woman in all the world,
Anna comes, the shining incarnation of chastity,
In snow white litter, just like the goddesses,
Anna the queen is here, the preservation of your future.’
The group was seated upon a model of Mount Parnassus and the sacred fountain. Above Apollo’s head there was an eagle, which Chapuys believed had been placed there by the German Hanse merchants as a malicious reminder of the Emperor Charles V. However, this has been argued by historians such as Eric Ives who said that the Emperor’s eagle was two-headed and was blinded by Apollo’s brilliance, which isn’t a compliment to Charles V.
The next tableau was designed to hint to the pregnant queen about the lack of male heir and how everyone was expecting her to give one. Anne saw an open castle painted inside with clouds, angels and cherubs. Seated on top of a green hillock within the castle were figures representing St Anne (the mother of the Virgin Mary) and her descendants, including Jesus.
Back then there was a conduit in Cornhill, which carried water down from the springs in the hills above London. It was here that the next tableau was. Figures representing the Three Graces waited to greet the Queen, each announcing themselves as ‘Glad Heart’, ‘Stable Honour’ and Continual Success’.
For Anne’s coronation procession, the buildings of Cheapside were draped in cloth of gold and velvet. She was greeted by all the livery companies who stood on one side of the street and the general citizens on the other.
Opposite Honey Lane there were Latin speeches and music, static displays and heraldic devices. Anne then moved to the Eleanor Cross, which was located opposite the church of St Mary le Bow, where the Aldermen gave her a gold purse containing 1,000 marks.
Carter Lane backed onto St Paul’s churchyard, and near here Anne saw her next entertainment. At one of the gates to the churchyard, she saw an empty throne mounted high ready for her. Three elaborately dressed women waited below, the central figure holding a message, ‘Come my love, thou shalt be crowned.’
The watching crowd was thrown wafers bearing the words, ‘Queen Anne, when thou shalt bear a new son of the king’s blood, there shall be a golden world unto thy people.’
After watching a sweet display of 200 children reciting Latin poems to their new queen, she said ‘Amen’ with a ‘joyful, smiling face’. Anne Boleyn’s procession continued down Fleet Street and out of the City through Temple Bar on its way to Westminster.
Once at Westminster, Anne lodged overnight with the king and court at Whitehall, ahead of the day of her Coronation, which was set for Sunday 1st June.
‘The noble tryumphaunt coronacyon of Quene Anne, wyfe unto the most noble kynge Henry VIII’ by Wynkyn de Worde
‘In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn’ by Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger
‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’ by Eric Ives
Picture of Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession on The Tudors.