Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Coronation of Richard III

By noon on 1 May 1454, the city of London was bursting with excitement as the procession to Westminster Abbey began.  The King began from the Tower of London, after spending the night before within its walls as per tradition, and was joined by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and the rest of his family along the route to the Abbey.  Upon arrival at Westminster, Richard III remained on his mount while everyone else dismounted and entered the Abbey showing great dignity and poise to the commons, though inside he thought about the meaning of the rituals he was about to partake.  Once everyone had entered the church, the King dismounted and proceeded to the entrance of the Abbey where he was met by the Lord Bishops of Durham and of Bath.  The King was then accompanied on either side by the two Bishops to the Chair of Estate, upon being seated the ceremony began.  Although Thomas Bourchier had not yet been confirmed by the Pope as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard had insisted he preside over the ritual’s ceremonies.  He along with the highest ranking Great Officers of State precede to the east, south, west, and north of the Abbey and called for the Recognition of Richard as King to which the people acclaimed on each side wholeheartedly.  Bourchier then administered an oath to the King and afterwards the Bishop of Winchester presented Richard with a Bible then the Eucharist was celebrated, only to stop after the Nicene Creed.

Richard III’s outer robes were then removed leaving him in his white anointing robe and he proceeded to King Edward’s Chair that was positioned atop a dais with a canopy raised over it.  The Dean of Westminster poured concentrated oil into a spoon that Bourchier anointed the King with on his hands, head, and heart before blessing the King.  Richard was then enrobed again though with two different robes not the one he had previously worn, and was presented with spurs by Baron Cobham in his role as the Lord Great Chamberlain.  Bourchier, assisted by other bishops, presented the King with the Sword of State and Richard was enrobed again with two new garments on top of what he had already been enrobed with.  The Archbishop then delivered several of the Crown Jewels to the King, starting with the Orb which Richard received then returned so it could be placed on the Altar. Next, the King received a ring to signify the marriage between he and the nation, followed by the Sceptre with the Dove and the Sceptre with the Cross.  As he held the two sceptres, the Archbishop placed King Edward’s Crown on his head.  “God Save the King” was cried by all in attendance.

Richard III was then borne to the Throne and watched as his wife of almost 21 years entered the ritual.  Cicely was crowned Queen Consort in a simple ceremony then seated next to Richard III before the continuation of the ceremony.  The Archbishops and Bishops in order of precedence came before the throne and swore their fealty to the King.  Next in order of rank came the peers of the realm to pay homage, each set of peers led by their Premier member.  The clergy, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, followed next in paying homage.  Finally, the last to pay homage was the King’s own family members, each doing so individually first with Prince Edward and ending with Prince George.  Two of Richard III’s did not pay him homage, his eldest child Lady Anne Duchess of Exeter due to her marriage and his youngest Prince Richard who was barely 18-months old.  Once Prince George was finished, the Eucharist was continued from where it had been interrupted and completed.  Afterwards, the King proceeded to St. Edward’s Chapel within the Abbey preceded by the Bearers of the Sword of State, the Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice, and the Sword of Mercy.  The Sceptres and the Crown were laid upon the Altar before Richard was stripped of his two outer robes and enrobed in a purple one before placing the Crown back upon his head.  Richard then took up the Sceptre of the Cross and the Orb in each hand before leaving the chapel.  Richard III, accompanied on either side of him by the Bishops of Durham and of Bath, proceeded out of the Abbey followed by his family along with the prelates and peers of the realm.

The King was escorted to Westminster Palace by several guards as the crowds cheered, once in his own chambers he changed his attire from solemn to formal and festive.  Richard III went to Westminster Hall where his family, the peers of the realm, prelates of the church, and all members of Parliament were present awaiting his arrival.  As he entered the hallway, the crowd bowed and shouted “God Save the King” as he walked to the High Table where his family and the majority of his Council with their wives were awaiting him.  He took his place at the center of the table then sat down beginning the banquet celebrating his coronation.  The amount of food that was brought out that the guests ate was astonishing, but hardly had the meal begun when the door to the Hall opened and in walked a herald proceeding three men in full armor on horseback.  The Garter King-at-Arms challenged the lead knight about their presence; the lead knight announced himself as Sir Philip Dymoke then commanded his herald to announce his purpose.  “If there be any person, of what estate or degree so ever he be, that will say or prove that King Richard the Third is not the rightful inheritor and King of this Realm, I, Sir Philip Dymoke, here his Champion, who say he lie, and is a false traitor, offer my glove to fight in his quarrel with any person to death!”  Sir Philip then threw down the gauntlet making a loud sound in the quiet Hall.

After a few moments, Sir Philip’s herald picked up the gauntlet then marched towards the High Table as the Garter King-at-Arms stood aside however they stopped in the center of the Hall.  The herald made his announcement once again with Sir Philip throwing down his gauntlet at the end, again no one answered and the herald retrieved the glove.  The party marched up to the High Table in front of the King, on either side of Sir Philip was the Duke of Buckingham and the Duke of Norfolk as the Lord High Constable and Earl Marshal respectively.  Once again the herald made his announcement with Sir Philip throwing down his gauntlet, when no one answered the King stood and drank to the Champion from a gold cup then handed it to Sir Philip.  Richard then requested the three men to disarm themselves and to sit at his table to take part in the banquet; the three men accepted the King’s invitation and dismounted.  The three men walked out of the Hall to remove their armor as their horses were led back towards the door as the celebration began again in earnest.  A short time later, the three men returned to the Hall and sat at the High Table.

The banquet continued throughout the afternoon until twilight when the celebration finally ended, the King and Queen with the rest of the royal family departed the Hall to their chambers in the Palace.  While Cicely made sure that their children were in bed, Richard took time to look at several documents of news and intelligence that had arrived during the previous night and during the day.  Then the King went to his bedchamber with the Queen, as he lay in bed Richard finally relaxed as he reviewed the events of the day before realizing that he was trembling.  Neither the news of Henry VI’s death, nor his victory at Bosworth, or Parliament acknowledging him as King had made him tremble, the thought that he has been anointed in the sight of God as King made him feel a crown weighing on his head.  It was different when one wore a crown.