On 24 June 1509 Henry, Prince of Wales, second son to the recently dead King Henry VII, gloried in a joint coronation with his wife of two weeks, Catherine of Aragon.
As they took the rule of England the country rejoiced and optimism flourished. A new era was dawning. A charming, handsome, young extrovert was replacing a tyrannical, paranoid old miser as King of England. A Spanish princess was to fill a throne long since vacated by a previously beloved Queen.
The Joint Coronation
The previous day the couple had enjoyed a procession through the richly decorated streets of London, towards Westminster. Catherine, despite her Spanish heritage, embraced English traditions for her part in the procedure. She was carried in a litter, draped in white, as were the horses that clattered beside her, one of them ridden by her husband. Catherine’s embroidered, satin dress was also white and her hair tumbled loose about her shoulders, delicately adorned with a coronet set with pearls. Henry’s attire was no less striking. He wore red velvet, trimmed with ermine and glimmering with precious stones.
The coronation took place at Westminster Abbey. Two thrones were placed ready before the high altar. Henry and Catherine were solemnly anointed and crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
After the serious solemnity of the ceremony came the party. An enormous feast was enjoyed by all the guests in Westminster Hall and continued long into the night. Further celebrations spilled over into the following days and included, dancing, concerts and jousting. The new king, Henry VIII, had not disappointed. He had confirmed the guests’ belief that this gregarious Prince knew how to celebrate like a King.
The poet, and former tutor of Henry, John Skelton, produced poetry to be read or sung during the celebrations. Skelton’s writing demonstrated that he believed the new King would always be fair and protect his people. However, the full extent of the joy experienced by the English on this day is beautifully surmised by a letter sent from Lord Mountjoy to the renowned Dutch Scholar, Erasmus: “Heaven and earth rejoices, everything is full of milk and honey and nectar. Avarice has fled the country. Our King is not after gold, or gems, or precious metals, but virtue, glory, immortality.”
This was unquestionably the feeling of the King as well as his people, for Henry was already looking towards the legend of King Arthur and the example of his own ancestor (and victor at the battle of Agincourt), Henry V, for his Royal inspiration.
And without doubt Henry’s need for glory and immortality would change England forever.