Richard III and Anne Neville’s Coronation, held on Sunday, 6 July 1483, was the most magnificent in medieval history.
It was a triumph for Richard, as most of the English peerage had attended – both Yorkist and Lancastrian, and it had set a new precedent in splendour.
Most of the preparations were in place for Edward V’s coronation, including most of the rich ermines, velvets and cloth of gold worn by many of the participants. Final preparations would have continued through the night, right up to the last minute.
Coronation ceremonies began on 4 July when Richard III and his wife Anne travelled by barge, accompanied by the mayor and City livery companies, from Baynard’s Castle to the Tower of London, to take up residence in the royal lodgings at the Tower of London.
Richard also created seven new Knights of the Bath during the following day.
Later that afternoon, in a magnificent display of pageantry, Richard and Anne made their state entry into London, to allow the people to see and acclaim their new king. They stopped every now and then to hear loyal speeches, and be entertained by minstrels or choirs.
After supper, Richard III took a ceremonial bath, as part of a cleansing ritual, before the coronation, and he later followed instructions from the abbott of Westminster. It is doubtful whether Richard or Anne had a good night’s sleep that night.
On Sunday morning, both Richard and Anne were ceremonially dressed for the day’s events, before they were accompanied the nobles into Westminster Hall at 7.00 am.
Senior churchmen said prayers before the King and the Queen, wearing magnificent robes, but, according to custom, walked barefoot in procession on striped cloth, entering through the west door, to St Edward’s Shrine within Westminster Abbey.
The Duke of Buckingham, as the first peer of the realm, played a major role by carrying Richard’s train and The Lord high steward’s staff. However, Buckingham refused to allow his wife, the former Katherine Woodville, to attend, as he did not wish to “parade his Wydville wife for all to see”!
John Howard carried the crown instead. The Earl of Northumberland carried the blunt sword of mercy and Lord Stanley carried the constable’s mace – even though he was not a constable!
Margaret Beaufort, now Lady Stanley (and Henry Tudor’s mother), carried the Queen’s train. The Duchesses of Norfolk and Suffolk led the rest of the Queen’s attendants.
They were escorted to a platform covered in red cloth beside St Edward’s Chair whilst the Archbishop presented him to the people, and asked them to assent to the Coronation, with the traditional response of “King Richard, King Richard, King Richard, yea, yea, yea.”
Richard and Anne were led to the altar, as he prostrated himself whilst prayers were read over him. An unnamed bishop preached a short sermon, after which Richard was asked to swear to uphold the law, do justice, as well as supporting and defending the Church. As an innovation, Richard took the oath in English, rather than the traditional French, which was followed by more prayers.
Richard and Anne were anointed with holy oil, before they changed into their royal robes made of cloth of gold, before Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourchier placed the crowns on their heads.
A Te Deum was sung, as the royal couple took Holy Communion, before they were formally confirmed as king and queen. The nobility present paid homage, before the procession returned to Westminster Hall.
Richard and his queen broke their fast and rested before the Coronation Banquet, which began at 4.00 pm. Richard was served on gold plate, Anne on gilt and the Bishop of Durham (standing in for the Archbishop of Canterbury) on silver.
Sir Robert Dymock, the King’s Champion rode in, during the second course, and offered to fight anyone who denied Richard his title. He was met with cries of “King Richard”.
The banquet lasted over five hours, with two courses. Torches were needed as it was dark – even for July – when the formalities finally ended. The mayor of London served the void (retiring drink), before the King and the Queen retired to their chambers with a fanfare of trumpets.
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