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The coronation of Queen Elizabeth the first took place at Westminster Abbey on Sunday the 15th of January 1559. The ceremony cost Elizabeth £16,000 – a fabulous sum of money for the time. It was also remarkable when one considers Elizabeth’s later reputation for reluctance to part with money. Elizabeth was of course conscious that she needed to consolidate her position as Queen because she came to the throne at a difficult time for her country.

Elizabeth I Coronation miniature by Nicholas Hilliard

Elizabeth I Coronation miniature by Nicholas Hilliard

England was surrounded by hostile nations and was still at war with France. Calais, which had been an English town since Edward III had captured it in 1347 had been re-taken by the French – a severe blow to national pride. Elizabeth had also to face a desperate shortage of funds. If all of this wasn’t bad enough there was still the question of the succession, the religious question, the fact that Elizabeth was technically illegitimate and also she was, well, a woman! Many people didn’t expect her to last long as Queen.

Elizabeth was as aware as her people that there had been a great turn over of monarchs in the recent past. In the 12 years since her Father Henry VIII died in 1547 there had been 3 Monarchs before Elizabeth. Jane Grey’s reign lasted for only 9 days in June 1553. One can only assume that some of the people in the crowds at her coronation would have been wondering how long it would be before they were celebrating at another coronation.

That Elizabeth’s reign was to last for another 44 years despite the challenges she faced on her succession is a testament to her political skill and her inherited survival instincts – a critical part of the repertoire of the Tudor monarchs.

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