In an earlier post, I discussed how Elizabeth maintained a connection with her mother throughout her life, from jewellery to pageants to family ties, which you can read more about here.
There is another possible connection between mother and daughter that has been proposed: the crowns they wore on their Coronation days.
Following long-standing tradition, Elizabeth wore three crowns over the course of her Coronation: St. Edward’s Crown, the Tudor Crown, and a third, personal crown. This personal crown would usually be designed and made specially for the new sovereign; we have records of the crown Mary had made for her coronation six years earlier.
But we have no records of a crown being designed and ordered for Elizabeth. After Mary had decimated the Treasury to support her husband’s war on France, we know Elizabeth took a frugal approach to her Coronation, wearing her sister’s Coronation robes. So it seems likely that she also used a pre-existing crown. Perhaps she also wore Mary’s personal crown, to match the robes. But it is also possible that she chose her mother’s crown.
In Thomas Cromwell’s April 1533 ‘Remembraunces,’ he made a list of what needed to be organised for Anne Boleyn’s coronation, set for the 1st June. On the list was ‘a rich crown of gold,’ presumably the personal crown which she is known to have worn. Anne was actually crowned first with St. Edward’s Crown, a significant choice as it was usually only used for the regnant, not consort. However, as this crown was so heavy, Henry had a lighter crown ordered for his new queen. After the Anne had been crowned with St. Edward’s Crown by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the latter switched it over for this personal crown.
Though we don’t have any detailed descriptions of this crown, we do have a small sketch that has been preserved in the Harley collection at the British Library. It shows Anne, in her regalia, at her Coronation Feast, following the formal ceremony. Though this sketch is certainly contemporary, as it is in amongst papers relating to plans for the coronation, it is not usually counted as a true portrait of Anne, as it clearly does not intend to convey her true likeness. However, a surprising amount of attention was paid to the details of Anne’s regalia, even going so far as to show her falcons atop the sceptre and rod she carries. We can also see some details of Anne’s crown, and upon comparison with the crown shown in Elizabeth’s coronation portrait, I think there are some distinct similarities.
If you look closely, the crowns share a very similar arch shape, high and curved. The cross atop a large rounded gem is likewise seen in both. It is difficult to make out in the sketch, but I believe that the dark shape of Anne’s crown is the four gems set in the shape of a diamond that can be seen in Elizabeth’s crown. The circles around the bottom of Anne’s crown in the sketch could easily be meant to represent the rich gems that encircle the lower portion of Elizabeth’s crown.
Whilst these visual similarities do not constitute definitive proof, it would be in keeping with Elizabeth’s character and past behaviour to pay tribute to her mother in this way. Elizabeth had a history of choosing her mother’s jewellery for important occasions; in ‘The Family of Henry VIII,’ painted in 1545 when she was around 12 years old, Elizabeth chose to wear an ‘A’ pendant believed to have belonged to Anne. We also know that Anne was particularly on Elizabeth’s mind leading up to the Coronation. In pageants organised along the Coronation Procession route, Anne was represented in a tableau depicting Elizabeth’s royal lineage.
Of course, one day a piece of evidence may turn up that proves the crown was made for Elizabeth, or it was the same crown that Mary had had made for her Coronation. But given the evidence that is currently available, I tend to think that Elizabeth did choose to honour her mother by using her crown, in a choice both bold and grand, and deeply personal and intimate.