The coronation and popularity of Elizabeth

On 17 November 1558, aged 25, Elizabeth was told of her half sister Mary Tudor's death. She inherited an unstable kingdom - England and Wales were divided by religion, poverty was increasing and foreign enemies were growing more powerful.

Elizabeth became queen after both her brother (Edward VI) and her sister (Mary I) had died, at a time when many still felt that women should not be rulers. Despite inheriting these problems, her reign is considered to have brought stability back to the kingdom.

Elizabeth’s coronation

It was important for Elizabeth to win the support of her subjects, in particular her most powerful subjects. Her first step towards achieving this was through her coronation, which took place in London on 15 January 1559.

Elizabeth was determined to create a strong initial impression and as a result the coronation was a lavish, grand affair. A royal journey by barge along the River Thames took place with the ceremony taking place in Westminster Abbey.

It was attended by the majority of Elizabeth’s nobles as well as by many important foreign visitors. Despite facing debts of nearly £250,000 on becoming queen, the coronation cost about £16,000, such was her desire to give an impression of power. The coronation became an act of propaganda, as did her use of portraits.

Portrait of seated Elizabeth I at her coronation. She is wearing her coronation robes and is holding a sceptre and an orb.
Elizabeth’s coronation portrait shows her with an orb and sceptre, symbols of her power

There had been a great deal of upheaval during the reigns of Edward and Mary, mainly to do with changes to the kingdom’s religion. There had been religious persecution during Mary’s reign and the fact that she was married to King Philip of Spain made her unpopular with the people.

This was one of the reasons why Elizabeth enjoyed popularity when she first became queen. She was also popular due to the fact that she was young, single and English. Her accession to the throne was viewed as a fresh start.