nine-year-old henry vi is crowned king -- 7/16/19

Today's selection -- from Henry VI by Bertram Wolffe. Nine-year-old Henry VI was crowned king in England and France in the finest pageantry those countries could offer:

"With an entourage of several thousands, Henry began his solemn entry into Paris for his coronation round about midday on Sunday 2 December 1431, the first day of Advent and four days before his tenth birthday. After spending two nights at St Denis he was met half­way by an escort of burghers, in crimson satin gowns and hoods led by the Provost Simon Morehier. At the entrance to the city he was greeted by the goddess Fame with the nine male worthies and the rarer nine female worthies, all conquerors and warrior women, as the prelude to one of the finest successions of pageants and tableaux fully recorded in the fifteenth century. Having received the various dignitaries of the city in their robes of office, the commandant of the watch, the provost of the merchants, the president and members of the Parlement, the chambre des comptes, masters of requests, royal secretaries, etc., he proceeded amid shouts of 'Noel!' under an azure canopy worked with golden fleur-de-lys, carried by four aldermen 'as was done for Our Lord at Corpus Christi', through streets festooned with rich hangings.

"The cardinal of Winchester, four bishops, twenty-five heralds and twenty-five trumpeters went before him. At the outer gate of St Denis was a huge shield of the city arms bearing a silver ship under sail, with a crew of twelve representing bishop, university and city. They presented him with three hearts, opening to release showers of birds and flowers, to signify that the three estates of the realm were opening their hearts with joy at his presence. At the Ponceau St Denis, in a wood within a richly-mounted pavillion, male and female savages fought a mock battle, while below was a fountain of hippocras, with three mermaids swimming in it. These mermaids held the boy's atten­tion for a long time, while the fountain flowed continuously for all who would and could drink of it. In front of La Trinité and stretching to the inner gate of St Denis were tableaux vivants of the nativity of the Virgin, her marriage, the Adoration of the Magi, the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt and a good man sowing his corn, who acted his part particularly well. Above the inner gate itself were enacted scenes from the life of St Denis, including the beheading of the glorious martyr, all of which particularly held the attention of his English entourage. Here the drapers took over the canopy from the aldermen, to be succeeded in due course by the grocers, the money changers, the goldsmiths, the furriers, the butchers and, finally, sergeants-at-arms, who delivered it to the prior of St Catherine's, their own foundation, as of right.

A mid-15th-century depiction from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France showing Henry being crowned King of France at Notre-Dame de Paris on 16 December 1431

"In front of their respective churches were assembled the clergy with holy water and relics, most notably the arm of St George which Henry reverently kissed. Before the church of the Innocents a forest had been created in the street where a stag was hunted by horsemen and hounds right to the feet of the king's horse. He graciously spared its life. Outside the Châtelet he was confronted with a representation of himself, a boy of his own age and build, seated on a high platform, beneath a canopy, with two crowns suspended above and the arms of England and France worked on a satin tapestry behind. To the right were represented lords of the royal house of France: Burgundy (the most notable absentee), Anjou, Berry, Nevers, etc., presenting him with a shield of the arms of France and on the left the duke of Bedford, the earls of Warwick and Salisbury and other great English lords, all in their own correct tabards of arms, presenting the arms of England. Also on the right, on a separate lower platform, appeared a pageant of the clergy, the Provost and the citizens of Paris. Finally, before he entered the Palais, the butchers of Paris presented him with a live stag, caparisoned with the arms of his two kingdoms, which was conveyed to the Hotel des Tournelles where he was to dine. At the Palais the clergy of the Sainte Chapelle and members of the university greeted him and after viewing and kissing the relics he proceeded to his dinner where Anne duchess of Bedford and the ladies were waiting to receive him. After dinner be resumed his progress, doffing his hat to his grandmother Queen Isabeau, waiting at the window of the Hotel de St Pol with her ladies. The following day he removed to the castle of Vincennes to await his coronation. It is surprising that, unlike the accounts of the rather less arduous progress awaiting him on his return to London, no one here remarked on the boy's obviously quite remark­able stamina."



Bertram Wolffe


Henry VI


Yale University Press


Copyright 1981 Bertram Wolffe


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