Contributed by Natalie Sweet
Perhaps nothing places the events of May 19th, 1536, in such a harsh light as the celebrations that had taken place in honor of Anne’s coronation. By all accounts, Henry spared no expense to honor his new Queen. Pageants were held, and a grand procession was planned. Anne’s ladies wore scarlet, the streets were bedecked in the color of crimson, and wine flowed from a fountain. Three years later, a scarlet-crimson of a different kind would touch the earth.
Was a sudden downfall something Anne should have expected, or at the very least, have been concerned about? On May 23rd, 1533, Thomas Cranmer declared the marriage between Henry and Katherine of Aragon as null and void. Henry might have behaved abominably to Katherine and convinced himself of the illegitimacy of their marriage, but this was the same man who had hotly pursued Anne for years. Not only this, but Anne carried his child, a child she had every reason to hope was a boy.
And speaking of her pregnancy, the coronation celebration was as much, if not more, of a celebration of Anne’s pregnancy as it was of Anne herself. The Queen’s duty was to bear children, and there was no doubt that Anne was very heavily pregnant, as almost all of the accounts relate. With this in mind, I would like to take the time to consider what it must have been like to have been so pregnant, on the 1st of June, and to have withstood the days of festivities that Anne experienced. I use “withstood” purposefully: at this time, Anne would have been in her second trimester, generally the “good” time of the pregnancy. The first trimester sickness has usually passed by this time (unless, one is unlucky and it lasts the entire pregnancy), and the third trimester bloating is yet to come. Having worked with Susan this time last year on this project, and having been in my own second trimester, I at that time imagined there was a certain amount of misery in the day’s festivities. To put it into perspective: I love shopping (probably at an unhealthy level!), and had decided to go with my mother on an outdoor outlet shopping adventure at the beginning of June. I was very excited about it, and thought myself perfectly capable of handling the day. Even with driving to certain stores, however, I was exhausted and swollen by the day’s events. The heat, which seems to intensify when one is pregnant, was terrible in my capris and t-shirt, and it was a coolish June day. Now imagine Anne wearing her purple velvet. Never mind riding in a litter; smiling at everyone, whether they acted pleased to greet her or not, would be taxing on even the most indulgent, over-heated pregnant lady.
Likewise, no matter how well the pregnancy progresses in the second trimester, there is still the slight nagging worry that something might go wrong. Compound this worry with the thought that your husband absolutely relies on you to deliver of a healthy, preferably male, child and see where that takes your mind.
In the week that follows, we will examine various aspects of Anne’s coronation. We will look at accounts from both Anne’s friends and enemies in an attempt to contrast the celebration that Anne’s reign began with, and the dismal events that ushered her out.