Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

The Coronation of Henry IV


ON a Wednesday, the last day of September, 1399, Henry, Duke of Lancaster, held a Parliament at Westminster; at which were assembled the greater part of the clergy and nobility of England, and a sufficient number of deputies from the different towns, according to their extent and wealth. In this Parliament the Duke of Lancaster challenged the crown of England, and claimed it as his own, for three reasons: first, by conquest; secondly, from being the right heir to it; and, thirdly, from the pure and free resignation of it to him by King Richard, in the presence of the prelates, dukes, and earls in the hall of the Tower of London. These three claims being made, he required the Parliament to declare their opinion and will. Upon this, they unanimously replied that it was their will he should be king, for they would have no other. He again asked if they were positive in this declaration: and, when they said they were, he seated himself on the royal throne. The throne was elevated some feet from the floor, with a rich canopy of cloth and gold, so that he could be seen by all present. On the king's taking his seat, the people clapped their hands for joy, and held them up, promising him fealty and homage. The Parliament was then dissolved, and the day of coronation appointed for the Feast of St. Edward, which fell on a Monday, the 13th of October.

On the Saturday before the coronation, the new king went from Westminster to the Tower of London, attended by great numbers, and those squires who were to be knighted watched their arms that night: they amounted to forty-six: each squire had his chamber and bath, in which he bathed. The ensuing day, the Duke of Lancaster, after mass, created them knights, and presented them with long green coats, with straight sleeves lined with minever, after the manner of prelates. These knights had on their left shoulders a double cord of white silk, with white tufts hanging down. The Duke of Lancaster left the Tower this Sunday after dinner, on his return to Westminster: he was bareheaded, and had round his neck the order of the King of France. The Prince of Wales, six dukes, six earls, eighteen barons, accompanied him; and there were, of knights and other nobility, from eight to nine hundred horse in the procession. The duke was dressed in a jacket, after the German fashion, of cloth of gold, mounted on a white courser, with a blue garter on his left leg. He passed through the streets of London, which were all handsomely decorated with tapestries and other rich hangings: there were nine fountains in Cheapside and other streets he passed through, which perpetually ran with white and red wines. He was escorted by prodigious numbers of gentlemen, with their servants in liveries and badges; and the different companies of London were led by their wardens clothed in their proper livery, and with ensigns of their trade. The whole cavalcade amounted to six thousand horse, which escorted the duke from the Tower to Westminster. That same night the duke bathed, and on the morrow confessed himself, as he had good need to do, and according to his custom heard three masses. The prelates and clergy who had been assembled then came in a large body in procession from Westminster Abbey, to conduct the king thither, and returned in the same manner, the king and his lords following them. The dukes, earls, and barons wore long scarlet robes, with mantles trimmed with ermine, and large hoods of the same. The dukes and earls had three bars of ermine on the left arm, a quarter of a yard long, or thereabout: the barons had but two. All the knights and squires had uniform cloaks of scarlet lined with minever. In the procession to the church, the duke had borne over his head a rich canopy of blue silk, supported on silver staves, with four golden bells that rang at the corners, by four burgesses of Dover, who claimed it as their right. On each side of him were the sword of mercy and the sword of justice: the first was borne by the Prince of Wales, and the other by the Earl of Northumberland, Constable of England, for the Earl of Rutland had been dismissed. The Earl of Westmoreland, Marshal of England, carried the scepter.

The procession entered the church about nine o'clock; in the middle of which was a scaffold, covered with crimson cloth, and in the center a royal throne of cloth of gold. When the duke entered the church, he seated himself on the throne, and was thus in regal state, except having the crown on his head. The Archbishop of Canterbury proclaimed, from the four corners of the scaffold, how God had given them a man for their lord and sovereign, and then asked the people if they were consenting to his being consecrated and crowned king. They. unanimously shouted out, "Aye!" and held up their hands, promising fealty and homage. After this, the duke descended from his throne and advanced to the altar to be consecrated. This ceremony was performed by two archbishops and ten bishops: he was stripped of all his royal state before the altar, naked to his shirt, and was then anointed and consecrated at six places; that is to say, on the head, the breast, the two shoulders, before and behind, on the back and hands: they then placed a bonnet on his head; and while this was doing, the clergy chanted the litany, or the service that is performed to hallow a font.

The king was now dressed in a churchman's clothes like a deacon; and they put on him shoes of crimson velvet, after the manner of a prelate. Then they added spurs with a point, but no rowel, and the sword of justice was drawn, blessed, and delivered to the king, who put it into the scabbard, when the Archbishop of Canterbury girded it about him. The crown of St. Edward, which is arched over like a cross, was next brought and blessed, and placed by the archbishop on the king's head. When mass was over, the king left the church, and returned to the palace in the same state as before. There was in the courtyard a fountain that constantly ran with white and red wine from various mouths. The king went first to his closet, and then returned to the hall to dinner.

At the first table sat the king, at the second the five great peers of England, at the third the principal citizens of London, at the fourth the new-created knights, at the fifth all knights and squires of honor. The king was served by the Prince of Wales, who carried the sword of mercy, and on the opposite side by the constable, who bore the sword of justice. At the bottom of the table was the Earl of Westmoreland with the scepter. There were only at the king's table the two archbishops and seventeen bishops. When dinner was half over, a knight of the name of Dynock entered the hall completely armed, and mounted on a handsome steed, richly barbed with crimson housings. The knight was armed for wager of battle, and was preceded by another knight bearing his lance: he himself had his drawn sword in one hand, and his naked dagger by his side. The knight presented the king with a written paper, the contents of which were, that if any knight or gentleman should dare to maintain that King Henry was not a lawful sovereign, he was ready to offer him combat in the presence of the king, when and where he should be pleased to appoint. The king ordered this challenge to be proclaimed by heralds in six different parts of the town and the hall, to which no answer was made. After King Henry had dined, and partaken of wine and spices in the hall, he retired to his private apartments, and all the company went to their homes. Thus passed the coronation day of King Henry.

by Sir John Froissart

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