The Tudor coronation ceremonies in history and criticism
Literature Compass, 6
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The coronation was one of the most important – and scrutinised – ceremonies of a Tudor monarch's reign. Five coronations took place in sixteenth-century England, but there is currently no comprehensive history of these ceremonies. Criticism has tended to focus on coronation processions, divorcing them from the sacred service they precede and often presenting them as exercises in royal propaganda. The story of the Tudor coronations has also been co-opted as part of the more general history of the Protestantisation of ceremonies: the emptying out of ceremony is assumed. But the Tudor coronations remained significant throughout the sixteenth century, and their relationship with power and legitimacy troubled contemporaries far more than has been sometimes been claimed. Revisionist histories now consider continuity as well as change. They treat power as less centralised and less coherent, and recognise the persistence of the idea of sacred monarchy. As such, they demand that we look again at the coronations in all their religious, political and symbolic complexity. This article offers a brief account of the Tudor coronations and the place that state ceremonies have occupied in recent and past criticism. It also suggests how future research might build on a fresh understanding of the role of ceremonies in early modern England.
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