Voices of the English Reformation: A Sourcebook

By John N. King | Go to book overview

7.3. Richard Mulcaster, from
The Queen’s Majesty’s Passage Through
the City of London (1559)

Richard Mulcaster (1530?-1611), headmaster of Merchant Taylors School, compiled this description of the 14 January 1559 procession of Elizabeth I through the City of London on the day before her coronation. Polemical spectacles represented her accession as a providential deliverance in the manner of Foxe’s account of her prior imprisonment at the Tower of London and Woodstock (see 7.5.B). Although both queen and actors pretended that her responses were spontaneous, she actively collaborated in these tableaux.

The first pageant depicted the reunion of the houses of Lancaster and York in the marriage between Henry VII and Elizabeth of York at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Representation of their son, Henry VIII, with Anne Boleyn flatters Elizabeth I by rehabilitating her mother, whom her father executed. The second pageant featured the victory of personified Virtues over Vices in an appeal to the queen for restoration of Protestant religion after its suppression by Mary I.

Another pageant dramatized Elizabeth’s motto, “Truth, the Daughter of Time.” Artificial hills, one barren and the other fruitful, symbolized the transition from England’s ruin under late Queen Mary to the new regime. Emerging from a cave with Father Time, Truth presented Elizabeth with an English Bible in a definitive image of Reformation monarchy (see Figures 1 and 5 [lower left inset]). Having remarked that “Time hath brought me hither,” the queen embraced the Bible in a bold proclamation of her Protestant convictions.

The succeeding tableau featured Deborah, the chief biblical precedent for government by a woman (Judg. 4–5). Her consultation with the parliamentary estates mirrored the untested status of a queen who lacked absolute authority.

Mulcaster’s fondness of allegory may have influenced Edmund Spenser, a onetime student of the Merchant Taylors School.

SOURCE: STC 7589.5, A2r, A4r–B1r, B3r–B4r, B4v–C1r, C2r–v, C3v–D1v, D3r–v D4r, E2v–E3r, E4r–v.

REFERENCES: Frye; King 1989; Kipling; Mullaney.

Upon Saturday, which was the fourteenth day of January in the year of our Lord God, 1558,1 at about two of the clock after noon, the most noble and Christian princess, our most dread sovereign Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England, France, and Ireland,2 defender of the faith, etc., marched from the Tower to pass through the City of London toward Westminster, richly furnished and most honorably accompanied as well with gentlemen, barons, and other the nobility of this realm, as also with a notable train of goodly and beautiful ladies, richly appointed. And entering the City, was of the people received marvelous entirely, as appeared by the assembly, prayers, wishes, welcomings, cries, tender words, and all other signs which

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