30th October 1470. From Glory to Sorrow: Henry VI.
The mystical nature of Medieval kings is seen in the coronation of Henry VI when heroic figures of the Old Testament, Classical Rome, along with national saints of France and England were invoked, to recognize the King as the rightful heir to both countries.(1)
This new scion was assumed to have sprung from the fleur-de-lys, in whom joined the blood of St Edward and St Louis: all against a background of the 100 Years War with France.
However when Today in 1470 the now sad, mad and imprisoned Henry VI began his second reign, times had changed. Forgotten were the days of inheritance at the age of nine months, and when before his coronation in 1429, the 7 years old King had ridden through the pageantry of the streets of London.(2)
The streets were full of carpets and tapestries, the Lords were in cloth of gold, behind were 24 newly created knights in blue. Before were clergy, besides were civic authorities dressed in scarlet. Along the route were stages of allegorical pantomimes.
Henry was attended by Catherine, his mother and her ladies-in-waiting, and basked in the eulogy of John Lydgate, Poet- Laureate in his Coronation Ballads in 18 stanzas. The King was exhorted to be protector of the church, in concord with lords and indulgent to his subjects.
The king was crowned by bishops and abbots and proclaimed by Archbishop Chichele, using the Great Crown of St. Edward, with, ‘2 bishops helpying hym to bere the crowne for hyt was ovyr hevy for him for he was of a tendyr age'(sic).
Then followed the banquet and the ‘Solteltes’ (Subtleties) which accompanied each course as an ‘artistic dessert’.(3)
In the first the King metaphorically appeared before the royal saints St Edward and St Louis. In the second he appeared between Emperor Sigismund and his father Henry V, the ideal king and enemy of heresy.
In the third he appears kneeling begging for mercy before Jesus and the Virgin Mary (holding a crown). Beside are St George and St Denis.
For the feast on 6th November 1429, The Cardinal Beaufort sat on the King’s right hand, with the first course of ‘frumenty with venison, Meat royal planted with lozenges of gold. Boar’s heads in castles armed with gold, beef, mutton, cygnet, stewed capon and heron and great pike’.
Also there was a ‘red leach of sliced meats, eggs fruits and spices, with lions carved therein in white and Custard Royal with a leopard of gold sitting therein. Fritter like a sun, with a fleur-de-lis therein’.
However more followed as Henry was again crowned by Cardinal Beaufort, in Notre Dame, Paris on Sunday 16th December 1431, returning to Rouen on the 26th, without declaring an amnesty in the on-going war. In 1432 he returned to England.(4)
Henry VI wasn’t the man for those times, which saw the 100 Years War up to 1453, when we were defeated in France, and 2 years later which saw the start of the Wars of the Roses, between Lancastrian and Yorkist for the throne.
Dominated by his wife Margaret of Anjou he went mad and was probably murdered.
(1) The scriptural references included Soloman and David, then Caesar and all the Emperors from Trajan to Constantine.
(2a) He reigned from 31st August 1422 until until 4th March 1461 until rudely interrupted by Yorkist, Edward IV.
(2b) The second reign lasted until 11th April 1471.
(3) The ‘Solteltes’ were an attempt in verses to interpret the pageants in the streets which Lydgate had to provide on a slab or scroll. They were first used in honour of the Emperor Sigismund on 7th May 1416.
(4) Henry entered Paris on 2nd December 1431.
Ref: John Lydgate. Study of the Culture of the XV Century.Walter Franz Schirmer.