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When I started writing Murder at Westminster Abbey, I had lots of fun digging through boxes looking for photos and scrapbooks of my trips to England, and I got to revisit my very first visit to Westminster Abbey! It was a rainy, stormy day, and I had just arrived in London after a long overnight flight. The hotel room wasn't yet ready, I was jet-lagged and a bit silly with lack of sleep and too much Chardonnay (I am a terrible flier!). So what could be better than a few hours wandering around in the cool darkness of Westminster Abbey, out of the rain?
For a lifelong history geek like me, the Abbey was a magical
place. I spent hours at Poet's Corner, visiting Chaucer and Browning. I stumbled across Anne of Cleves, Margaret Beaufort, and Aphra Behn, and stood atop where Oliver Cromwell once lay, before the Restoration came and he was dug up again. Best of all, I found myself nearly alone for a few precious minutes at the tomb Elizabeth I shares with Mary I.
It was wonderful to revisit my memories of that trip (and re-watch a DVD of William and Kate's wedding, just for research on cathedral details, of course!). It was also a lot of fun to delve deeply into the events surrounding Elizabeth I's coronation—I almost feel like I could have been there now, and met all the historical figures who played a part in the glittering events. I loved weaving the real pageantry with my fictional characters and what happened to them on those momentous days in January 1559.
Queen Mary's funeral was on December 14, 1558, and
Dr. John Dee, the new queen's favorite astrologer, laid out a
horoscope predicting January 15 as the best date for the coronation. He didn't predict the fact that the weather would be gray, cold, and icy, but the party went on. On January 12, the queen boarded her barge at Whitehall and processed along the Thames to the Tower, where new monarchs traditionally slept before their coronation. Accompanied by dozens of other barges, musicians, the Mayor and his aldermen, she floated past hundreds of people lining the riverbanks to toss flowers and shout their approval. (The poor victim in my story, Nell, watches this procession before she sadly loses her life. She'd heard from her grandmother about Queen Anne Boleyn's procession, and wants to see Queen Anne's daughter go by now...)
On leaving the Tower, Elizabeth processed four miles through London, wearing 23 yards of cloth of gold and silver trimmed with ermine, riding in a white litter lined with gold and drawn by white mules. Trumpeters proceeded her, and her household rode behind, dressed in their finest red velvets and furs to watch five stately pageants that symbolized the new beginning of the reign. I loved having my heroine, Kate Haywood, ride behind the queen, taking it all in.
As for the coronation itself...you will just have to read Murder at Westminster Abbey for a glimpse of it!
For more historical background on the events of January 1559, and some great resources I came across in my research, you can visit me anytime at http://amandacarmack.com
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THANK YOU Ms. Carmack for that fascinating look into the history behind Queen Elizabeth I's coronation. I love how it was brought to life in the book.
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