When you enter Winchester Cathedral and stand with your back to the west wall, you are standing where Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII stood before she began her procession to marry Philip of Spain in 1554.
The soaring magnificence of the nave would surely have given Mary the confidence in her own power and that of England. The cathedral was adorned in gold and coloured banners hangings from brackets high above the crowds, these brackets still in place today. A raised walkway and dais was constructed so that the couple could be seen by the thousands of people who packed into the cathedral on that Summer day of 25th July 1554.
Philip of Spain had entered the port of Southampton a few days previously and traveled to Winchester to meet his bride. The couple met for the first time at the majestic Wolvesley Palace, a stones throw from the cathedral. Both royal households were in attendance, as well as Bishop Gardiner, who would marry the couple at the coming ceremony.
A wedding designed to impress
It was Mary’s intention that the surroundings and the ceremony would impress upon the Spanish contingent the full weight of England’s majesty and power and the cathedral would play its part in this.
The nave and the quire were hung with cloths of gold and it is not difficult to imagine the light from the candles being reflected in the sumptuous material. Mary and Philip’s own clothes were also beautifully made, in a startling display of white, gold and purple cloth. The couple must have looked as though they were floating along their elevated walkway, with the arching backdrop of the nave above them. The Spanish coutiers wrote glowingly about the marvelous cathedral setting, it had been a correct choice of venue by Mary Tudor’s household.
Special seats had been prepared for the couple to sit on and Mary’s chair is in the cathedral’s museum.
The people gave Mary’s hand in marriage
Mary must have struck a strong but maybe lonely figure, her father dead, she was given away by her people, represented by William Paulet the 1st Marquis of Winchester and the earls of Arundel, Derby, Bedford and Pembroke. This was a popular stance and when the ceremony was complete the crowd gave a great roar and cheered, showing their acceptance of the marriage.
The ceremony over, the entire party moved back to Wolvesley where a banquet was set out in the great hall and here the couple remained for the first few days of their marriage.