Four and a half centuries ago, on 17 November 1558, Mary Tudor died, and her half-sister Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne of England. A century before Pepys, Henry Machyn, a supplier of funeral trappings, was keeping a diary; and the text of this diary includes a fascinating entry for that particular day, 450 years ago.
Not much is known about Machyn other than that he was a supplier of furnishings to undertakers in London. His diary, held by the British Library, is primarily concerned with public events, including state visits and executions, which makes it invaluable to historians. It covers the period of the Reformation under Henry VIII and Edward VI, and the return to Catholicism under Mary. It was badly burned in a fire, and, according to modern linguists, the extant published versions are full of inaccuracies because of the idiosyncrasies of Machyn’s language. The Diary Junction provides links to various online texts.
The following entry, about the death of Mary and the succession of Elizabeth, is taken from The Diary of Henry Machyn - Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London (1550-1563) edited by John Gough Nichols. It was published by the Camden Society in 1848, and is fully accessible on British History Online. (Two notes for reading the text below: pelere - pillory; mad mere - made merry.)
‘The xij day of November was Saterday ther was a woman sett on the pelere for sayhyng that the quen was ded, and her grace was not ded then.
The xvij day of November be-twyn v and vj in the mornyng ded quen Mare, the vj yere of here grace(’s) rayne, the wyche Jhesu have mercy on her solle! Amen.
[The same] day, be-twyne a xj and xij a’ for[noon, the lady Eliza]beth was proclamyd quen Elsabeth, quen of England, France and Yrland, and deffender of the feyth, by dyvers haroldes of armes and trumpeters, and dukes, lordcs [and knights,] the wyche was ther present, the duke of Norfoke, [the] lord tresorer, the yerle of Shrousbere, and the yerele of Bedford, and the lord mayre and the althermen, and dyver odur lordes and knyghtes.
The sam day, at after-non, all the chyrches in London dyd ryng, and at nyght dyd make bonefyres and set tabulls in the strett, and ded ett and drynke and mad mere for the newe quen Elsabeth, quen Mare(’s) syster.’