As reported in The Times, yesterday marked the Coronation of Elizabeth I, 460 years ago. It was cold and wet in London on January 15, 1559, with flurries of snow, and yet crowds braved the chill to cheer on the 25-year-old queen as she made her way to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation.
In fact, Elizabeth’s reign was plagued by bouts of wretched weather. The winter of 1564-65 was exceptionally hard and long as freezing weather began on December 7 and by Christmas Day the river was frozen over. It remained so until January 13. That gave the opportunity for the first recorded frost fair on the river, as the chronicler Raphael Hollinshed described: “People went over and along the Thames on the ice from London Bridge to Westminster. Some played at the foot-ball as boldly there as if it had been on dry land. Divers of the court, being daily at Westminster, shot daily at pricks [archery targets] set upon the Thames; and the people, both men and women, went daily on the Thames in greater number than in any street of the city of London.” It is thought that Elizabeth I also ventured out to admire the archery and dancing on the ice.
Later, the 1590s had a run of particularly poor summers and harsh winters, the coldest decade of the 16th century. The summers of 1594 to 1598 were the worst of all and led to poor harvests,
In 1596 the summer was plagued by “profound shocking rains and great floods”, followed by a disastrous harvest that led to starvation among the poor and mounting disorder, with riots in London.