Why do we crown Kings and Queens? And why has this ancient ritual survived in Britain, uniquely among European countries? What purpose can pomp and pageantry serve in a modern constitutional monarchy? This talk introduces the history of the British coronation, from its 10th -century origins to the present day, and explores how its meaning has changed over time. It will focus on moments when this religious ceremony came under intense scrutiny, such as during the Reformation, or when the first ever queen regnant, Mary I, was crowned.
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A lecture by Dr Alice Hunt recorded on 2 May 2023 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London.
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/watch-now/british-coronations
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Speaker 1 (00:04):
In Shakespeare's play, Henry the Fifth King Henry puzzles over the purpose of royal ceremony. What he calls this tide of pomp and what have kings that privates have not too, he asks, save ceremony, save general ceremony, and what art thou, thou idle ceremony. He goes on. Oh ceremony, show me, but die worth, I haven't given you the the lines on the screen because I wanted to draw attention to the idle ceremony that Henry the fifth talks about thou idle ceremony. Now it's idle, as in I D O L, something you might worship, but it sounds like idle, lazy.
Henry the fifth knows in Shakespeare's play that it is something that serum is something that men adore, that inspires awe and fear that it separates kings from men. But he also knows that without it, he is just an ordinary private man. It is just ceremony. Playwrights, poets, real kings and queens, politicians, courtier, churchmen. Media historians like me have worried about royal ceremonies and about the coronation in particular. It has always been the most important ceremony of a British monarchs reign and therefore the most troubling for kings and commentators alike. For it has to be right if it is to be considered legitimate, it has to have meaning. It has to make a king or a queen in a way that people understand and will accept. In 1838 during a debate about Queen Victoria's forthcoming coronation, there are the radical for Earl Fitzwilliam declared that coronations were fit only for Barbaras or semi barbras ages for periods when crowns were won and lost by unruly violence and ferocious contests.
What he wondered was the point of such a spectacle when legitimacy was not in doubt. When Victoria did not need to be made queen, she was queen notwithstanding and her power was supposed to be limited. Was it appropriate then to have such an extravagant, elaborate ceremony? Her predecessor, William IV had not wanted a ceremony. A coronation had suggested doing away with it. The survival of the British coronation is unique. No other European country brings out and parades. Its centuries old and priceless regalia, robes and carriages. No other country encases it. An ancient religious ritual. Spain did away with the coronation in the 14th century. Hereditary right trumped any kind of king making ceremony. Margarita, the second of Denmark was proclaimed queen in 1972 by her prime minister, no anointing, no crowning King William Alexander the Netherlands was sworn in in a decommissioned church after his mother Queen Beatrix abdicated in 2013.
We don't need a coronation then, and I say the survivor of the British coronation, but it is actually the English coronation that has survived and become British. The last coronation in Scotland was in 1651 that of Charles II at schon. Two years after his father had been executed by the English parliament, Charles was Julia reminded in a thundering sermon that the crown was a tottering crown that kings would be toppled if they did not keep their promises to the people or to the established church after 1651. But before the active union in 1707, England's kings and queens who were also separately kings and queens of Scotland were crowned just once. According to the English coronation ritual down in Westminster Abbey, seated above the stone of schon seized from Scotland by Edward the first,
It is the English coronation then that has survived. And now that the monarch has no real political power, the coronation, the 20th century adapted. So the story goes to celebrate the nation and the success of constitutional monarchy. It would celebrate the absence rather than the presence of power. Celebrate the kind of constitution and not a person. The preservation of the ancient ritual promoted the benign and steadying power of tradition at a time when the past felt fragile or the or the the present felt fragile at the beginning of the 20th century and the past felt like it was going to be lost, promoted the virtue of continuity.
But these ceremonies or the bats of sense of the past also could remind us of what we were no longer a national ceremony such as a coronation seeks to connect us to our past. However much it has changed, but it's to a past or reversion of the past dominated by kings and queens. It seeks to bring the nation together. It is hoped. This is what is often said in a way that politics cannot as inaugurating a new era, a coronation tries to look forward and to bring joy, hope, unity. It is a nation's birthday. The court and historian Arthur Bryant said in 1953, writing in the official souvenir program for Elizabeth II Coronation.
So coronations often seek to promote a particular set of values that seem important. At that time, it was in 1953, hope and unity in post-War Britain. In his commentary on the new liturgy, Justin Wellby, Archbishop of Canterbury has told us that the message of this 21st century coronation is one of service. I come not to be served, but to serve. Charles will say. And it is not just one nation that this next British coronation seeks to celebrate. But 14 commonwealth nations of which the British monarch is still head of state. Although this will certainly change as several Caribbean nations start to move towards becoming republics and possibly a Australia. Two, the history of the coronation is one of much continuity. Continuity of form and the key elements. Recognition, the oath anointing, crowning homage, and the continuity of the symbols of royalty. Crown sector orbs, spurs, ring robes, but it is also a history of evolution. Over the years, the ceremony has been scrutinized, carefully adapted, reinterpreted and repackaged to suit its times so that it could absorb profound religious changes and new ideas about what kings are and new ideas about what ceremonies are and why they matter. That question, show me by worse, that Henry the fifth asks has been asked several times, always around a coronation.
It is the changes that have perhaps ensured its survival in this country. But there is one element, the anointing whose survival is I think the most puzzling at its heart. The coronation is a ceremony about transformation and this notion has proved remarkably tenacious. Something seems to happen in a coronation, retains a certain amount of magic. It is the moment the anointing is the moment when the rightful air is anointed with holy oil by the archbishop of Canterbury. A moment that articulates that a monarchs office is tied to God and bound up with divine grace. It echoes the anointing of biblical kings, priests and prophets. At the center of a coronation is a body and a body that becomes sacred. The familiar props of kingship, the robe, ceps orb ring crown can only be bestowed and worn once the monarch has been anointed. They show that this is an anointed monarch.
When Elizabeth II was crowned 70 years ago, on 2nd of June, 1953, television cameras were, as we know, allowed into Westminster Abbey for the first time. But it was agreed that the anointing of Elizabeth was considered too private and too sacred to be broadcast. So the BBC focuses cameras on the altar, an Archbishop Fisher consecrated the young queen in private beneath the canopy, the essential meaning shines out clearly. Jeffrey Fisher wrote, the queen is consecrated to be God's anointed servant. The anointing is the spiritual climax. And I just want to play you the moment when the cameras don't show Elizabeth the second, and I'm going to keep returning this and come back to it at at the end of this lecture. So there is a bit of silence in this, but, but, but bear with me.
Speaker 2 (09:58):
Four knights of the gutter, the Dukes of Wilington and Portland, the Earl Scu and the Bahar Dale bringing forward a golden canopy which they hold over her majesty so that the sacred moment of anointing normally never seen is shielded from all eyes. We shall hear the words of the archbishop as the canopy comes to rest. We see beyond it the greening altar calf of the a,
Speaker 3 (10:41):
A with holy oil. Levi breasts anointed with holy oil. Levi head anointed with holy oil as kings and priests and prophets were anointed. Solomon was a king of the priest and defend the prophet. So be thou blessed and consecrated queen over the people formed. The Lord died. God has given me to rule and govern the name of the Father and of Theran and of the hurricane.
Speaker 1 (11:37):
Prior to Elizabeth II's coronation, Alan Don dean of Westminster had appealed to the continuity of the meaning of the English coronation compared to the ups and downs and the messiness of life and history. The spiritual meaning of the ceremony had remained constant. He wrote, no matter how greatly outward circumstances have changed, the girding with the sword, the clothing with the royal robe, the presentation of the orb with the cross, the ring and the two sectors. All these with the culminating act of coronation are charged with spiritual meaning and intent, which have remained constant for the past 1200 years for the church, perhaps for the Monarch two, it is the monarch's relationship with God, the gift of God's grace and the monarch's spiritual role that animate and continue to animate this ceremony. And which continues to define not Unproblematically, I would say what British monarchy is.
I became interested in Coronations as a historian of the early modern period of the English reformation and the Tu monarchs. I came across a footnote in an article one day that referred just in passing to a scandal that had occurred during Elizabeth the first coronation in 1559, something that frustrated attempts to understand what this ceremony was doing. The scandal concerned where the mass was celebrated during this coronation, according to the Catholic right or the reformed Protestant, right? Was this a Protestant or a Catholic ceremony accounts a contradictory No television cameras then for us to be able to check the ceremony was being keenly watched by ardent reformers and loyal Catholics alike keen to know just how Protestant this new queen was going to be. But to add to the confusion, Elizabeth like Elizabeth second chose to hide herself in a curtained closet just as the mass was being celebrated.
So we don't exactly know how the masses are celebrated, and we also don't know what Elizabeth thought of what happened, whether her bishop did or did not elevate the elements. We don't know. And we don't know what Elizabeth, why she hid herself or what her attitude was towards that she was cleverly concealed at a key moment of the ceremony. This prompted me to want to understand what a coronation was in 16th century England. I wanted to know how the coronation as the most important ceremony in the monarchs reign could withstand and survive the shocks of the reformation. A time when religious rituals and gestures were scrutinized, challenged, redefined, and to a certain extent, demystified ceremonies don't actually do anything anymore, do they? Hence Henry the Fifth being written by Shakespeare at the end of the 16th century. What is? What is ceremony, idle ceremony as part of that reformation scrutiny of what ceremonies can be.
And at the same time as all this was going on, Henry VII was augmenting his power and a coronation would need to present the monarch not as one devoted to the Pope, but now as the supreme head of the Church of England. So we have a moment when the ceremony has both been kind of dumped down, um, because of the general anxieties around ceremony and heightened because it is now having to proclaim the king as the supreme head of the Church of England for Aeu. As for the medieval predecessors, the anointing remained central to their conception of themselves as divinely appointed rulers. Mary, the first reminded rebellious London, London is in February, 1554, that she was their anointed queen and that they should therefore let her marry who she wanted. And Elizabeth similarly she is when confronting her parliament who were clamoring for her to marry, she pointed out that she had been anointed by God and should therefore be obeyed.
How could the concept of sacred monarchy developed through the Catholic? The development of Catholic church survive the reformations attack on idolatry? We haven't seen a coronation for 70 years, but in the 16th century there were five coronations in 50 years due to Henry's multiple marriages and lack of grandchildren. So fertile ground for me to study the coronations when there were so many. Not only was there the challenge of religious change in the establishment of the supremacy, but this time also saw the coronation of the first ever queen regnant in England marry the first in 15th 53. My talk this evening cannot of course cover the history of the coronation in its entirety. I want to introduce its earliest beginnings, but I will then focus on the 16th and 17th centuries, including a few of the coronations of these tutors here and James the first and Charles II moving to William and Mary in 1689.
For it is, I want to argue during this period that the coronation that we know and understand it today was forged what a king was changed dramatically during this time and the coronation was adapted accordingly and to reflect the new Protestant religion. At the same time, great Britain was emerging with the pursuit of a union of Scotland begun by James the first continued by Cromwell, not realized until 1707. The strange survival of the British coronation owes much to this time. I will begin, however, with a brief overview of the medieval origins of the English coronation ceremony. Anglo-Saxon kings were inaugurated with a helmet and a sword at first, but outside on a mound. It is not until the mid eight, the ninth centuries that kingship shifted to become an ecclesiastical office and that coronations became religious services. The Anglo-Saxon rights were Christianized. The first king that we know was anointed with holy oil was King Edgar as part of a service in Barth Abbey in 973, conducted by the then Archbishop of Canterbury.
It was an imitation of the anointing of priests and bishops. It'd been adopted by the frankish kings by charlamagne. The holyo Roman emperor in 800 and quickly became the tradition throughout western Europe. Every other king thought, yeah, we'll have some of that. The anointing had biblical roots. Kings were anointed as priests, prophets and kings. As kings were in the Old Testament. This is what we heard the Archbishop, um, saying in that prayer that he uttered as he was anointing Elizabeth, even though we couldn't see her, it echoes the anointing David by Samuel Solomon, by Zoc the priest and Nathan the prophet. The king was understood to be turned into the lord's anointed, set apart, transformed, elevated by this act. He became an anointed one, Christlike and the anointing at the anointing. And this is still the case. The accompanying anthem recalls haz zoc, the priest anointed Solomon, and it's now famous because of Hounds score written in 1727 for the coronation of George the Second.
And we will hear that on Saturday, zoc the priest, the sort of soaring score by handle, but which set to the words, the ancient words, um, of the anthem of the prayer that is uttered at the moment of anointing the liturgy. The religious script for the coronation and the blueprint for the entire ceremony became settled in the 14th century, written down in the Libe. Regardless the Book of Kings. And these images that I had up are from the Libe Libe, regardless illuminated manuscript treasure of Westminster Abbey Library, it stipulates. There's the Latin text, the Latin right of service for the coronation of a king and of a queen concert, not a queen regnant that was unimaginable. The book also includes the funeral service of a king. A reminder that a cor, the coronation of one king is closely related in time and in meaning to the funeral of the predecessor.
The last time we saw that imperial state ground was on the coffin of Elizabeth ii and we will now then see it again in the Abbey when Charles has said, where's it at The end of the ceremony, the Li Beales is, is a prompt book, a coronation prompt book, really detailed script as well. It's absolutely obsessive about the detail, what should be worn, how a con queen concert's hair should be down. It stipulates that it must be the Archbishop of Canterbury who officiates but should be instructed by the Dean of Westminster. It tells us how and where the monarch should be anointed in which order. It tells us in which order the reg should be processed up the abbey, and then the order in which it should be bestowed on the monarch. It tells us the prayers it should be uttered in the akins should be sung.
It details how the Abbey should be dressed and prepared that the 700 year old coronation chair, well now it's 700 year old. At that point, it was quite new, should be used and that a big stage should be built at the cept with steps leading up to it and a throne on the top. The stage is lower now than it used to be. Medieval times it used to be really high, but there still will be a stage and they've been busy building it this week. The form of the ceremony written down in the Libe regardless, belongs to a time when the legit, the legitimacy of a monarch was intimately bound up with the correct observance of ceremony and with precedent, things were expected to be done according to the usual ceremonies. If they were, if everything was done correctly, this was a sign of God's approval, a kind of backwards logic that something is legitimate if it is done correctly, and if it's done correctly, then God approves the rise of hereditary monarchy could have rendered the coronation useless as it did in other countries. In 1308, Edward ii, for example, began to rule on the day after his father's death. And this kind of crept closer and closer to the moment of death. Kings would be crowned as soon as possible, particularly if the succession was violent or a bit contested. Henry the seventh rushed to the abbey in 1485 to be crowned.
So even with the horizon hereditary monarchy, the act of coronation remained integral as a legitimizing moment. Chronicles often begin with the coronation, not with the procession or chronic, and they mention the anointing. The anointing has often caused tension between king and clergy. In the 13th century, Henry ii, there he is on the left, asked Robert Gross test, Bishop of Lincoln, what happened to him when he was anointed? Didn't it increase his royal dignity? How priestly did it make him? Priests were anointed. So if he's being anointed, what's actually going on? His bishop replied that while being anointed certainly elevated him above his fellows, it did not quite elevate him above his clergymen. It does not in any way raise the dignity of a king above nor even to the level of that of the priest. He said, nevertheless, when anointed, the king would look elevated once anointed and crowned.
He then climbs the steps of the stage to sit on a throne. And sometimes there could be as many as 20 steps for them to go up. Sometimes they would be carried. When Henry the fourth was crowned in 1399, he's there on the right. It's a bit of a fuzzy picture. He chose not to be hidden under a canopy at the sacred private moment of anointing, but chose to remain visible so that all in the Abbey could see him being anointed with holy oil. He was then carried up the steps to his throne, held a loft by bishops. This sought to validate his legitimacy that by being anointed in plain sights like that, it would show that God approved and therefore the de possession of another anointed king Richard. The second was okay, he had now the approval of God. He was the legitimate king. He also chose to be anointed with really special oil that, um, has a, a story going back to Thomas Beckett.
It was the gift of grace transmitted via the oil which was understood and for a long time still understood to grant a monarch special healing powers. This belief persisted from the reign of Ed Edward the confessor in the 11th century, right up until the 18th century, all the cheu monarchs, except perhaps for Edward, because he was so young, all touched for scruff, the tuberculosis like disease commonly called the king's evil. And the image here shows Mary the first touching for scruff. And on the right Charles, the second touching for scruff. Nearly a hundred years later, James the first believed the age of miracles was passed, but he was encouraged to touch for Scruff Elizabeth, the first touch for Scruffier with increasing frequency during her reign, even though she complained about the stench of the Catholic oil with which she had been anointed. So she sort of underplays the anointing after her coronation, but she does touch for scruffles. There is this real kind of a adherence to the belief that the anointing is magic and special. And I don't think it's purely sort of cynical that they think this would get people to come. I, I think that that's us projecting backwards that ceremonies can't really do anything. What's persisting is that actually something does happen at the moment of anointing.
One of the reasons the coronation has survived is because it is a ceremony crowded with symbolism. So if the anointing is a problem, it's a, there are other elements which can kind of counter it. It's really busy a coronation. It is able to contain multiple, even competing versions of what a king actually is. As it has evolved over the years, it has retained the earliest elements of recognition and consent and it retains the oath. So that moment of recognition is a kind of hangover from the Anglo-Saxon, right, which will kind of acknowledge the a king has been chosen. And do you give your consent to that king? The coronation oath is the king's promise to his people in his church to uphold laws, customs, and established religion. It used to be at the end of the service now it is at the beginning before the anointing, and it has a fraught history.
One that was only resolved at the end of the 17th century. In 1509, Henry VII was crowned alongside Catherine of Argan. On Midsummer's day, they always choose a special day. He swore as his predecessor had done to uphold laws that had already been made and to uphold laws that would be made in the future during his reign. This is really important. He was bound at his coronation to uphold laws not yet made by parliament. He also swore to recognize and defend the laws of his clergy. But by the early 1530s, Henry revisited his coronation oath and sought to bring it in line with his newfound expanded prerogative, his supremacy, anxious that his oath should correctly articulate what he believed the office of kingship should be. He decided to revise the oath and hand that down to his future heir and successes. A man's manuscript survived in the British library, which records the changes Henry wished to make and all that scratchy rubbing out and scrawly writing.
As Henry Henry's hand, he added in his own hand that he would promise to uphold laws and approved customs of his realm as long as they were not prejudicial to his crown or imperial jurisdiction. And as long as they were chosen with his consent. So in 59 9, he sought to keep such laws as to the honor of God shall be chosen by the people. And in 1533, he went back to his coronation notes, revised it so that it would say he would hold laws and approve customs of the realm as long as they were not prejudicial to his crown or imperial jurisdiction. This new oath put Henry in his future heirs. He hoped it would put them above the law. This was a startling new conception of his royal power. It couldn't really be allowed in this form. And Henry's extreme revised version was not sworn in, sworn by any of his children in quite this way, but they did up their prerogative a little Mary. The first, for example, added that she would, um, seek to uphold just and elicit laws. He would not hold laws as long as they were just elicited while according to to whom. But the Stewart Kings James, the I, Charles the I and Charles II as Charles II in the Abbey did swear a revised oath and won that bound them to uphold laws as long as they were agreeable to the prerogative of the kings.
And this got Charles the first in trouble at his trial in 1649, the prosecutor at Charles, the first trial in 1649, the prosecutor John Cook, had intended to accuse Charles the first of instructing archbishop Lord to amend the coronation oath so that it organ it augmented his prerogative. He never got to actually accuse Charles of doing this because Charles refused to recognize the court and therefore not it that the kind of the proceedings didn't. No, no witnesses were called and the proceedings didn't continue. But this is what he wanted to do. He wanted to catch him out with his oath. The oath was central to the debates between Charles and Parliament in the 1640s in 1642, parliament argued that his oath found Charles the first to approve parliament's laws. Charles refuted this, he argued he had the right a right to veto. So parliament so argued to Charles that kings stand engaged both in conscience and injustice to give their royal ascent in respect of the oath that is all ought to be taken by the kings of this realm, their coronation.
You promised that you would uphold laws that will be made by parliament, but laws could not be made without a king. Charles the first maintained where the word of a king is there is power. He said quoting from the Bible on the first day of his trial. It was then a bold statement for Charles. I second to swear this same oath at his coronation in 1661. An oath which still allowed for ambiguity was the king above or below the law. It was not until 1688 that the confusion was cleared up by an act of parliament that was passed before the coronation of William and Mary in 1689. This committed the wording of the oath to law and this wording can only now be changed by another act of parliament. The word prerogative struck out and the English and Scottish monarchs unambiguously promised to follow the laws agreed in parliament.
This marked the beginning of constitutional monarchy as well as the end of any Catholic heirs. From now on, the succession would be Protestant, but at least the kings would follow law. The coronation then has had to contain competing conceptions of the nature of royal power and the relationship between Monarch and parliament. Well before Charles I and William and Mary Parliament had been flexing its muscles with, in another context, in 1553, the first queen regnant Mary, the first was crowned. There she is on the left. I don't know if anyone has ever seen Mary the first look like that. She looks rather like Elizabeth. This is from a plea roll, an image from a plea roll. The accession of England's first queen in 1553. 1553 was for some catastrophic Mary. The first was also Catholic and in parliament's eyes still a bastard for the Scottish churchman and reformer John Knox. The image of a woman bearing the regalia with men kneeling before her was simply monstrous and counter to God's will. How could a woman he bellowed sit as God's left tenant? How could men pay homage to a queen? There was no precedent to the crowning, a queen regnant the libe regardless, did not include an order of service for a queen's coronation only for a queen. Cons marry the first counselors put their heads together to de deliberate over what should be done. And they came up with a radical proposal.
Parliament had never revoked the bastard. Staus conferred on Mary following the birth of Elizabeth and the 1536 act of succession. And this was potentially problematic. Par Mary's counselors therefore proposed to Mary that she should be made queen in parliament first before her coronation could take place. This was an unprecedented reversal of, of the traditional order. If parliament was sitting when an English monarch died, parliament would automatically dissolve and would only sit again once the pneumonic had been anointed and crowned. This doesn't happen anymore. Although it's really interesting that Charles II's coronation has been nicely timed to kind of coincide with where this session of parliament that will close and then he'll be able to open it as a crowned monarch.
But in 1553 to reverse the order to keep, to open a parliament and to declare that queen queen through that parliament was an unparalleled constitutional mood move and had real consequences, could have real consequences for the queen's power. And Mary knew this. She was distressed on hearing this proposal and she consulted her closest advisors, imperial ambassadors. They were appalled at the novelties that England was entertaining. They commented how the English were capricia seekers after novelty, always fiddling with things and changing things. Mary and her, her advisor suspected rightly that cause Mary was a woman and a Catholic, that this pre coronation parliament would seek to bridle her. And that's the word that's used and a word that used used by Mary and her counselors. They think she's going to be bridled by this parliament that would make her more dependent on council and parliament than she should be.
That it would dilute her power. She would in short, owe her position to parliament first and not to God. She would be crowned queen by parliament and would be anointed as a different kind of queen as a result. Mary said, no customary, customarily defined. No, she said. And she pressed ahead with the plans for her coronation releasing Bishop Gardner from the tower so that he could officiate and commissioning special secret oils to be sent over from Belgium so that she did not have to be anointed with Protestant oil that had been consecrated. According to the Ed Edwardian church, her ceremony was long and full. It lasted for seven hours and she was anointed and crowned just like a king and invested with the full set of regalia, robe, scepter, orb, ring spurs. She didn't actually have to put the spurs on like a queen concert. She wore cloth of gold and had her hair down as in this image sign of fertility.
So even though she rejected the proposal, what she did do is establish a precedent for the crowning of a queen, which her sister then followed Elizabeth, I I in the image on the right, she even wore Mary's dress with the Bodhi slightly tweaked. Another part of the busyness of a coronation is the coronation procession. For a long time, the service was accompanied by the pre coronation procession, a medieval tradition during which the monarch would process from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey. The Liga stipulates that this was necessary that the mon would move from having occupied the Tower of London move through the city of London to Westminster before their coronation. The libe Regales said that the king needed to be seen by the people on his way to the coronation to be welcomed and accepted. These processions are replaced now by the, uh, procession after the coronation and with picnics and concert on concerts.
But they provided opportunities in the early modern period, particularly for those choreographing the events to put a gloss on the coronation ceremony, to use the procession to kind of explain what they think is about to happen the next day. So when Elizabeth, the first was crowned in 1559, here she is in her letter. There she is there. London put on a spectacular show, a series of pageants dotted along the procession route ensured that everyone understood that here was a Protestant queen and a thoroughly English queen who would embrace pure religion pageants showed her, uh, an image of the queen, kind trampling on superstition watch out Catholics. It promised that herra would be fertile. It was inconceivable in 1559 that this young queen would not marry and would not have children. This wasn't all staged by the court, but actually by London, by the the guilds and the, and and the companies that put on these shows. It was an opportunity for them to speak to the monarch, tell her what they wanted her to be, that they hoped what they hoped she would do.
In 1661, Charles second staged a dazzling procession through London. Some including bewildered foreign ambassadors commented on its exorbitant cost. Nothing much changes there, but others were awestruck. It is impossible to relate to the glory of this day. Samuel peeps wrote in his diary, one Puritan observer in his diary noted that it was a pompous show. But Samuel peeps, let's not forget, had worked for Edward Monarchy, Oliver Cromwell's General Sea, and both had switched allegiance for this procession happened after the years of the Republic. And this procession had to work really hard to obliterate the years of the republic and reestablish monarchy. This procession and all the pageants and poetry and speeches that accompanied it sought to declare monarchy as natural and permanent talked about the glorious light of monarchy returning after the dismal night of usurpation. This procession could not suppress the truth that the republic had exposed.
Monarchy was not the only form of government and might not even be approved of by God. The procession kind of knows this, but it pretends it doesn't. And I think this is a really interesting moment of these ceremonies sort of creating a kind of fiction of long lasting continuous monarchy. Charles's restoration was not inevitable, but history has led us to believe it. It was, and processions like this have played a part in that by talking about the monarchy has this light that's returning as natural, permanent, and unchanging. But many of those in this procession, including George Monk here, right on the right, he's looking out at us. Interestingly, George Monk there as Master of the Horse, but he had been quite happy for a long time serving Cromwell.
Those organizing Charles I second's, coronation combed through the historical records and scrutinized precedent to make sure that this ceremony looked just like the coronations of his medieval and ch ancestors and that all the ancient customs were correctly followed. St. Edwards regalia believed to date back to the reign of Edward the confessor and used at Coronation since the reign of Henry III was broken apart and melted down by Order of Parliament in 1649. Not by Cromwell, Cromwell was in Ireland. I mean, I'm not, you know, he was up to no good in Ireland, but he was in Ireland. When Parliament passed the act to destroy the regalia, they did not need it anymore. Monarchy had been abolished, but in 1661, the regalia that we are going to see on Saturday was Recommissioned. The Anointing Spoon is the only medieval item to have survived dates from the 12th century.
It was bought at the Great sale of Charles, the first stuff by Clement Kinsley, who had worked for the Royal Wardrobe and went on to work for Crowell. So many people say, oh, he saved it, he preserved it, he kept it. Well, he bought it and then went on to work in the household, um, for Crowell and then gave it back. Charles II's Coronation is significant for enabling the powerful story that is told about the British monarchy, that it has always been there and its ceremonies have stayed the same. It was a masterpiece of ceremonial resurrection. As those watching the ceremony must have known. And as we know, it could have all gone a different way and it still could triumphant, it may look, but it was not sure. It was really still very unsettled in 1661 and through the 1660s for all the possessions, elaborate, pageantry, extolling the hand of God, it was parliament that brought back Charles, I second not God.
Part of the power of such spectacle derives ironically from knowing that it could dissolve like an insubstantial pageant. And his real power really did wane Eventually with Charles II successors. There seemed no harm in enjoying the theater and in witnessing the dramatization of the past and connecting with an ancient desire to create and crown kings. I think it's in the spirit of Charles II's coronation that the modern, the late, the 20th century coronation, um, was, was kind of de devised this sort of ne ne nostalgia, deliberately looking to the past, deliberately archaic, invoking the past and valuing it that one of the one of its kind of values was that, that it is has always been that way. But what then of the anointing I want to end with how I began with this puzzle of the anointing. How does the anointing still fit into a ceremony that had to embrace an entirely new understanding of what a monarch is in relation to parliament and to law that the 16th and 17th centuries worked out. As with all parts of the ceremony, the anointing was tinkered with in 1603 for James, the first coronation, the Latin service was translated into English for the first time. It was the first properly Protestant ceremony. And there is an image of him in the abbey with the altar as a table, not as a high altar, but an ordinary table. It's the Reformed Abbey.
The anointing was retained, but not without some angst about the wording that should accompany it. How should they translate that prayer that suggests a physical transformation is brought about by the anointing by God's grace entering the body of the king. This emphasis on the body. A first draft of the translation held in Lamberth Palace library has been marked up as shown in this slide there. Well, I'll show you the unmarked version first. This is the, the head of first draft of the translation and then a correcting hand has gone over it as they, it's brilliant to be able to see them changing their minds like we can't have that word. The revisions downplay any notion of the materiality of God's grace in the li regardless, the anthem Vanney creta spirit translated as calm holy ghosts, which we're going to hear in several different languages on Saturday. And the prayers that preface the anointing beckon the gift of grace imparted by God the Archbishop bishops words and articulate that it is through the oil that grace is transmitted and the king made king, the, the, the Latin is, uh, through the holy oil, through unction. But when the ma, when this translation is marked up, the rubric specifying that the archbishop should make the sign of a cross at the moment of anointing is struck out,
Should just be touched as is this phrase enter into the bowels of thy heart to physical. Also any connection between the visible oil and invisible grace is downplayed. So they take out by this visible gift. There is no connection between the anointing and the receipt of grace. The king is anointed so that he may receive grace rather than receiving grace as a result of being anointed. It was usual for a coronation to include a sermon. There'll be a sermon at Charles II's coronation for the first time since 1911 when, um, there was a sermon at the coronation of Georgia fifth and Queen Mary's an interesting restoration in a ceremony that they wanted to cut short. They're now adding and adding the sermon and it will gloss the ceremony as sermons always did. In 1603, Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester delivered the sermon before James the first and he took as his theme, the anointing,
He glossed it in such a way that he talked about the anointing as being simply an external sign, rendering visible what was already true. That God, that James was approved by God, that he'd already been granted God's grace, that his authority, dignity, and duty derived from God and that he would serve God. So it is a sign of something that we can't see, a sign that James is already king, not, there's no kind of direct connection between I'm anointing you and changing you. It could therefore be preserved in a Protestant ceremony. In good conscience, it would be okay to keep it. It never can quite do away with the fact that something happens. Though in a few years later, Lance, a lot Andrews the Anglican leading bishop of Chichester who valued ceremony, preached to James and brought up the anointing at his coronation. The truth is he told James the ceremony does not anything only declare it what is done.
So it's valuable as a ceremony, as a ritual for what it is symbol what it is saying as an external sign of something that has already happened as a kind of, as kind of commemorative. This is a new conception of ceremony, a new understanding of ritual that can now be applied to coronation. And it takes part in a kind of a, a climate of, of rethinking the value of ceremony which has begun in the 16th century. William Cavendish Mark was of New Castle writes a a a kind set a set of instructions, kind of advice to Charles II in which he tells him about ceremony. Charles the first had been really worried about being to just ceremony. He said, well, if I don't have any power, that's rubbish. I can't, you can't just be just a symbol. But Cavendish and others turn this around and actually say ceremony in itself is, is valuable. That external sim symbolism ceremony, though it is nothing in itself, he said, yet it doth everything. Hence the big possession in 1661. It is valuable. It is a spectacle. It has an oth other has other work to do.
Way back in 1531, Thomas Elliot in the book named the governor also wrote, interestingly about a king's ceremonies. He appeals to the human desire for outward significations, for spectacle to perform and show what is true, but what we can't always see. In the case of a monarchs coronation, Elliot argued this could inspire respect and obedience. He says, let it be also be considered that we be men and not angels. This is right at the end, therefore we know nothing. But by outward significations, why should kings be crowned in public? Why should we they receive their crown and all their props. It's a way of inspiring. He says reverence. Beholders that word behold as if you're kind of sort of being struck by something, it'll inspire obedience. But also we are men and we not are not angels. We know nothing. But by outward significations, someone like John Milton though railed against this human desire to be awed and cowed by the spectacle of a king pomp and ceremony makes unthinking servants of us he thought.
And in paradise lost, he refers to the easy yoke of servile pomp. In the 19th century, the constitutional historian badgett argued the same. But in defense of monarchy in its ceremonies, royalty was strong precisely because it could appeal to feeling royalty will be strong cause it appeals to diffused feeling republic's weak because they appeal to understanding something that Milton also knew. He knew that intellectually a republic should work, but he knew that the English were seduced, easily seduced could. He would easily run back into the yoke of servile pomp. A few years ago the Hillary mantel wrote about the continuity of this desire to want to watch and to be dazzled. The queen she wrote was a thing that existed only to be looked at and the faculty of all remains intact in a ceremony that will be highly visible and broadcast across the world, that it will will invite everyone or ask everyone, invite everyone to pledge allegiance.
And it is working so hard to be inclusive and uniting and to emphasize monarchy as service Charles II's Coronation is going to attempt to inspire awe. I think his anointing will be hidden. A screen will be held up before Charles when he is seated in the coronation chair. The move is a deeply religious one and an example of ceremonial theatrics, a deliberate piece of choreography in the way that Henry IV wanted to be elevated and shown in the way that Elizabeth second hid herself at the moment of mass. It will ensure that Charles TH's coronation the anointing remains the most sacred and the most mysterious part of the ceremony. Wellbeing. His commentary has written that it symbolizes the presence of God during this moment, but it will emphasize and draw attention to not unproblematically what has always underpinned the coronation ceremony that the monarch is the Lord's anointed. Is there a place for this in a constitutional monarchy? It risks, I think prioritizing the anointing over the oaths. I'm not sure how comfortably this kind of emphasis can sit within a coronation that we know is seeking to include all faiths and to present an image of a humble king here to serve all peoples. It will ensure that that moment of magic or awe with all its complications and difficulty that will be preserved, that's something we won't see. Something.
Flexibility is the hallmark of British coronations and the revisions being made to the ceremony in 2023. Connect to all those moments in the past when committees of people gathered to think seriously and hard about what a coronation was and whether they should change it and how there is always a bit of a risk. Will it work? Will it match the times? Can it reflect what we think a king is or should be? I've been asked a lot recently, over the last couple of weeks whether this will be the last such coronation we are ever likely to see. I think as long as there is such a commitment to reworking the ceremony to, in trying to adapt it, even if they get some things wrong, that there is life in it yet. But I will just say please show us the anointing. Thank you, <laugh>.
Speaker 4 (56:05):
Speaker 1 (56:06):
I never got to him. Sorry. <laugh>. Thank
Speaker 5 (56:10):
You. Thank you so much Dr. Ham for such a fascinating lecture. I had a very quick question. Um, actually I'm gonna go straight into, we've got the, the mic here. Who has questions for Dr. Hunt.
Speaker 1 (56:21):
I dunno if you can speak
Speaker 6 (56:22):
A bit about, um, who attends Coronations, you know, in the past and I suppose, cause I read yesterday the Anton Decker attending, so I just thought it, it's interesting to know who's attended in the past and how it's changed.
Speaker 1 (56:37):
Um, well I think this coronation is going to be really different in, in terms of that, that this, the, the, the an the Anton decks and the hurricanes, but also the charitable workers and the an and NHS and not so many foreign royals and not, not all the kinds of, not all not all the peers. So it will look really quite different in the Abbey. Um, some of the images I've showed you showed that the, the absolutely stuffed full, you know, with scaffolding, with seats everywhere, but all in their robes. Um, then, then ability that no, no ordinary people would be allowed in hence the procession being so important because that was the only way you would get a glimpse of, of the Monarch. Um, so this, this is, this marks a departure even from Elizabeth I second coronation that there will be different people in in the Abbey, um, but before no nobility politicians obviously. Um, and it is parliament's. I mean it is, it is the government ceremony. They, they they come up with a guest list. Um, that wasn't always the case of course, but, uh, yeah, th this one will be different for being, for their being some general, more general public there.
Speaker 7 (57:53):
Thank you. Um, it seemed to me for very many years that the greatest problem for the coronation to be an inclusive one is the fact that it's two ceremonies in one, uh, crowning the monarch, but also so much of it is installing the monarch as governor of the established church, the Church of England, which I think should be two separate ceremonies because I don't see how it can be inclusive when it does that. And you have in the liturgy preserving the rights of my bishops and all this, and that seems to be a major problem to me. Mm-hmm.
Speaker 1 (58:36):
<affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think I agree. I think it's trying to do too many things. Um, I think they're, they're, yes, a separate ceremony is establishing the, the monikers head of the Church of England. Um, but, uh, an another ceremony, I think the, the, the oath could be taken out of it, for example. Um, and that that could be done at the moment of accession and with the, with the proclamation. Um, yes, I, I, I think I agree <laugh> that it's, it is too ambitious, I think, and it's becoming increasingly obvious, I think, in this coronation that it's trying to do. It's so, wants to be inclusive, um, and diverse, but it can't change what it is, which is a deeply religious Anglican ceremony.
Speaker 5 (59:21):
Um, thank you so much Dr. Hunt. I, I'm afraid we have got to seven o'clock, so, um, if anyone has any questions for Dr. Hunt, could you come up and ask her at the end? But, um, could I also just say if you are, uh, watching online or in person today, we've got a lecture on Barts, that's the hospital, the 900 year old hospital and its history on Thursday night. So please do come along for that. Thanks very much. Thank you.