Coronation of the British monarch

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The coronation of George VI, 1937

The coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony (specifically, initiation rite) in which the monarch of the United Kingdom is formally invested with regalia and crowned at Westminster Abbey. It corresponds to the coronations that formerly took place in other European monarchies, all of which have abandoned coronations in favour of inauguration or enthronement ceremonies.

The coronation usually takes place several months after the death of the previous monarch, as it is considered a joyous occasion that would be inappropriate while mourning continues. This also gives the planners enough time to complete the elaborate arrangements required. For example, Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June 1953, having ascended the throne on 6 February 1952.

The ceremony is performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior cleric in the Church of England. Other clergy and members of the nobility also have roles; most participants in the ceremony are required to wear ceremonial uniforms or robes. Many other government officials and guests attend, including representatives of other countries.

The essential elements of the coronation have remained largely unchanged for the past thousand years. The sovereign is first presented to, and acclaimed by, the people. He or she then swears an oath to uphold the law and the Church. Following that, the monarch is anointed with holy oil, invested with regalia, and crowned, before receiving the homage of his or her subjects.


Development of the English coronation

Coronation of King Harold II at Westminster Abbey in 1066

The main elements of the coronation service and the earliest form of oath were devised by Saint Dunstan for the coronation of King Edgar in 973 AD. It drew on ceremonies used by the Kings of the Franks and those used in the ordination of bishops. Two versions of coronation services, known as ordines (from the Latin ordo meaning "order") or rescensions, survive from before the Norman Conquest. It is not known if the First Rescension was ever used in England and it was the Second Rescension which was used by Edgar in 973 and by subsequent Anglo-Saxon and early Norman kings.[1]

Coronation of King Henry IV at Westminster in 1399

A Third Rescension was probably compiled during the reign of King Henry I and was used at the coronation of King Stephen in 1135. While retaining the most important elements of the Anglo-Saxon rite, it borrowed heavily from the consecration of the Holy Roman Emperor from the Pontificale Romano, a book of German liturgy compiled in Mainz in 961, thus bringing the English tradition into line with continental practice.[2] It remained in use until the Coronation of Edward II in 1308 when the Fourth Rescencion was first used, having been compiled over several preceding decades. Although influenced by its French counterpart, the new ordo focussed on the balance between the monarch and his nobles and on the oath, neither of which concerned the absolutist French kings.[3] One manuscript text of this rescension is the Liber Regalis at Westminster Abbey which has come to be regarded as the definitive version.[4]

Following the start of the Reformation in England, the boy king Edward VI had been crowned in the first Protestant coronation in 1547, during which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer preached a sermon against idolatry and "the tyranny of the Bishops of Rome". However, six years later, he was succeeded by his half-sister, Mary I, who restored the Catholic rite.[5] In 1559, Elizabeth I underwent the last English coronation under the auspices of the Catholic Church; however, Elizabeth's insistence on changes to reflect her Protestant beliefs resulted in several bishops refusing to officiate at the service and it was conducted by the low-ranking Bishop of Carlisle, Owen Oglethorpe.[6]

Scottish coronations

Alexander III of Scotland at his coronation at Scone Abbey in 1249, being greeted by the royal poet who will recite the king's genealogy.

Scottish coronations were traditionally held at Scone Abbey, with the king seated on the Stone of Destiny. The original rituals were a fusion of ceremonies used by the kings of Dál Riata, based on the inauguration of Aidan by Columba in 574, and by the Picts from whom the Stone of Destiny came. A crown does not seem to have been used until the inauguration of Alexander II in 1214. The ceremony included the laying on of hands by a senior cleric and the recitation of the king's genealogy.[7] Alexander III was the last Scottish king to be crowned in this way in 1249, since the Stone was captured by the English forces of Edward I in 1296.[8] It was later incorporated into the English Coronation Chair and its first certain use at an English coronation was that of Henry IV in 1399.[9] Pope John XXII in a bull of 1329 granted the kings of Scotland the right to be anointed and crowned.[7] No record exists of the exact form of the medieval rituals, but a later account exists of the coronation of the 17-month-old infant King James V at Stirling Castle in 1513. The ceremony was held in a church, since demolished, within the castle walls and was conducted by the Bishop of Glasgow, because the Archbishop of St Andrews had been killed at the Battle of Flodden.[10] It is likely that the child would have been knighted before the start of the ceremony.[11] The coronation itself started with a sermon, followed by the anointing and crowning, then the coronation oath, in this case taken for the child by an unknown noble or priest, and finally an oath of fealty and acclamation by the congregation.[12]

James VI of Scotland had been crowned in The Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling, in 1567 and became James I of Great Britain in 1603. Charles I travelled north for a Scottish coronation at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh in 1633,[13] but caused consternation amongst the Presbyterian Scots by his insistence on elaborate High Anglican ritual, arousing "gryt feir of inbriginge of poperie".[14] Charles II underwent a simple Presbyterian coronation ceremony at Scone in 1650, but his brother James II was never crowned in Scotland, although Scottish peers attended his coronation in London, setting a precedent for future ceremonies.[15]

Modern coronations

The Liber Regalis was translated into English for the first time for the Coronation of James I in 1601 as a result of the Reformation in England.[16] James II who was a Catholic, ordered a truncated version omitting the Eucharist in 1685, but this was restored for later monarchs. Only four years later, the service was again revised by Henry Compton for the Coronation of William and Mary and this has formed the basis of subsequent coronation services.[17] However, in the 20th century, liturgical scholars have sought to restore the spiritual meaning of the ceremony by rearranging the elements with reference to the medieval texts,[18] creating a "complex marriage of innovation and tradition".[19]


The timing of the coronation has varied throughout British history. King Edgar's coronation was some 15 years after his accession in 957 and may have been intended to mark the high point of his reign, or that he reached the age of 30, the age at which Jesus Christ was baptised.[20] Harold II was crowned on the day after the death of his predecessor, Edward the Confessor, the rush probably reflecting the contentious nature of Harold's succession;[21] whereas the first Norman monarch, William I "The Conqueror", was also crowned on the day he became king, 25 December 1066,[22] but three weeks since the surrender of English nobles and bishops at Berkhampstead, allowing time to prepare a spectacular ceremony.[21] Most of his successors were crowned within weeks, or even days, of their accession. Edward I was fighting in the Ninth Crusade when he acceded to the throne in 1272; he was crowned soon after his return in 1274.[23] Edward II's coronation, similarly, was delayed by a campaign in Scotland in 1307.[24] Henry VI was only a few months old when he acceded in 1422; he was crowned in 1429, but did not officially assume the reins of government until he was deemed of sufficient age, in 1437.[25] Pre-modern coronations were usually either on a Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, or on a Christian holiday. Edgar's coronation was at Pentecost,[26] William I's on Christmas Day, possibly in imitation of the Byzantine emperors,[27] and King John's was on Ascension Day.[28] Elizabeth I consulted her astrologer, John Dee, before deciding on an auspicious date.[29] The coronations of Charles II in 1661 and Anne in 1702 were on St George's Day, the feast of the patron saint of England.[30]

Under the Hanoverian monarchs in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was deemed appropriate to extend the waiting period to several months, following a period of mourning for the previous monarch and to allow time for preparation of the ceremony.[31] In the case of every monarch since and including George IV, at least one year has passed between accession and coronation, with the exception of George VI, whose predecessor did not die but abdicated.[32] The coronation date had already been set; planning simply continued with a new monarch.[33]

Since a period of time has often passed between accession and coronation, some monarchs were never crowned. Edward V and Lady Jane Grey were both deposed before they could be crowned, in 1483 and 1553, respectively.[34] Edward VIII also went uncrowned, as he abdicated in 1936 before the end of the customary one-year period between accession and coronation.[32] A monarch, however, accedes to the throne the moment their predecessor dies, not when they are crowned. i.e. "The King is dead. Long live the King."[35]


The Anglo-Saxon monarchs used various locations for their coronations, including Bath, Kingston upon Thames, London, and Winchester. The last Anglo-Saxon monarch, Harold II, was crowned at Westminster Abbey in 1066; the location was preserved for all future coronations.[36] The basic elements of the coronation ceremony have also remained the same for the last thousand years; it was devised in 973 by Dunstan.[31][37] When London was under the control of the French,[38] Henry III was crowned at Gloucester in 1216; he later chose to have a second coronation at Westminster in 1220.[39] Two hundred years later, Henry VI also had two coronations; as King of England in London in 1429, and as King of France in Paris in 1431.[25]

Coronation of consorts and others

Coronation of Henry the Young King in 1170

Coronations may be performed for a person other than the reigning monarch. In 1170, Henry the Young King, heir apparent to the throne, was crowned as a second king of England, subordinate to his father Henry II;[40] such coronations were common practice in mediaeval France and Germany, but this is only one of two instances of its kind in England (the other being that of Ecgfrith of Mercia in 796, crowned whilst his father, Offa of Mercia, was still alive).[41] More commonly, a king's wife is crowned as queen consort. If the king is already married at the time of his coronation, a joint coronation of both king and queen may be performed.[31] The first such coronation was of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1154; seventeen such coronations have been performed, including that of the co-rulers William III and Mary II.[42] The most recent was that of George VI and the former Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1937. If the king married, or remarried, after his coronation, or if his wife were not crowned with him for some other reason, she might be crowned in a separate ceremony. The first such separate coronation of a queen consort in England was that of Matilda of Flanders in 1068;[43] the last was Anne Boleyn's in 1533.[44] The most recent King to wed post-coronation, Charles II, did not have a separate coronation for his bride, Catherine of Braganza.[45] Following the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell declined the crown but underwent a coronation in all but name in his second investiture as Lord Protector in 1657.[46]

Bringing coronations to the people

The idea of the need to gain popular support for a new monarch by making the ceremony a spectacle for ordinary people, started with the coronation in 1377 of Richard II who was a 10-year-old boy, thought unlikely to command respect simply by his physical appearance. On the day before the coronation, the boy king and his retinue were met outside the City by the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and the livery companies, and he was conducted to the Tower of London where he spent the night in vigil. The following morning, the king travelled on horseback in a great procession through the decorated City streets to Westminster. Bands played along the route, the public conduits flowed with red and white wine, and an imitation castle had been built in Cheapside, probably to represent the New Jerusalem, where a girl blew gold leaf over the king and offered him wine. Similar, or even more elaborate pageants continued until the coronation of Charles II in 1661.[47] Thereafter, there was only a short procession from Westminster Hall to the abbey. For the coronation of George IV in 1831, a state procession from St James's Palace to the abbey was instituted, and this pageantry is an important feature of the modern event.[48]

George V and Queen Mary seated on the Chairs of Estate in front of the royal box at their coronation in 1911. It was the first time any part of the service had been photographed.

In early modern coronations, the events inside the Abbey were usually recorded by artists and published in elaborate folio books of engravings,[49] the last of these was published in 1905 depicting the coronation which had taken place three years earlier.[50] Re-enactments of the ceremony were staged at London and provincial theatres; in 1761, a production featuring the Westminster Abbey Choir at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden ran for three months after the real event.[49] In 1902, a request to record the ceremony on a gramophone record was rejected, but Sir Benjamin Stone photographed the procession into the abbey.[50] Nine years later, at the coronation of George V, Stone was allowed to photograph the recognition, the presentation of the swords, and the homage.[51]

The coronation of George VI in 1937 was broadcast on radio by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and parts of the service were filmed and shown in cinemas.[52] The state procession was shown live on the new BBC Television Service, the first major outside broadcast.[53] At Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953, most of the proceedings inside the Abbey were also televised by the BBC. Originally, events as far as the choir screen were to be televised live, with the remainder to be filmed and released later after any mishaps were edited out. This would prevent television viewers from seeing most of the highlights of the coronation, including the actual crowning, live; it led to controversy in the press and even questions in Parliament.[54] The organising committee subsequently decided the entire ceremony would be televised, except for the anointing and communion, which had also been excluded from photography at the last coronation. It was revealed 30 years later that the about-face was due to the personal intervention of the Queen. It is estimated that over 20 million people watched the broadcast in the United Kingdom. As a result of the coronation, public interest in television rose significantly.[55]

Commonwealth realms

The need to include the various elements of the British Empire in coronations was not considered until 1902, when it was attended by the prime ministers and governors-general of the British Dominions, by then almost completely autonomous, and also by many of the rulers of the Indian Princely States and the various British Protectorates. An Imperial Conference was held afterwards.[56] In 1911, the procession inside the Abbey included the banners of the Dominions and the Indian Empire along with the traditional banners of the Home Nations. By 1937, the Statute of Westminster 1931 had made the Dominions fully independent, and the wording of the coronation oath had to be amended to include their names and confine the elements concerning religion to the United Kingdom.[57]

Thus since 1937, the monarch has been simultaneously crowned as sovereign of several independent nations besides the United Kingdom, known since 1953 as the Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth II was asked, for example: "Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?"[58]


Attendees include foreign and Commonwealth dignitaries as well as Britons, some of whom participate in the ceremony directly. For Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953, 8,000 guests were squeezed into the Abbey and each person had to make do with a maximum of 18 inches (460 mm) of seating.[59]


The Archbishop of Canterbury, who has precedence over all other clergy and all laypersons except members of the Royal Family,[60] traditionally officiates at coronations;[61] in his or her absence, another bishop appointed by the monarch may take the Archbishop's place.[62] There have, however, been several exceptions. William I was crowned by the Archbishop of York, since the Archbishop of Canterbury had been appointed by the Antipope Benedict X, and this appointment was not recognised as valid by the Pope.[63] Edward II was crowned by the Bishop of Winchester because the Archbishop of Canterbury had been exiled by Edward I.[64] Mary I, a Catholic, refused to be crowned by the Protestant Archbishop Thomas Cranmer; the coronation was instead performed by the Bishop of Winchester.[65] Elizabeth I was crowned by the Bishop of Carlisle (to whose see is attached no special precedence) because the senior prelates were "either dead, too old and infirm, unacceptable to the queen, or unwilling to serve".[66] Finally, when James II was deposed and replaced with William III and Mary II jointly, the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to recognise the new Sovereigns; he had to be replaced by the Bishop of London.[67] Hence, in almost all cases where the Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to participate, his place has been taken by a senior cleric: the Archbishop of York is second in precedence, the Bishop of London third, the Bishop of Durham fourth, and the Bishop of Winchester fifth.[60]

Great Officers of State

The Great Officers of State traditionally participate during the ceremony. The offices of Lord High Steward and Lord High Constable have not been regularly filled since the 15th and 16th centuries respectively; they are, however, revived for coronation ceremonies.[68][69] The Lord Great Chamberlain enrobes the Sovereign with the ceremonial vestments, with the aid of the Groom of the Robes and the Master (in the case of a king) or Mistress (in the case of a queen) of the Robes.[58]

The Barons of the Cinque Ports also participated in the ceremony. Formerly, the Barons were the Members of the House of Commons representing the Cinque Ports of Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich. Reforms in the 19th century, however, integrated the Cinque Ports into a regular constituency system applied throughout the nation. At later coronations, Barons were specially designated from among the city councillors for the specific purpose of attending coronations. Originally, the Barons were charged with bearing a ceremonial canopy over the Sovereign during the procession to and from Westminster Abbey. The last time the Barons performed such a task was at the coronation of George IV in 1821. The Barons did not return for the coronations of William IV (who insisted on a simpler, cheaper ceremonial) and Victoria. At coronations since Victoria's, the Barons have attended the ceremony, but they have not carried canopies.[70]

Other claims to attend the coronation

Many landowners and other persons have honorific "duties" or privileges at the coronation. Such rights are determined by a special Court of Claims, over which the Lord High Steward traditionally presided. The first recorded Court of Claims was convened in 1377 for the coronation of Richard II. By the Tudor period, the hereditary post of Lord High Steward had merged with the Crown, and so Henry VIII began the modern tradition of naming a temporary Steward for the coronation only, with separate commissioners to carry out the actual work of the court.[68]

In 1952, for example, the Court accepted the claim of the Dean of Westminster to advise the Queen on the proper procedure during the ceremony (for nearly a thousand years he and his predecessor abbots have kept an unpublished Red Book of practices), the claim of the Lord Bishop of Durham and the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells to walk beside the Queen as she entered and exited the Abbey and to stand on either side of her through the entire coronation ritual, the claim of the Earl of Shrewsbury in his capacity as Lord High Steward of Ireland to carry a white staff. The legal claim of the Queen's Scholars of Westminster School to be the first to acclaim the monarch on behalf of the common people was formally disallowed by the Court, but in practice their traditional shouts of "Vivat! Vivat Regina!" were still incorporated into the Coronation Anthem.[71]


Sovereign's robes

George IV's 6.4-m (27 ft) train was borne by the Master of the Robes and eight eldest sons of peers. The king (left) found the enormous weight of the robes very inconvenient.[72]

The Sovereign wears a variety of different robes and other garments during the course of the ceremony:

  • Crimson surcoat – the regular dress during most of the ceremony, worn under all other robes. In 1953, Elizabeth II wore a newly made gown in place of a surcoat.[73]
  • Robe of State of crimson velvet or Parliament Robe – the first robe used at a coronation, worn on entry to the Abbey and later at State Openings of Parliament. It consists of an ermine cape and a long crimson velvet train lined with further ermine and decorated with gold lace.[73]
  • Anointing gown – a simple and austere garment worn during the anointing. It is plain white, bears no decoration and fastens at the back.[73]
  • Colobium sindonis ("shroud tunic") – the first robe with which the Sovereign is invested. It is a loose white undergarment of fine linen cloth edged with a lace border, open at the sides, sleeveless and cut low at the neck. It symbolises the derivation of Royal authority from the people.[73]
  • Supertunica – the second robe with which the Sovereign is invested. It is a long coat of gold silk which reaches to the ankles and has wide-flowing sleeves. It is lined with rose-coloured silk, trimmed with gold lace, woven with national symbols and fastened by a sword belt. It derives from the full dress uniform of a consul of the Byzantine Empire.[73]
  • Robe Royal or Pallium Regale – the main robe worn during the ceremony and used during the Crowning.[58] It is a four-square mantle, lined in crimson silk and decorated with silver coronets, national symbols and silver imperial eagles in the four corners. It is lay, rather than liturgical, in nature.[73]
  • Stole Royal or armilla – a gold silk scarf which accompanies the Robe Royal, richly and heavily embroidered with gold and silver thread, set with jewels and lined with rose-coloured silk and gold fringing.[73]
  • Purple surcoat – the counterpart to the crimson surcoat, worn during the final part of the ceremony.[73]
  • Imperial Robe of purple velvet – the robe worn at the conclusion of the ceremony, on exit from the Abbey. It comprises an embroidered ermine cape with a train of purple silk velvet, trimmed with Canadian ermine and fully lined with pure silk English satin. The purple recalls the imperial robes of Roman Emperors.[73]

In contrast to the history and tradition which surround the Regalia, it is customary for most coronation robes to be newly made for each monarch. The present exceptions are the supertunica and Robe Royal, which both date from the coronation of George IV in 1821.[74]

Official costume

An earl's coronation robes

Several participants in the ceremony wear special costumes, uniforms or robes. Peers' robes comprise a full-length crimson velvet coat, and an ermine cape. Rows of sealskin spots on the cape designate the peer's rank; dukes use four rows, marquesses three and a half, earls three, viscounts two and a half, and barons and lords of Parliament two. Royal dukes use six rows of ermine, ermine on the front of the cape and long trains borne by pages. Peeresses' ranks are designated not by sealskin spots, but by the length of their trains and the width of the ermine edging on the same. For duchesses, the trains are 1.8 m (2 yds) long, for marchionesses one and three-quarters yards, for countesses one and a half yards, for viscountesses one and a quarter yards, and for baronesses and ladies 90 cm (1 yd). The ermine edgings are 13 cm (5 in) in width for duchesses, 10 cm (4 in) for marchionesses, 7.5 cm (3 in) for countesses and 5 cm (2 in) for viscountesses, baronesses and ladies. The robes of peers and peeresses are used only during coronations.[75] The canopy-bearers wear their Garter robes as well as Tudor-style underdress.

Crowns and coronets

Peers wear coronets, as do most members of the Royal Family; such coronets display heraldic emblems based on rank or association to the monarch. The heir-apparent's coronet displays four crosses-pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, surmounted by an arch. The same style, without the arch, is used for the children and siblings of Sovereigns. The coronets of children of the heir-apparent display four fleurs-de-lis, two crosses-pattée and two strawberry leaves. A fourth style, including four crosses-pattée and four strawberry leaves, is used for the children of the sons and brothers of Sovereigns. The aforementioned coronets are borne instead of any coronets based on peerage dignities. The coronets of dukes show eight strawberry leaves, those of marquesses four strawberry leaves alternating with four raised silver balls, those of earls eight strawberry leaves alternating with eight raised silver balls, those of viscounts sixteen silver balls and those of barons six silver balls. Peeresses use the same design, except that they appear on smaller circlets than the peers' coronets.[76]

Aside from kings and queens, the only individuals authorised to wear crowns (as opposed to coronets) are the Kings of Arms, the United Kingdom's senior heraldic officials.[77] Garter, Clarenceaux, and Norroy and Ulster Kings of Arms have heraldic jurisdiction over England, Wales and Northern Ireland;[78] Lord Lyon King of Arms is responsible for Scotland.[79] In addition, there is a King of Arms attached to each of the Order of the Bath, Order of St. Michael and St. George and the Order of the British Empire. These have only a ceremonial role, but are authorised by the statutes of their orders to wear the same crown as Garter at a coronation.[80] The crown of a King of Arms is silver-gilt and consists of sixteen acanthus leaves alternating in height, and inscribed with the words Miserere mei Deus secundum magnam misericordiam tuam (Latin: "Have mercy on me O God according to Thy great mercy", from Psalm 51).[77] The Lord Lyon King of Arms has worn a crown of this style at all coronations since that of George III. Prior to that he wore a replica of the Crown of Scotland. In 2004 a new replica of this crown was created for use by the Lord Lyon at future coronations.[81]

Other participants

Along with persons of nobility, the coronation ceremonies are also attended by a wide range of political figures, including the Prime Minister and all members of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, all Governors-General and Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth realms, all Governors of British Crown Colonies, as well as the Heads of State of dependent nations. Dignitaries and representatives from other nations are also customarily invited.[31]


In the 20th century, guests not participating directly wore court dress or white tie of some form. Ladies wore long evening gowns with tiaras or similar.


Recognition and oath

Edward VII taking the oath in 1902

The Sovereign enters Westminster Abbey wearing the crimson surcoat and the Robe of State of crimson velvet.

Once the Sovereign takes his or her seat on the Chair of Estate, the Garter Principal King of Arms, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Lord High Constable and the Earl Marshal go to the east, south, west and north of the Abbey. At each side, the Archbishop calls for the Recognition of the Sovereign, with the words,

Sirs, I here present unto you ..., your undoubted King (Queen). Wherefore all you who are come this day to do your homage and service, are you willing to do the same?

After the people acclaim the Sovereign at each side, the Archbishop administers an oath to the Sovereign.[58] Since the Glorious Revolution, the Coronation Oath Act of 1688 has required, among other things, that the Sovereign "Promise and Sweare to Governe the People of this Kingdome of England and the Dominions thereto belonging according to the Statutes in Parlyament Agreed on and the Laws and Customs of the same".[82] The oath has been modified without statutory authority; for example, at the coronation of Elizabeth II, the exchange between the Queen and the Archbishop was as follows:

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

The Queen: I solemnly promise so to do.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgments?

The Queen: "I will."

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolable the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

The Queen: All this I promise to do. The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God.[58]

The monarch additionally swears an oath to preserve Presbyterian church government in the Church of Scotland. This part of the oath is taken before the coronation.[62]

Once the taking of the oath concludes, an ecclesiastic presents a Bible to the Sovereign, saying "Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God."[58] The Bible used is a full King James Bible, including the Apocrypha.[83] At Elizabeth II's coronation, the Bible was presented by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Once the Bible is presented, the Holy Communion is celebrated, but the service is interrupted after the Nicene Creed.[58]


After the Communion service is interrupted, the crimson robe is removed, and the Sovereign proceeds to the Coronation Chair,[58] which has been set in a prominent position, wearing the anointing gown. In 1953, the chair stood atop a dais of several steps.[84] This mediaeval chair has a cavity in the base into which the Stone of Scone is fitted for the ceremony. Also known as the "Stone of Destiny", it was used for ancient Scottish coronations until brought to England by Edward I. It has been used for every coronation at Westminster Abbey since. Until 1996, the stone was kept with the chair in Westminster Abbey, but it was moved that year to Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, where it is displayed on the proviso that it be returned to England for use at future coronations.[85]

Once seated in this chair, a canopy of golden cloth is held over the monarch's head for the anointing. The duty of acting as canopy-bearers was performed in recent coronations by four Knights of the Garter.[58] This element of the coronation service is considered sacred and is concealed from public gaze;[86] it was not photographed in 1937 or televised in 1953. The Dean of Westminster pours consecrated oil from an eagle-shaped ampulla into a spoon with which the Archbishop of Canterbury anoints the Sovereign in the form of a cross on the hands, head, and heart.[58] The filigreed spoon is the only part of the mediaeval Crown Jewels which survived the commonwealth.[87] The Archbishop concludes by reciting a blessing.[58]


The Sovereign is then enrobed in the colobium sindonis, over which is placed the supertunica.[58]

The Lord Great Chamberlain presents the spurs,[58] which represent chivalry.[87] The Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by other bishops, then presents the Sword of State to the Sovereign. The Sovereign is then further robed, this time receiving bracelets and putting the Robe Royal and Stole Royal on top of the supertunica. The Archbishop then delivers several Crown Jewels to the Sovereign. First, he delivers the Orb,[58] a hollow gold sphere decorated with precious and semi-precious stones. The Orb is surmounted by a cross, representing the rule of Jesus over the world;[88] it is returned to the Altar immediately after being received.[58] Next, the Sovereign receives a ring representing his or her "marriage" to the nation.[89] The Sovereign's Sceptre with Dove, so called because it is surmounted by a dove representing the Holy Ghost, and the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross, which incorporates Cullinan I, are delivered to the Sovereign.[90]


The Archbishop of Canterbury lifts St Edward's Crown from the high altar, sets it back down, and says a prayer: "Oh God, the crown of the faithful; bless we beseech thee and sanctify this thy servant our king/queen, and as thou dost this day set a crown of pure gold upon his/her head, so enrich his/her royal heart with thine abundant grace, and crown him/her with all princely virtues through the King Eternal Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen".

The Dean of Westminster picks up the crown and he, the archbishop and several other high-ranking bishops proceed to the Coronation Chair where the crown is handed back to the archbishop, who reverently places it on the monarch's head.[91] At this moment, the king or queen is crowned, and the guests in the abbey cry in unison three times, "God Save the King/Queen". Peers of the realm and officers of arms put on their coronets, the trumpeters sound a fanfare and church bells ring out across the kingdom, as gun salutes echo from the Tower of London and Hyde Park.

Finally, the archbishop, standing before the monarch, says another prayer: "God crown you with a crown of glory and righteousness, that having a right faith and manifold fruit of good works, you may obtain the crown of an everlasting kingdom by the gift of him whose kingdom endureth for ever." To this the guests, with heads bowed, say "Amen".[92]

Enthronement and homage

Elizabeth I wore the crown and held the sceptre and orb at the end of her coronation.

The Sovereign is then borne into the Throne. The Archbishops and Bishops swear their fealty, saying "I, N., Archbishop [Bishop] of N., will be faithful and true, and faith and truth will bear unto you, our Sovereign Lord [Lady], King [Queen] of this Realm and Defender of the Faith, and unto your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God." The peers then proceed to pay their homage, saying "I, N., Duke [Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron or Lord] of N., do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth will I bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God."[58] The clergy pay homage together, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Next, members of the Royal Family pay homage individually. The peers are led by the premier peers of their rank: the Dukes by the Premier Duke, the Marquesses by the Premier Marquess, and so forth.[58]

If there is a queen consort, she is anointed and crowned in a simple ceremony immediately after homage is paid. The Communion service interrupted earlier is resumed and completed.[31]

Closing procession

The Sovereign then exits the Coronation Theatre, entering St Edward's Chapel (also within the Abbey), preceded by the bearers of the Sword of State, the Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice and the Sword of Mercy (the last has a blunt tip).[93] The Crown and Sceptres worn by the Sovereign, as well as all other regalia, are laid at the Altar;[58] the Sovereign removes the Robe Royal and Stole Royal, exchanges the crimson surcoat for the purple surcoat[73] and is enrobed in the Imperial Robe of purple velvet. He or she then wears the Imperial State Crown and takes into his or her hands the Sceptre with the Cross and the Orb and leaves the chapel while all present sing the National Anthem.[58]


The music played at coronations has been primarily classical and religiously inspired. Much of the choral music uses texts from the Bible which have been used at coronations since King Edgar's coronation at Bath in 973 and are known as coronation anthems. In the coronations following the Reformation, court musicians, often the Master of the King's Music, were commissioned to compose new settings for the traditional texts. The most frequently used piece is Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel; one of four anthems commissioned from him for George II's coronation in 1727. It has featured in every coronation since, an achievement unparalleled by any other piece. Previous settings of the same text were composed by Henry Lawes for the 1661 coronation of Charles II and Thomas Tomkins for Charles I in 1621.[94]

In the 19th century, works by major European composers were often used, but when Sir Frederick Bridge was appointed Director of Music for the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII, he decided that it ought to be a celebration of four hundred years of British music. Compositions by Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell were included alongside works by contemporary composers such as Arthur Sullivan, Charles Villiers Stanford and John Stainer.[95] Hubert Parry's I was glad was written as the entrance anthem for the 1902 coronation, replacing an 1831 setting by Thomas Attwood; it contains a bridge section partway through so that the King's or Queen's Scholars of Westminster School can exercise their right to be the first commoners to acclaim the sovereign, shouting their traditional "vivats" as he or she enters the coronation theatre. This anthem and Charles Villiers Stanford's Gloria in excelsis (1911) have also been used regularly in recent coronations, as has the national anthem, God Save the Queen (or King).[96] Other composers whose music featured in Elizabeth II's coronation include Sir George Dyson, Gordon Jacob, Sir William Henry Harris, Herbert Howells, Sir William Walton, Samuel Sebastian Wesley, Ralph Vaughan Williams and the Canadian-resident but English-born Healey Willan.[97] Ralph Vaughan Williams suggested that a congregational hymn be included. This was approved by the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, so Vaughan Williams recast his 1928 arrangement of Old 100th, the English metrical version of Psalm 100, the Jubilate Deo ("All people that on earth do dwell") for congregation, organ and orchestra: the setting has become ubiquitous at festal occasions in the Anglophone world.[98]

Coronation banquet

George IV's coronation banquet was held in Westminster Hall in 1821; it was the last such banquet held.

Traditionally, the coronation was immediately followed by a banquet, held in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster (which also serves as the home to the Houses of Parliament). The King or Queen's Champion (the office being held by the Dymoke family in connection with the Manor of Scrivelsby) would ride into the hall on horseback, wearing a knight's armour, with the Lord High Constable riding to his right and the Earl Marshal riding to his left. A herald would then make a proclamation of the readiness of the Champion to fight anyone denying the monarch. After 1800, the form for this was as follows:[99]

"If any person, of what degree soever, high or low, shall deny or gainsay our Sovereign Lord ..., King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, son and next heir unto our Sovereign Lord the last King deceased, to be the right heir to the Imperial Crown of this Realm of Great Britain and Ireland, or that he ought not to enjoy the same; here is his Champion, who saith that he lieth, and is a false traitor, being ready in person to combat with him; and in this quarrel will adventure his life against him, on what day soever he shall be appointed."[99]

The King's Champion would then throw down the gauntlet; the ceremony would be repeated at the centre of the hall and at the High Table (where the Sovereign would be seated). The Sovereign would then drink to the Champion from a gold cup, which he would then present to the latter.[99] This ritual was dropped from the Coronation of Queen Victoria and never revived.

The offices of Chief Butler of England, Grand Carver of England and Master Carver of Scotland were also associated with the coronation banquet.[100]

Banquets have not been held since the coronation of George IV in 1821. George IV's coronation was the most elaborate in history; his brother and successor William IV eliminated the banquet, and William's desire to eliminate the costly banquet has now apparently become the custom.[101] A banquet was considered in 1902 for Edward VII but his sudden illness put a stop to the plans.[100] In 1953, the dish Coronation Chicken was created for the informal meal served to the guests.[61]

Enthronement as Emperor of India

Victoria assumed the title Empress of India in 1876.[102] A durbar (court) was held at Delhi on 1 January 1877 to proclaim the assumption of the title. Victoria did not attend personally, but was represented by the Viceroy, Lord Lytton.[103] A similar durbar was held on 1 January 1903 to celebrate the accession of Edward VII, who was represented by his brother the Duke of Connaught.[104] In 1911, George V also held a coronation durbar; however, he and his wife attended in person. Since it was deemed inappropriate for the Christian anointing and coronation to take place in a largely non-Christian nation, George V was not crowned in India; instead, he wore a crown as he entered the Durbar. Tradition prohibited the removal of the British Crown Jewels from the United Kingdom; therefore, a separate crown, known as the Imperial Crown of India, was created for him. The Emperor was enthroned, and the Indian princes paid homage to him. Thereafter, certain political decisions, such as the decision to move the capital from Calcutta to Delhi, were announced at the Durbar. The ceremony was not repeated, and the imperial title was abandoned by George VI in 1948, a year after Indian independence.[105]

See also


  1. Gosling pp. 5–7.
  2. Strong pp. 43–44.
  3. Strong pp. 81–82.
  4. Strong p. 84.
  5. Strong pp. 204-206.
  6. Strong p. 208.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Thomas pp. 46–47.
  8. Strong pp. 73–75.
  9. Strong pp. 75–76.
  10. Thomas pp. 50–51.
  11. Thomas p. 53.
  12. Thomas pp. 54–55.
  13. Range p. 43.
  14. Strong p. 257.
  15. Strong p. 351.
  16. Gosling p. 10.
  17. The Coronation Service of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. HMSO. 1953. pp. 14–17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Strong p. 470.
  19. Strong p. 480.
  20. Strong pp. 6–7.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Strong p. 38.
  22. Bates, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  23. Prestwick, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  24. Phillips, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Griffiths, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  26. Gosling p. 5.
  27. Strong p. 36.
  28. Strong p. 43.
  29. Strong p. 212.
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  46. Morrill, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
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External links