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Coronation (United Kingdom)

In the United Kingdom, the ceremony of coronation is the ritual whereby the monarch is formally crowned and invested with the regalia. The coronation usually takes place several months after the death of the previous monarch, for the coronation is considered a joyous occasion that would be inappropriate when mourning still continues. (Queen Elizabeth II, for example, was crowned on June 2, 1953, having ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952.) A coronation need not occur for an individual to be a monarch; Edward VIII was not crowned during his brief reign, but was unquestionably king.

General Aspects


Westminster Abbey, the location of the Coronation ceremony ()

Prior to the Norman Conquest, kings were crowned in varying places. William the Conqueror chose to be crowned in Westminster Abbey and set a precedent for all future monarchs. All British monarchs since William the Conquerer have been crowned, except for Empress Maud (who reigned but was known as "Lady of the English" instead of "Queen"), King Edward V (who was imprisoned and deposed before a coronation could occur), and Edward VIII (who abdicated before a coronation could occur).

Members of both houses of Parliament, peerss, members of the Royal Family, Prime Ministers of Commonwealth countries, foreign representatives, and leading British and other Commonwealth citizens and officials attend the ceremony. Also, certain obsolete Great Offices of State - Lord High Steward and Lord High Constable - are "called out of abeyance," or temporarily restored, but only for the day of the coronation.

Peers wear special coronation robes, cape, and hood made of crimson velvet. The rank of the peer is demonstrated by bars of sealskin spots on the cape: Royal Dukes have six, other Dukes four, Marquesses three and a half, Earls three, Viscounts two and a half, and Barons two. The rank of peeresses (female peers and wives of male peers) is denoted differently: by the length of the train. Duchesses have four-yard trains, Marchionesses three and a half, Countesses three, Viscountesses two and a half, and Baronesses two.

The peers also wear coronets, and peeresses wear circlets, the design of which can also serve to indicate the wearer's rank. The designs in the royal family are as follows: for the Sovereign's children and siblings, four crosses pattee alternating with four fleurs-de-lis; for the Sovereign's younger sons' sons, four crosses pattee alternating with four strawberry leaves; for the Sovereign's younger sons' daughters and the heir apparent's children, two crosses pattee and two strawberry leaves alternating with four fleurs-de-lis; and finally, for the Sovereign's daughters' children, four strawberry leaves alternating with four fleurs-de-lis. For nobles, the designs are as follows: for Dukes, eight strawberry leaves; for Marquesses, four strawberry leaves alternating with four silver balls; for Earls, eight strawberry leaves alternating with eight raised silver balls; for Viscounts, sixteen silver balls; and for Barons, six silver balls. Peeresses use equivalent designs, but wear a circlet, which encircles the head, rather than a coronet, which rests atop the head.

The ceremony, which includes several religious elements, has traditionally been conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, for he is the most senior clergyman of the Church of England. However, at various points in history, more junior bishops have been called upon to perform the coronation. For instance, Elizabeth I was crowned by the Bishop of Carlisle because the more senior prelates did not recognise her as the Sovereign.

The Recognition

First, the Sovereign enters the Abbey and takes a seat on the Chair of Estate. Bishops carry the Bible and other symbols of Christianity and place them on an Altar in front of the Chair. Then, peers bring most of the Regalia to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who gives them to the Dean of Westminster, who then places them on the Altar.

Then, the Archbishop, accompanied by certain Great Officers of State the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Lord High Constable, and the Earl Marshal proceeds to the East, South, West, and North sides of the Coronation Theatre in that order, and at each side presents the new sovereign and declares him or her "your undoubted King (or Queen)."

The Oath

The Archbishop then proceeds to administer the Coronation Oath to the Sovereign. The Oath was first established by an Act of Parliament in 1689 for the coronation of William III and Mary II as joint sovereigns. The Oath changed over time; Queen Elizabeth II took the following oath in 1953:

Archbishop: "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?" Queen: "I solemnly promise so to do." Archbishop: Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements? Queen: "I will." Archbishop: "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 inviolably 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?" Queen: "All this I promise to do. The things which I have here promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God."

The Communion and the Anointment

After the Sovereign takes the Oath, a clergyman presents the Bible to the Sovereign, saying, "Here is Wisdom. This is the royal Law. These are the lively Oracles of God." During Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland performed the presentation. After the Sovereign receives the Bible, it is placed on the Altar.

Then, the Archbishop performs the Christian service known as the Holy Communion. Various parts of the Bible are read, and after the reading of the Apostles Creed, the ceremony is interrupted for the time being.

Then, after the singing of hymns and the saying of some prayers, the Lord Great Chamberlain removes the Sovereign's crimson outer robe. The Sovereign then takes a seat on King Edward's Chair, also known as the Coronation Chair, under which lies the famous Stone of Scone. (The Stone now usually rests in Edinburgh Castle, but arrangements have been made to bring it back to Westminster Abbey when necessary for coronations.) Then, the Dean of Westminster takes the Ampulla, an eagle-shaped golden vessel, and from it pours holy oil into the Coronation Spoon. The Archbishop then dips his fingers into the oil and then anoints the Sovereign on the palms, breast, and head.

The Investiture and Coronation

After the anointment concludes, the Lord Great Chamberlain presents the Sovereign with the Spurs, medieval symbols of chivalry and knighthood. Then, the Jewelled Sword of Offering and the Armills, or golden bracelets, are presented to the Sovereign. The Dean of Westminster and the Lord Great Chamberlain then put the Robe Royal on the standing Sovereign. Next, the Archbishop of Canterbury delivers the Orb, a symbol of the Sovereign's role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, to his or her right hand, and the Orb is then returned to the Altar. A ring is then placed on the Sovereign's right hand in order to represent the "marriage" between the country and the Sovereign.

Thereafter, the Archbishop of Canterbury delivers the Sceptre with the Cross to the Sovereign's right hand and the Sceptre with the Dove to the left hand. The climax of the ceremony then occurs as the Archbishop puts on the Sovereign's head St Edward's Crown. (Queen Victoria and King Edward VII complained about the weight of St Edward's Crown; they instead used the lighter Imperial State Crown.) All then cry "God Save the Queen!" and canon are fired from the Tower of London.

The Archbishop prays for the Sovereign, who then proceeds to take a seat on the Throne. Homage is then paid by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who kneels in front of the Sovereign, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of the Church of England, who kneel in their places:

''I, N, Archbishop [or Bishop] of X, ''will be faithful and true, ''and faith and truth will bear unto you, ''our Sovereign Lord [or Lady], ''King [or Queen] of this Realm and Defender of the Faith, ''and unto your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God!

Then, the various peers kneel and do homage, with the following words:

''I, N. Duke [or Marquess, Earl, Viscount, or Baron] of X, ''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.

The Royal Dukes pay homage individually. For other ranks of peers, the most senior peer of a rank kneels in front of the Sovereign, and all other peers of that rank kneel in their places, and all say the appropriate words together. The Dukes are lead by the Premier Duke, the Duke of Norfolk; the Marquesses by the Premier Marquess, the Marquess of Winchester; the Earls by the Premier Earl, the Earl of Shrewsbury; the Viscounts by the Premier Viscount, the Viscount Hereford; and the Barons by the Premier Baron, the Baron de Ros.

If there is a Queen Consort, then she is now crowned in a ceremony similar to but simpler than the King's. However, husbands of Queens Regnant are not crowned.

The Communion Resumed


Queen Elizabeth wearing the Imperial State Crown and holding the Sceptre with the Cross and the Orb

The Sovereign then proceeds back to the Altar and returns the Sceptres to the Lord Great Chamberlain, and then receives Communion. Various prayers are said, and the Sovereign returns to the throne with the two Sceptres. Then, further prayers are said, and parts of the Bible are read, the Sovereign proceeds in a procession to St Edward's Chapel.

At the Chapel, the Sovereign, assisted by the Lord Great Chamberlain, removes the regalia and the Royal Robes and dons purple velvet robes. The Sovereign then wears the Imperial State Crown, holds the Sceptre with the Cross in the right hand, and the Sovereign's Orb in the left hand, and proceeds out of the Abbey while the National Anthem is sung. The ceremony then concludes.

See also