As the first coronation in 70 years approaches, many people still have questions about its purpose, its format, and (perhaps most importantly) what could go wrong. The Unit has created an FAQs page, authored by the Constitution Unit’s monarchy experts Robert Hazell and Bob Morris, to answer those questions, 14 of which are discussed below.
1. What does a coronation do?
The Coronation does not ‘make’ the monarch. Under common law, the new monarch succeeds to the throne immediately on the death of their predecessor: so Charles became King the moment the Queen died.
The coronation has several functions. It is a religious rite that symbolises the descent of God’s grace on the new ruler. The King takes a solemn three-part oath to govern according to laws and customs; render justice with mercy; and maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion plus the rights and privileges of the Church of England. He is then anointed and crowned by the Archbishop. In sum, the Church blesses the monarch and his new reign; he in turn promises to protect the Church, and to serve his people.
2. How old is the coronation?
The coronation ceremony is over 1000 years old. It was formalised in AD 973, with the coronation of the Anglo-Saxon King Edgar by St Dunstan of Canterbury in Bath Abbey. The first Norman King to be crowned in Westminster Abbey was William the Conqueror, crowned there on Christmas Day 1066. King Charles is the fortieth monarch to be crowned at the Abbey since the Conquest.
3. What are the main elements in the coronation?
The main elements are the recognition, the oath, anointing, crowning, homage, and communion. The recognition is at the start, when the Archbishop presents the new monarch to the congregation, with trumpet fanfare, and they all shout, ‘God save the King’. The King then takes the coronation oath, and the Archbishop anoints the King with chrism (holy oil from Jerusalem). Similar to an ordination, this is when the grace of God is called down upon the new monarch and his reign.
After the anointing, the monarch is crowned by the Archbishop, seated upon King Edward’s chair, used in coronations for the last 700 years. Then comes the homage, when the Archbishop and others kneel before the King to pay homage in ancient words of fealty. Finally, there is communion: the coronation is also a eucharist, in which the monarch takes communion.Continue reading