I’m very interested in the Coronation Service starting at 11am 6 May 2023 at Westminster Abbey, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The coronation ceremony is largely based on an Order of Service used in 973 for the coronation of King Edgar by Dunstan, who was then Archbishop of Canterbury and later became a saint. It is thought that both Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror were crowned at Westminster Abbey in 1066, and since then all English coronations have taken place at Westminster Abbey.
The Coronation Chair was commissioned in 1296 by King Edward I to contain the coronation stone of Scotland, the Stone of Scone, which had long been used for crowning kings in Scotland. It will be present in the Coronation Chair for 6th May.
The Coronation Spoon dates from the late 12th century. It is used by the archbishop to hold the consecrated oil when he anoints the monarch. Oil is poured into the spoon from an eagle shaped ampulla, which dates from 1661. Like many of the crown jewels the ampulla had to be re-created after the restoration of Charles II in 1660.
King Charles III will be crowned with St Edward’s crown, associated with Edward the Confessor, but recreated in 1661 for Charles II. Apparently the this will be changed for the much lighter and more practical Crown of State, later in the service.
I find it reassuring to think that we have been crowning kings and queens in a reasonably consistent way for around 1,000 years. It suggests that we have a constitution that works, and we know what we are doing. On the other hand, it is seventy years since the last coronation. Technology and society have moved on a great deal. We have to ask, “Does the model still fit?” It is interesting that the arrangements are flexible enough to accommodate new developments. TV coverage was the big development seventy years ago. This time the special Chrism Oil, prepared and consecrated for the anointing, has been made without any animal ingredients, whilst still being based on an ancient recipe.
The coronation takes place as part of a service of Holy Communion, which reminds us of the Last Supper when Jesus, the servant king, washed his disciples’ feet. The archbishops have described the coronation as a “Consecration to Service”. I was encouraged when, at his accession, King Charles paid tribute to his mother and renewed the promise of lifelong service to all. It seems to me that the coronation is grounded in some very secure principles that take account of the various strengths and fallibilities that we have as human beings. After 1,000 years I still believe it is the right model.
With prayers and best wishes, Fr Patrick
CofE Prayer for the King
Almighty God, the fountain of all goodness,
bless our Sovereign Lord, King Charles,
and all who are in authority under him;
that they may order all things
in wisdom and equity, righteousness and peace,
to the honour of your name,
and the good of your Church and people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.