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Coronation Liturgy

The coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla was an excellent example of Anglicanism as protestant software running on catholic hardware.

This blogpost is a potpourri of points (in no particular order) – you will have your own observations, and you’re welcome to add them in the comments. This is not a post about what an amazing ritual it was (which it was), nor about how Jesus-focused the sermon was (also true), nor about how great the music was (top shelf! I struggle to choose my favourite piece, possibly Handel’s Zadok the Priest) – all those, and other points, have been reflected on a lot elsewhere. This post complements those.

Charles promised to use the utmost of his power to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion in the United Kingdom. As part of that, he said:

I Charles do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant…

King Charles III

But in this, actions (as in liturgy generally) speak louder than words. The coronation procession was led by a cross. Two shards of wood given by Pope Francis, shards that the Vatican says are from the “True Cross” on which Jesus Christ was crucified, had been incorporated into this new processional cross.

Mitred bishops, indistinguishable in attire from Roman Catholic bishops, were front and centre. The chrism oil, central to the coronation rite, was made from olives of the Mount of Olives at the Monastery of the Ascension, and the Monastery of Mary Magdalene [The Monastery of Mary Magdalene is the burial place of Charle’s grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece]. It was pressed in Bethlehem. This chrism was consecrated in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Jesus died and rose again). It was consecrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and the Anglican archbishop in Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum.

The Abbey certainly suffered through the Reformation, but the combined streams of the Cambridge Movement and the Oxford Movement (forming Anglo-Catholicism) has triumphed so that large icons greeted people as they entered, and the reredos backdrop of the ceremony was the nineteenth century mosaic of ‘The Last Supper’ by Antonio Salviati.

Anglo-Catholicism fought for six points (altar candles, wafer bread, eastward position…) – basically only, incense, was missing from the coronation as a bridge too far.

Some Other Reflections On The Coronation

  • What was it actually like sitting in the nave? We, in front of our television screens had a great view. I am not aware of any screens in the nave where everyone sat facing North and South, separated from the action by the great Quire screen.
  • The pronunciation of “vivat” is worth mentioning. Hubert Parry’s “I was glad” was composed for the coronation of Edward VII (1902). On that occasion, “vivat” was pronounced vee-vat. By the next coronation (1912), “vivat” became anglicised to vai-vat, and it has remained so since then. Parry was still alive in 1912; he may not have been concerned about the change, or if he was (anyone aware of any of this history?) possibly his concerns made no difference.
  • What was Charles doing touching the paten at the Offertory. Did he bless it? Offer it? What? What did the Archbishop of Canterbury think Charles was doing at that point? Did Elizabeth do that at her coronation? [As an aside at this point: in all the rites, it was noticeable that Charles was vested in a stole – which wasn’t mentioned in the verbal commentary, but was in the service book: “Once anointed, The King is vested in priestly garments“].
  • Like a pre-Vatican II wedding, only Charles and Camilla received communion, with a few bishops, I think.
  • What did they go out through the East doors into the Lady Chapel to do? I know at least once it was to change. Some suggested, not unreasonably, for a toilet stop.
  • The wonderful words on the Anointing Screen were noticeable, drawn from Dame Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love: “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”
  • Why was Camilla not anointed? Was there a change of plan? (see, for example here and here).
  • This was a fun tweet (h/t @PeterCarrell): “American evangelicals: *arguing over what constitutes Christian Nationalism* The UK: “hold my sceptre, orb, crown, and anointing oil, while we sing Zadok the Priest to the defender of the faith in our 750-year old place of Christian worship”
  • A letter to the editor in our local newspaper written by a royalist who cried, ‘”The King didn’t know his lines”! ‘There standing besid or in front of him was someone holding cue cards. The King didn’t just use them to prompt a less-than-efficient memory, he read them. He has had decades to learn his lines that were no more complicated than a nursery rhyme.’ I have written about how we can end up looking like we are looking in a cook-book at the recipe as we are doing some complicated cooking.
  • Some of the comments (and the coronation-sermon blog post) on Bishop Peter Carrell’s blog are worth reflecting on about how a Jesus-style coronation might look different.

A Coronation Collect Controversy

When the service book first came out, it had this collect:

Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour:
look with favour upon thy servant Charles our King, and bestow upon him such gifts of wisdom and love that we and all thy people may live in peace and prosperity and in loving service one to another, to thine eternal glory;
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, one God, now and for ever.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Remembering that “Lord” in Tudor/Elizabethan-language collects is normally addressed to God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity, this collect’s poor construction gave the impression that Charles was reigning supreme over all things with the Father and the Holy Spirit! If Roman Catholics are accused of making Mary the Fourth Person of the Trinity, here, Anglicans appeared to be replacing Jesus with King Charles!

One wit gave the best comment to my discussion, alluding to House of Windsor issues: “Maybe Jesus refused to come to the coronation. You know, family troubles and all”!

Other than the ambiguity of “Lord” [“Lord Jesus Christ” would have improved things no end!], the issue was in the word “reigns”, which (being third person singular) appears to reference back to Charles. It needed to be second person singular to reference back to “Lord”, so either “reign” or, to keep to this Tudor/Elizabethan-language, “reignest”. Most people agreed with me. But one person insisted that “Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and King Charles would disapprove if it were written any other way.” Another expounded that criticising the collect evidenced the Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. A more likely explanation was that the collect looked like the result of a “find and replace” exercise.

In any case, the collect was corrected for the actual ceremony, and as I had suggested

LORD, enthroned in heavenly splendour: … to thine eternal glory, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reignest supreme over all things, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Archbishop of Canterbury

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14 thoughts on “Coronation Liturgy”

  1. Camilla was anointed on her head as a piece of music was ending. She was not behind a screen, but the archbishop was only seen moving away afterwards to those watching on tv

  2. Christopher Upton

    To address a couple of your points:
    Camilla was anointed – they didn’t bring the screen back out, but as the camera came to her at the the of the Walford Davies anthem the Dean was in shot carrying the Ampulla away and the Archbishop was wiping his fingers. (Not, as far as I saw, with the piece of bread and a lemon prescribed for the purpose by Fortescue et al.)
    Vye-vat would be the traditional “English Latin” pronunciation; in 1902 they might have experimented with the “new pronunciation” still favoured by classicists (c.f. 1066 and all that, “Weeny, weedy, and weakly”) but decided it didn’t work.
    The order of service states, “The King offers bread and wine which are placed upon the Altar.” A vague nod towards the “offertory procession” concept?

    1. Others have also pointed out the Queen’s anointing, sans-screen, thanks Christopher, and in the comments given the video. Ah! … offering bread and wine… as you say, an Offertory Procession… gone further than Cambridge and Oxford Movements. Easter blessings.

  3. The Revd Steven Cooper

    The Queen was actually anointed. It happened during the singing by Roderick Williams of Walford Davies’ Confortare. On the television footage, just after the song finishes, you can briefly see the Dean taking back from the Archbishop of Canterbury the ampulla and spoon, with which he had been anointing her.

  4. Queen Camilla was anointed – it just happened while other things were going on. But as the camera cut back to her you could see ++Justin wiping his hands.

  5. Fr. Randall Warren

    Sacraments and the sacramentals of Christian life are celebrated in public as the Church proclaims the world to come on the human stage, in the present day. This is what eschatology is, not weird “end times” fantasies, but the recognition that we are defined by our future, a future of increasing participation in the life of God. Because this is what we are proclaiming in liturgy, I feel strongly that anointing Charles behind a screen, shielded from public view, was not appropriate.

    1. A fascinating point, thanks Randall – especially as several people have pointed out in comments, now, that Camilla actually was anointed, but sans-screen. Easter blessings.

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