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Coronation Ceremony

by Friar Thomas Bacon (David Moreno)
Orignally published in the February 1984, A.S. XVIII issue of the Dragonflyre, a publication of the Barony of Vatavia. Republished in the March 1988, A.S. XXII issue of the Dragonflyre.

A coronation was an opportunity for unprecedented spectacle during the Middle Ages. In a single ceremony it summed up the essence of the period, the mixing of the secular with the sacred, of tribal customs with Roman legal thought, and of old traditions with the new. As such it was laden with symbolism.

The focal point of the ceremony was the crown. In most places the crown made a man The King. “Coronation” and “crown” come from the Latin “corona,” (garland) which refers to the laurel wreaths placed on the heads of victors and other notables during the Greco-Roman period. At that time a diadem, a fillet of linen or silk and later of metal, was used to denote the monarch. The Romans dropped its use with the establishment of their republic, and later Roman Emperors avoided the symbols of monarchy. The concept of a distinctive headpiece was revived after the barbaric invasions of Rome in the fifth century. The Medieval crown rose from tribal, Roman and ancient customs. The arched crown was an innovation introduced around the beginning of the fourteenth century. Coronets for the lesser ranks of nobility also started to appear in that century, though it was not until 1660 that English barons were allowed to wear them.

In some kingdoms it was the anointment with oil, and not the crown, which made the king. During the course of history, kings fought numerous skirmishes with the Pope and among themselves over anointment. Eventually only five monarchs had the right to be anointed: the Holy Roman Emperor and the kings of England, France, Jerusalem and Sicily. (The king of Scotland later acquired this right.) France and England acquired the privilege of using a special kind of oil called “chism” used in the ordination of priests. The significance of this oil was that the “Holy oil separated the King from his subject, made him like a priest, conjoined him with other Kings, and gave him precedence over those who did not enjoy the right.”1

Enthronement was a remnant of the old Celtic custom of placing the newly elected tribal chief on a shield and lifting him aloft so that all could see and know him. The act of sitting on a throne did not make the king, although in Scotland it was essential for a king to be crowned while sitting of the Stone of Scone.

The scepter also came from the Celts, as a tribal chief was handed a spear as a symbol of his authority.

The orb came from the Romans. It represented the world, while the cross surmounting it signified Christ’s dominion over the world.

Coronation rings symbolized the marriage of the king to the people. The sword and spurs represented the military aspect of the king and his position as the Premier Knight of the Realm. At one point the sword and spurs were offered up to the altar, and later were redeemed for a sum of money. The symbolism was twofold: it was a sign of humility and of submission to the teachings of the Church.

Above all else, the coronation was a visible sing of the continuity of the government and a renewal of the contract between a government and the people.

 

Footnotes

1. (Schramm). ^

 

Bibliography

Churchill, Randoph S. The Story of the Coronation. London: Derek Verschoyle, 1953.

Hastings, James ed. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 4. New York: Charles Schribners’s Sons, 1914.

Schramm, Percy Ernest. A History of the English Coronation. Trans. by Leopold G. Wickham Legg. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1937.

Wibberley, Leonard. The Coronation Book. New York: Ariel Books, 1953.

 

Copyright © 1984 - present His Lordship Friar Thomas Bacon (David Moreno). All rights reserved.

 

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