The subject will be treated under the following headings:

(I) The Emperors at Constantinople;

(II) Visigothic and Celtic Elements;

(III) The English Coronation Orders;

(IV) The Western Empire and the Roman Pontifical;

(V) Other Ceremonials.


"A coronation rite", it has been well said, "is ideally the process of the creation of the monarch, even though in course of time, through a change in the theory of succession, it may come to be rather the ratification of an accomplished fact than the means of its accomplishment" (Brightman, Byzantine Coronations, 359). In the light of this very true remark it will be needful to trace the coronation ceremonies back to a time earlier than the introduction of any ecclesiastical ritual. Down to the reign of Constantine it may be said that coronation, properly speaking, there was none, for it was he who first brought the regal diadem into prominence. Yet certain features about the accession of the emperors in this early period deserve attention. In the first place, theoretically at least, the emperor was elected. Normally, the senate voted and the people, or more commonly the army, acclaimed and in that way ratified the choice. No doubt this procedure was often anticipated and the result was assured before any forms were gone through. But the forms were not dispensed with, and even when the senate or the army had exercised an influence which was decisive, the people met and acclaimed in more or less formal comitia. In spite, however, of the principle of election, the emperor was often able to exercise a predominant voice in the election of his successor or his colleague, as he could also create his wife "Augusta". At this period the more distinctive imperial insignia were "the purple", that is the paludamentum (or chlamys) of the general in the field, emblematic of the supreme military authority, for the emperor was sole imperator; and secondly, the laurel wreath. The more or less violent clothing of the new emperor in the paludamentum often constituted a sort of investiture. On his part the promise of a largess to the soldiers, and sometimes to the people, became the equivalent of a formal acceptance of the election.

A new order of things was brought about by Constantine's assumption of the diadem (see Sickel, in Byzantinische Zeitschrift, VII, 513-534). Constantine wore it habitually during life (caput exornans perpetuo diademate, says Aurelius Victor, Ep. lx), and after death it adorned his corpse. In this way the diadem became the primary symbol of sovereignty, but without at first any prescription of forms according to which it should be conferred. When Julian was proclaimed emperor by his troops in 360, they hoisted him standing upon a shield, a ceremony they seemed to have learned from the German recruits in their ranks, and then a standard-bearer took off the torque, or gold necklace, which he wore and set it upon Julian's head. No other crowning seems to have taken place, but soon after we find the emperor at Vienne wearing a gorgeous diadem set with jewels. In the case of Valentinian (364) and his son Gratian (367) we have equally mention of a crown assumed amid profuse acclamations of the assembled army. In each ease, also, the newly-elected sovereign made a speech and promised a largess to the troops, which Julian fixed at five gold pieces and a pound of silver to each man. Informal as the proceedings in all these cases seem to have been, most of the elements so far mentioned took a permanent place in the coronation ceremonial which was ultimately evolved. Even the Teutonic practice of hoisting upon a buckler (see Tacitus, Ann., XV, 29) though rarely mentioned explicitly, was probably maintained for a considerable time, for it certainly was observed in the election of Anastasius (491) and Justin II (565), and the miniature of the election of David in a tenth-century psalter at Paris, in which he is represented standing upon a buckler supported by young men while another sets a diadem on his head, implies that this ceremony was generally familiar at a later date. The diadem, though the military torque after the analogy of Julian's election was often retained as well, was and continued to be the symbol of supreme power, and along with it, from the time of Constantine onward, went the ceremony of "adoration" of the monarch by prostration.

The next epoch-making change seems to have been the introduction of the Patriarch of Constantinople to set the diadem upon the head of the elected sovereign. The date at which this first took place is disputed, for we cannot altogether ignore the alleged dream of Theodosius I who saw himself crowned by a bishop (Theodoret, Hist. Eccl., VI, vi), but Sickel (loc. cit., p. 517; cf. Gibbon, ch. xxxvi) holds that the Patriarch Anatolius in 450 crowned Marcian and by that act originated a ceremony which became of the greatest possible significance in the later conception of kingship. At first there seems to have been no idea of lending any religious character to this investiture; and the selection of the patriarch may possibly have been due simply to the desire to preclude jealousy and to avoid giving offence to more powerful claimants of the honour. But already in 473, when Leo II was crowned in the lifetime of his grandfather, we find the Patriarch Acacius not only figuring in the ceremony but reciting a prayer before the imposition of the diadem. If it was Leo's grandfather and not Acacius who actually imposed it, that is only on account of the accepted rule, that the reigning emperor in his lifetime is alone the fount of honour whenever he chooses to commit any portion of his authority to colleague or consort. Following close upon the first intervention of the patriarch, the ecclesiastical element in the coronation ceremonial rapidly develops. At the election of Anastasius (491) the patriarch is present at the assembly of the senate and notables when they make their formal choice, and the book of the Holy Gospels is exposed in their midst (Const. Porph., De Cær., I, 92). The coronation does not take place in a sacred building, but an oath is taken by the emperor to govern justly and another written oath is exacted of him by the patriarch that he will keep the Faith entire and introduce no novelty into the Church. Then after the emperor had donned a portion of the regalia, the patriarch made a prayer, and the "Kyrie eleison" (possibly an ektene or litany) being said, put upon his sovereign the imperial chlamys and the jewelled crown. The acclamations also which accompany and follow the emperor's speech with its promises of the usual largess, are pronouncedly religious in character; for example "God will preserve a Christian Emperor! These are common prayers! These are the prayers of the world! Lord help the pious! Holy Lord uplift Thy world! . . . God be with you!" Moreover at the conclusion of the ceremony the emperor went straight to St. Sophia, putting off his crown and offering it at the altar.

The first emperor to be crowned in church was Phocas in 602, and although our records of procedure are somewhat defective, no doubt can be felt that from this time forth the whole ceremonial assumed a formal and religious character. The rite is contained in the "Euchologium", the earliest extant manuscript, dating from about 795. There is a partial clothing with the insignia in the metatorium before the ceremony begins, but the ritual centres in the conferring of the chlamys and crown. Before each of these is imposed the patriarch reads in silence an impressive prayer closely analogous in spirit to what we find in the Western orders at a later date. For example the prayer over the chlamys begins thus: "O Lord, our God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who through Samuel the prophet didst choose David Thy servant to be king over Thy people Israel; do Thou now also hear the supplication of us unworthy and behold from Thy dwelling place Thy faithful servant N. whom Thou hast been pleased to set as king over Thy holy nation, which Thou didst purchase with the precious blood of Thine only-begotten Son: vouchsafe to anoint him with the oil of gladness, endue him with power from on high, put upon his head a crown of pure gold, grant him long life," etc. After the crowning the people cry out, "Holy, holy, holy" and "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace", three times. Then Holy Communion is given to the emperor from the reserved Sacrament, or perhaps even the Mass of the Presanctified is celebrated. After which all the standards and halberds are dipped and raised again, and the senators and clergy prostrate in adoration.

One cannot help suspecting that the choice of this particular moment, when the emperor has just received the Sacred Host, for the act of adoration may have been motived by some foresight of possible conscientious objections about performing such adoration merely to the emperor's person. The rite of prostration, though introduced by Constantine, was probably not unaffected by lingering memories of the pagan apotheosis of the Cæsars. Finally, after the adoration came the laudes (see ACCLAMATIONS) or acta as they were called in the East aktoleogein was the technical word). The cantors cried "Glory be to God in the highest. . . . This is the great day of the Lord. This is the day of the life of the Romans", and so on for many verses, the people repeating each once or thrice. After which "Many, many, many". R. "Many years, for many years". "Long years to you, N. and N., autocrats of the Romans". R. "Many years to you" and so forth with much repetition. Finally, the emperor leaves the church wearing his crown and going to the metatorium seats himself upon his throne while the dignitaries (axiomata) come and do homage by kissing his knees. Although the prayer over the chlamys begs God to "anoint him with the oil of gladness" the early euchologia contain no mention of any rite of unction, and it seems tolerably certain that this was not introduced in the East until the twelfth century (Brightman, loc. cit., 383-386). Even when adopted, the unction was confined to making the sign of the cross with chrism upon the monarch's head. The introduction of this new feature seems to have been accompanied with other changes which are found in the later Byzantine coronations. The investiture with the purple chlamys altogether disappears, but two distinct prayers or blessings are retained, between which are inserted both the unction and the crowning. Finally, we may notice that the emperor is to some extent treated as an ecclesiastic, for he wears a mandyas, or cope, and discharges the functions of a deputatus, which is, or was, the Greek equivalent of one of our minor orders.


Turning now to the inauguration rite of early kingships in the West the first traces of a coronation order seem to be found in Spain and in Great Britain. Some of the Spanish councils speak copiously, though vaguely, of the election of kings (Migne, P. L., LXXXIV, 385, 396, 426), and while in the first half of the seventh century there is no mention of unction but only of a profession of faith and promise of just government on the part of the king with a corresponding oath of fealty on the art of his subjects, towards the close of the same century we have the clearest evidence that the Visigothic kings on their accession were solemnly anointed by the Bishop of Toledo. When in 672 the oil was poured upon the head of the kneeling King Wamba a cloud of vapour arose (evaporatio quædam fumo similis in modum columnæ, Julian, Historia, c. iv; Migne, P. L., XCVI, 766) which was regarded by those present as a supernatural portent. For the rest we know little of this early Spanish coronation rite beyond the fact that it was a religious ceremony and that the king undertook certain obligations towards his people. It is chiefly interesting as supplying the earliest known examples of the unction. Whether this ceremony was instituted by the Spanish bishops in imitation of what they read in the Old Testament concerning the unction of Saul, David, and Solomon (I Kings, x and xvi; III Kings, i) or whether they themselves derived it from some early Christian tradition it seems impossible now to decide.

In view of what has been written of late about the close liturgical relations between Spain and England, via Celtic, i. e. probably Irish, channels (see Bishop in Journ. of Theol. Stud., VIII, 278), it is natural to pass from Spain to the earliest coronations in the British Isles. The statement of Gildas (c. 530?) cannot be ignored, when, speaking of the desolation and corruption of manners in Britain, he says: "ungebantur reges non per Deum, sed qui ceteris crudeliores exstarent, et paulo post ab unctoribus non pro veri examinatione trucidabantur, aliis electis trucioribus" (De Excidio, ch. xxi; Mommsen, 37). Again, in his commentary on the First Book of Kings (x, 1) St. Gregory the Great certainly seems to speak as if the rite of the unction of kings was practised in his time (Migne, P. L., LXXIX, 278). "Ungatur caput regis", he says, "quia spirituali gratiâ mens est replenda doctoris". It may conceivably be that these passages are only metaphorical, but they at least show a familiarity with the conception which might at any moment find expression in actual practice. At the same time no record exists of the use of unction in the earliest Scottish coronations. Gathering up scattered traditions, the Marquess of Bute gives the following ceremonial as representing in all probability the rite of "ordination" of a Celtic king, say the Lord of the Isles, in the seventh and eighth centuries. There was a gathering of the principal people of the nation including, if possible, seven priests. The new ruler was elected unless a tanist (a lieutenant with right of succession) had been elected already. The king was clad in white and Mass was celebrated down to the Gospel. After the Gospel the king was made to set his right foot in the foot-print of Fergus Mor Mac Erca, the impression of which was cut in stone; there he took an oath to preserve all the ancient customs of the country and to leave the succession to the tanist. His father's sword or some other sword was then placed in one of his hands and a white rod in the other, with suitable exhortations. After this a bard or herald rehearsed his genealogy. Re-entering the church seven prayers were recited over him by, if possible, as many priests, one at least of these prayers being called the Benediction, during which he who offered it laid his hand upon the king's head. The Mass was then finished and the king probably Communicated. At the conclusion of the whole he gave a feast and distributed a largess (Bute, Scottish Coronations, 34). It will be noticed that here, as in the earlier Spanish ritual, there is no mention of a crown or diadem, and though the unction which is so prominent a feature in the Spanish ceremony is apparently lacking, still our information is too fragmentary to enable us to speak with confidence, more especially in view of the casual utterance of Gildas.


But of all detailed ceremonials for the investiture of a monarch the earliest which has been preserved to us in a complete form is one of English origin. It is known as the Egbertine Order, because the best-known manuscript in which it is contained is an Anglo-Saxon codex which professes to be a copy of the Pontifical of Archbishop Egbert of York (732-766). We cannot in such a case be secure against the possibility of subsequent interpolations, for the Egbert Pontifical, now at Paris (Manuscript Latin 10, 575), is only of the tenth century, but the character of the coronation order itself is quite consistent with an early date. Moreover the same ritual occurs in other early manuscripts, and fragments of it are found embedded in Continental orders such as that for the coronation of Queen Judith (856). Nearly everything in this Egbertine Order is of interest and we may analyse it rather closely. At the head we find the title: Missa pro regibus in die benedictionis ejus (sic). Being, as the title says, a Mass, it begins with a "proper" Introit, collect, lesson from Leviticus (xxvi, 6-9), Gradual, and Gospel (Matt., xxii, 15 sq.). Then occurs the rubric: "the blessing upon a newly-elected king", upon which follow three prayers of moderate length beginning respectively: "Te invocamus, Domine sancte", etc.; "Deus qui populis tuis", etc.; and "In diebus ejus oriatur omnibus æquitas", etc. The second of these prayers, which still remains practically unchanged in the coronation order used at the accession of King Edward VII, may be quoted here as a specimen: —

"O God, who providest for Thy people by Thy power and rulest over them in love; grant unto this Thy servant Edward our King, the spirit of wisdom and government, that being devoted unto Thee with all his heart, he may so wisely govern this kingdom, that in his time Thy Church and people may continue in safety and prosperity, and that, persevering in good works unto the end, he may through Thy mercy come to Thine everlasting Kingdom; through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord. Amen."

It is worth noting that we have no reason to believe that this prayer or others occurring in the Egbertine Order is necessarily of English origin. On the contrary it seems to have been adapted out of one for the pope occurring in the Gregorian Sacramentary which begins: Deus qui populis tuis indulgentiâ consulis, and an intermediate form was used at the coronation of Charles the Bald as King of Lotharingia in 869. After the three prayers we meet the rubric: "Here he shall pour oil upon his head from a horn, with the antiphon: Unxerunt Salomonem, etc., and the Psalm Domine in virtute tuâ, etc. (Ps. xx). Let one of the bishops say the prayer while the others anoint him."

The prayer referred to is the Deus electorum fortitudo, some phrases of which still remain in the prayer now said immediately before the unction. The same Deus electorum fortitudo is found in the coronation order of Queen Judith, who was anointed queen by Hincmar, Bishop of Reims, in 856. It contains allusions to the olive-branch brought by the dove to the ark and to the anointing of Aaron and of the kings of Israel and thus shows itself to have been originally designed for some such purpose as a prayer of unction. Then follows another rubric: "Here all the bishops with the magnates [principibus] put the sceptre into his hand." Some of the texts, however, omit this last rubric and write simply Benedictio; and to say the truth the short sentences which follow are very much of the nature of acclamations of benediction, such as we have already quoted from some of the Byzantine orders, though they are a little longer in form and could certainly not have been repeated in Latin by the Anglo-Saxon populace or even the magnates. The people's share in this function is probably indicated by the simple "Amen" which follows each clause. There are sixteen of these brief clauses and then the rubric announces: "Here a staff is put into his hand", whereupon another prayer of moderate length is said which is followed by a prayer of blessing, vague and somewhat extravagant in language, preceded by the rubric: "Here let all the bishops take the helmet and set it upon his head." The simultaneous crowning by several hands is rather a noteworthy feature in the ceremony and it is curious that although in the later "Liber Regalis" and other orders the archbishop is named as alone imposing the crown, the illuminations in medieval chronicles and romances almost invariably represent the crown as being put on by at least two bishops standing on either side. After this prayer follows what is perhaps the most interesting rubric of the whole order, though unfortunately even with the aid of our three different manuscripts we cannot restore the text of the latter part with any great degree of confidence. "And all the people shall say three times with the bishops and priests: 'May King N. live for ever. Amen, Amen, Amen.' Then shall the whole people come to kiss the prince; and he shall be strengthened on his throne by this [i. e. the following] blessing." Accordingly before the Mass is suffered to proceed another solemn prayer is said, Deus perpetuitatis auctor, which in the Egbert Pontifical is emphasized by a preceding rubric: "Let them say the seventh prayer over the King." Now the prayer in question is really the eighth, and undoubtedly this fact coupled with traces of marginal numbering which reveal themselves in the Egbert Pontifical lends probability to Lord Bute's theory that this series of prayers betrays Celtic influences and was originally destined for the seven priests whose presence was supposed in the Celtic ritual. The eighth prayer, as he thinks that of the unction, is shown on this hypothesis to be an interpolation of somewhat later date. After this last prayer, Deus perpetuitatis auctor, the Mass is resumed. The Mass prayers are Roman and the same Mass prayers are attached to the very early coronation order which Mgr. Magistretti has printed from an Ambrosian pontifical of the ninth century and which he pronounces to be also indisputably Roman. It seems probable enough that we are here again in the presence of the same sort of compromise between Celtic and Roman elements which we find in the Stowe Missal (see CELTIC RITE). At the conclusion of the Mass we find the following rubric — it may perhaps be an interpolation of later date than the rest of the order — and we may here see the King's first proclamation to his people: —

"It is rightful conduct in a king newly ordained to make these three behests [præcepta] to his people.

"First, that the Church of God and all Christian folk should keep true peace at all times. Amen.

"The second is that he should forbid all robbery and all unrighteous things to all orders. Amen.

"The third is that he should enjoin in all dooms justice and mercy, that the gracious and merciful God, of His everlasting mercy, may show pardon to us all. Amen."

It is probable that in this triple division of the primitive oath we have the explanation of a feature which still survives in the English coronation service. Before the king three naked swords are carried, two pointed and one without a point, which is hence known as curtana, the sword cut short. The first two swords were known to medieval writers as the sword of the clergy and the sword of justice. They represent the king's two promises, to defend the Church (not, as certain Anglican writers have unwarrantably supposed, to coerce and punish the Church) and to punish evildoers. The third, without a point, most aptly symbolizes the mercy with which, as the sovereign himself is taught to hope for mercy, all his justice is to be tempered. We have evidence that these three swords were known in English ceremonial as early as Richard I (1189), while the form of oath just cited remained in use until a century later. Upon this oath something more will need to be said.

Towards the end of the tenth century we find that a new coronation order was in use in England. It incorporated most of the Egbertine Order but it added much new matter. Various considerations show that it was an attempt to imitate the imperial coronation of the Carlovingian monarchs on the Continent, and our knowledge of the imperial state assumed by King Eadgar strongly suggests that it is to be assigned to the date of his deferred coronation (973). Another modification took place shortly after the Conquest and is probably to be traced to Norman influences which made themselves felt in Church and State. But the most important English order is that introduced at the coronation of Edward II, in 1307, and known as that of the "Liber Regalis". It lasted practically unaltered through the Reformation period and though translated into English upon the accession of James I it was not substantially modified until the coronation of his grandson James II, and it may be said even at the present day to form the substance of the ritual by which the monarchs of Great Britain are crowned. While it contained many prayers in common with those used in the imperial coronation of the Western Empire and those of the existing "Pontificale Romanum" it also preserved many distinctive features. A short synopsis of it will be serviceable.

After the sovereign had been solemnly brought to Westminster Abbey church and had made an offering at the altar, he was conducted to a raised platform erected for the purpose and there he was presented to the people, who, on a short address from one of the bishops, signified by acclamations their assent to the coronation. Then the king was interrogated by the archbishop as to his willingness to observe the laws, customs, and liberties granted by St. Edward the Confessor, and he was required to promise peace to the Church and justice to his people, all which he confirmed by an oath taken upon the altar. Next they proceeded to the unction, which was introduced by the Veni Creator and the litanies, during which the king remained prostrate on his face. For the unction the king was seated and his hand, breast, shoulder-blades, and joints of the arms were all anointed with the oil of catechumens, an anthem and several long prayers being recited the while. Finally his head was anointed, first with the oil of catechumens and afterwards with chrism. The next stage in the ceremony was the dressing and investiture of the monarch. A tunic (colobium sindonis) was put upon him with sandals upon his feet and spurs. Then he was girded with a sword and received the armillæ, a sort of stole put about the neck and tied to his arms at the elbows. These were followed by the pallium, or cloak, formerly the equivalent of the chlamys, or purple paludamentum, and fastened by a clasp over the right shoulder, but now represented in English coronations by a sort of mantle like a cope. Then the crown was blessed by a special prayer, Deus tuorum corona fidelium, and imposed by the archbishop with two other prayers. This was followed by the blessing and conferring of the ring and finally the sceptre and rod were presented, also with prayers. A further long blessing was pronounced when the king was conducted to the throne there to receive the homage of the peers. Then if there was no queen consort to be crowned, Mass began immediately, a Mass with "proper" prayers and preface and a special benediction given by the archbishop before the Agnus Dei. After the Credo the king again went to the altar and offered bread and wine and a mark of gold. The kiss of peace was brought to the king at his throne but he went humbly to the altar to Communicate, after which he received a draught of wine from St. Edward's stone chalice. At the end the king was conducted to the shrine of St. Edward where he made an offering of his crown.

As already remarked, the service for the coronation of the King of England even in modern times remains substantially the same, though English has been substituted for Latin and though many transpositions and modifications have been introduced in the prayers and ceremonies, all distinctively Roman expressions being studiously suppressed. The Mass of course gives place to the communion service of the Book of Common Prayer, but the sovereign still offers bread and wine as well as gold, and down to the coronation of Queen Victoria even the "proper" preface was retained. Indeed its omission and other omissions and changes introduced for the first time in the coronation of King Edward VII were prompted only by the desire to abbreviate a very long service. The most serious alteration in the medieval form is of course in the oath. Since the time of William III the king has sworn to maintain "the Protestant Reformed Religion established by Law" — a phrase which has always been a thorn in the side of those advanced Ritualists who contend that the Church of England has never been Protestant. Moreover since the interrogative form is used, this description is uttered by the Archbishop of Canterbury before the Lords and Commons and the representatives of the whole English Church. On the other hand one clause in the interrogation still stands as it did. The king is asked, "Will you to your power cause Law and Justice in mercy to be executed in all your judgments?" To which he replies, "I will" — a promise which differs but slightly from the undertaking made in the oldest Egbertine Order. After the archbishop's questions have all been answered the king advances to the "Altar", as it is still called, and takes this solemn oath upon the Bible lying there: "The things which I have here before promised I will perform and keep, so help me God." The coronation oath, it should be noticed, must be carefully distinguished from "the Protestant Declaration", which the sovereign by a still unrepealed clause of the Bill of Rights (1689) is required to make on the first day of his first Parliament. In this declaration Transubstantiation and other Catholic doctrines are repudiated and the Mass declared idolatrous. When, as sometimes has happened, the coronation ceremony precedes the first meeting of Parliament, the declaration against Transubstantiation has to be made in the course of the coronation ceremony. The only new element introduced into the English rite since the Reformation is the presenting of the Bible to the sovereign. This like the Protestant Declaration dates from the coronation of William and Mary.


There is so much general similarity between the English coronation order in its perfected form and that used for the coronation of the Emperor and the King of the Romans that it will not be necessary to treat this section in great detail. The fact undoubtedly is, though Anglican liturgists ignore it as far as possible, that at each of the early modifications of the English ritual, more especially that under King Eadgar, the imperial ceremonial was freely imitated (see Thurston, Coronation Ceremonial, 18-23 sqq.). But owing to the accidental preservation of so many English documents there is no coronation ceremonial in the world the history of which is so well known to us as that of England and we have consequently given it the preference in order of treatment. Apart from Spanish examples, the earliest definite instance of unction of a Christian sovereign seems to be that of Pepin, who was first crowned by St. Boniface, the papal legate at Soissons in 752, and again, together with his sons Charles and Carloman and his wife Bertha, by Pope Stephen at St-Denis, Sunday, 28 July, 754. Charlemagne was solemnly crowned at St. Peter's in Rome by Pope Leo III, on Christmas Day, 800. The statement of a Greek chronicler that he was anointed from head to foot is probably a mere blunder or gross exaggeration. Despite the efforts of Dr. Diemand (Das Ceremoniell der Kaiserkrönungen) to classify the various Ordines for the coronation of the emperor and to trace the stages of their development, the subject remains intricate and obscure. We may be content to note rapidly the elements of its complete form.

The ceremony was assumed to take place at Rome, as by right it should, and the first incident was the solemn entry of the emperor into Rome, which should if possible take place on a Sunday or festival. He was met in state outside the walls and escorted to St. Peter's. Next came the reception by the pope, who sat enthroned and surrounded by his cardinals at the head of the steps before St. Peter's, and there the emperor, after kissing the pope's foot, took the coronation oath (Diemand, 108-123), which in its earliest form ran as follows: "In the name of Christ I, N., the Emperor, promise, undertake and protest in the presence of God and Blessed Peter the Apostle, that I will be the protector and defender of the Holy Roman Church in all ways that I can be of help [in omnibus utilitatibus] so far as I shall he supported by the Divine aid, according to my knowledge and ability." This undertaking, which at first was clearly not an oath in form, was afterwards strengthened by a number of added clauses, for instance by the words, "I swear upon these Holy Gospels", or again by an explicit promise of fealty to the reigning pope by name and to his successors. There was here also perhaps a prayer of blessing spoken as the emperor was escorted into the church. At one time this was followed by a sort of examination into the fitness of the candidate (scrutinium), but this disappeared in the later Ordines. He was then received and in a sense enrolled among the canons of St. Peter's and prepared for the anointing. The unction was introduced by the litany and performed by the Bishop of Ostia, who only anointed the right arm and the back between the shoulders with the oil of catechumens. Two prayers follow, both of which have found their way into the English order, though one of them occurs in a contracted form and is used only for conferring the ring. All this took place before the beginning of Mass, but in the later forms of the imperial ordo the next item of the coronation service, the bestowal of the insignia and notably of the crown, took place after the Gradual, being thus inserted in the Mass itself. The order in which the insignia were delivered varied much, and in the later forms a mitre was given to the emperor before the crown, and the sceptre was accompanied with an orb. This last had no place in the medieval English ceremony. After the giving of the insignia the Laudes, or acclamations, were sung and then the Gospel was chanted and the Mass resumed its course. The whole ceremony concluded with a solemn procession to the Lateran and a state banquet.

The form used in Germany for the coronation of the King of the Romans retains much in common with the imperial order, but it bears a still closer resemblance to what is known as the "second" English ritual, viz.: that used for the Anglo-Saxon King Eadgar. The fact, as Dr. Diemand points out, seems to have been that the Egbertine Order was reinforced by imperial elements borrowed from abroad, and thus acquired a certain reputation as the most elaborate form for the crowning of a king. Hence it came to be largely copied on the Continent and in that way we find unmistakable traces of prayers originally written for Anglo-Saxon kings travelling into Central Europe and even as far south as Milan. The ordo inscribed "De Benedictione et Coronatione Regis", which is still extant in the "Pontificale Romanum", bears much resemblance to the forms just described used for the coronation of the emperor. For example the scrutinium occurs in this form: The king is presented to the consecrating archbishop by two bishops, who petition that he may be crowned, and who, when themselves interrogated as to his fitness, reply that they know him to be a worthy and proper person. The oath follows, also the litany with prostration, and then the anointing on the arm and between the shoulders. Then, after Mass has been begun and brought as far as the Gradual, the king kneeling at the altar-steps receives successively sword, crown, and sceptre, each accompanied with appropriate prayers. Finally the king is solemnly enthroned, the Te Deum sung, and the remainder of the Mass follows. A similar, but generally somewhat shorter, rite is observed in the coronation of a queen consort. The prayers often differ from those used for the king and the insignia are naturally fewer.


In earlier ages almost every country under monarchical government had a coronation ceremony of its own and this was nearly always distinguished by some peculiar features. For example in Aragon the king was expected to pass the preceding night in the church with a purpose which was evidently analogous to that of the knight's vigil spent in the watching of his arms. In Scotland again the right of regal unction and coronation was accorded (1329) in a Bull of Pope John XXII (the crown having previously been regarded rather as a civil ornament) in which the privilege was burdened with the condition that the king should take an oath that he would do his utmost to extirpate from his dominions all whom the Church should denounce as heretics. As a remote consequence of this James VI, the infant son of Queen Mary, or rather Morton, the Regent, in his name, took an oath "to root out all heresy and enemies to the true worship of God that shall be convicted by the true kirk of God of the aforesaid crimes"; the principal among these crimes being the "ydolatre of the odious and blasphemous mass". At present, however, the investiture of sovereigns with the insignia of their office by a religious ceremony is by no means universal, and it is curious that in Spain, a most Catholic country in full diplomatic relations with the Holy See, no such religious ceremony is now in use. Of European countries we may note that the rite followed in France in the fourteenth and subsequent centuries was almost identical in substance with that of the English "Liber Regalis" (see the careful comparison in Dewick's "The Order of Coronation of Charles V", pp. xvi sqq.). The most important differences were first the privilege of the French king, a privilege not shared by his consort, of Communicating under both species, and secondly the use of the oil from the Sainte Ampoule, an oil which according to universal belief had been miraculously brought from heaven by an angel, or a dove, for the baptism of Clovis. This oil down to the Revolution was kept in the Abbey of Reims. The abbot brought the Sainte Ampoule to the coronation and by means of a golden needle a drop of its contents was extracted and mixed with chrism. With this mixture the king was anointed first on the head, then on the breast, and finally on the back and on the joints of the arms. It seems clear that this privilege of the French king provoked imitation in England, and a letter of Pope John XXII has recently been brought to light returning a guarded answer to an application of Edward II who wished to be anointed with certain oil said to have been revealed by Our Blessed Lady to St. Thomas of Canterbury.

It would take us too far to enter into any details as to the ceremonial formerly observed in the coronation of the Kings of Hungary, Bohemia, and Poland, but a word may be added about one of the most splendid of the coronation orders still maintained, namely that of the czar, which always takes place at Moscow. The service begins after the Proscomedy, or Offertory, by a solemn procession in which the emperor enters the church and is conducted to his throne. The lifting upon a shield which was long retained in the old Greek ritual of Constantinople is not now used at Moscow. After the emperor has recited the Nicene Creed as a profession of faith, and after an invocation of the Holy Ghost and litany, the emperor assumes the purple chlamys and then the crown is presented to him. He takes it and puts it on his head himself, while the metropolitan says, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen", and then the metropolitan makes the following short address: "Most God-fearing, absolute and mighty Lord, Emperor of all the Russias, this visible and tangible adornment of thy head is an eloquent symbol that thou as the head of the whole Russian people art invisibly crowned by the King of kings, Christ, with a most ample blessing, seeing that He bestows upon thee entire authority over His people." This is followed by the delivery of the sceptre and orb, each with addresses. Then the queen is crowned, the emperor for a moment putting his own crown on the head of the empress before he invests her with that which properly belongs to her. This is followed by the proclamation of the emperor's style and by a general act of homage. The Liturgy is then celebrated, and after the Communion hymn (koinonikon) the royal gates of the sanctuary are opened, the emperor is invited to approach, and there, near the entrance, standing on the cloth of gold, the emperor and empress are anointed. In the case of the emperor the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, breast, and the hands on both sides, are all touched with oil but in the case of the empress the unction is confined to the forehead only. Then the emperor passes within the royal gates and receives both the Eucharistic species as a priest does, separately. The empress, however, remains outside, and receives only, as the Greek laity usually do, by intinction.

General.—THALHOFER in Kirchenlex., s. v. Krönung; Venables

in Dict. Christ. Ant., s. vv. Coronation and Crown. MARTÈNE, De Antiquis Ecclesiæ Ritibus (Venice, 1783), II, 201-241; CATALANI, Cæremoniale Romanum (Rome, 1750), I, 85-145; Pontificale Romanum (Rome, 1736) I 369-417.

Particular Rites. — Byzantine. — SICKEL, Das byzantinische Krönungsrecht bis zum 10. Jahrhundert in Byzantinische Zeitschrift (Leipzig, 1898) VII; BRIGHTMAN, Byzantine Imperial Coronations in Journ. of theol. Studies (1901), II, 359-392. Spanish. — FÉROTIN, Monumenta Ecclesiæ Liturgica (Paris, 1904), IV, 498-505. Celtic. — BUTE, Scottish Coronations (London, 1902); COOPER Four Scottish Coronations (Aberdeen, 1902, Eccles. Society); KINLOCH, Scottish Coronations in The Dublin Review (1902). English. — MASKELL, Monumenta Ritualia Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ (Oxford, 1882), II; WORDSWORTH, The Manner of Coronation of King Charles I (London, 1892). The vast number of publications produced on the coronation of Edward VII cannot be mentioned here but among the more important are WICKHAM-LEGG, English Coronation Records (London, 1901); WORDSWORTH, Three English Coronation Orders (London, 1901); MACLEANE, The Great Solemnity (London, 1902); THURSTON, The Coronation Ceremonial (London, 1902), and in Nineteenth Century (March. 1902), and in The Month (June, July, 1902); WILSON, The English Coronation Orders in Jour. of Theol. Studies (July, 1901). Imperial Coronations. — DIEMAND, Das Ceremoniell der Kaiserkrönungen (Munich, 1894); WAITZ, Die Formeln der deutschen Königs- und der römischen Kaiserkrönung (Göttingen, 1871); SCHWARZER, Die Ordines der Kaiserkrönung. Miscellaneous. — DEWICK, The Order of Coronation of Charles V (Henry Bradshaw Society, 1899); MALTZEW, Bitt- Dank- und Weihe-Gottesdienste (Berlin, 1897). 1-61; HAASE, Die Königs-Krönungen in Oberitalien (Strasburg, 1901); MAGISTRETTI, Pontificale Ambrosianum (Milan, 1897).


Copyright ©1999-2023 Wildfire Fellowship, Inc all rights reserved