21 April 2023, The Tablet

Archbishop receives Coronation Bible to present to King at Westminster Abbey

Archbishop receives Coronation Bible to present to King at Westminster Abbey

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reading the Coronation Bible for King Charles III in the Cranmer Study at Lambeth Palace, London, 20 April 2023.
Neil Turner for Lambeth Palace

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has received a specially commissioned King James Bible that will be presented to King Charles III during the Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey on 6 May.

After it is presented, the King will then place his hand upon the Bible when he takes the Coronation Oath. 

A Bible has been presented to the monarch in this way since the joint Coronation of William III and Mary II in 1689. The earliest specially produced Coronation Bible in the Royal Collection is from the Coronation of George III in 1761. Since then a new Bible has been produced for each Coronation.

When the 1953 Coronation Bible was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her Coronation, it was with the words: “We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.”

Archbishop Welby commissioned Oxford University Press to produce the Coronation Bible, which is hand-bound in leather and decorated in gold leaf by London bookbinders Shepherds, Sangorski and Sutcliffe.

The Bible will be kept at Lambeth Palace until it is taken to Westminster Abbey in preparation for the Coronation.

Archbishop Welby said, “The Coronation will be a service of Christian worship, deeply rooted in the wisdom we find in Scripture. The Bible which will be presented to His Majesty The King is a reminder that Scripture is not just at the heart of the responsibilities he undertakes at the Coronation, but at the heart of Christian life. On this momentous occasion, the Bible will be the first and most important gift offered to The King. The Scriptures offer a guide and light to all – and I pray that His Majesty will continue to find them in these living words.”

Four copies of the Coronation Bible have been made. Following the Coronation, the Bible used in the service will be kept in the Lambeth Palace Library. Another will be given to The King as a personal copy and the other two will be placed in the archives of Westminster Abbey and Oxford University Press.

After the Coronation, the Bible will be shown in the current Lambeth Palace Library exhibition to mark The King’s Coronation, showcasing religious items that have been used in Royal Coronation ceremonies going back to the Middle Ages. These include the Coronation Charter of Henry I, the manuscript of the Coronation service prepared for William III and Mary II; Archbishop Wake’s notes for the Coronation of George II and a letter from George VI thanking Archbishop Lang for his part in the coronation ceremony.

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