30 April 2023, The Tablet

Change and tradition in Coronation liturgy

Lambeth Palace said the newly-commissioned liturgy had evolved from the crowning of King Edgar at Bath Abbey in 973.

Change and tradition in Coronation liturgy

St Edward's Crown, first used at the Coronation of Charles II, with which the Archbishop of Canterbury will crown Charles III.
PA Images/Alamy

The Coronation will for the first time feature a preface to the Coronation Oath, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury will explain the historical context to the King’s pledge to “maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant reformed religion established by law”.

This is one of a number of innovations in the Coronation liturgy, published last night by Lambeth Palace. These include participation of Christian denominations and faiths besides the Church of England and the King praying aloud in the course of the service.

Lambeth Palace said that the liturgy, based around an Anglican Eucharist, had evolved directly from the crowning of King Edgar in Bath Abbey in 937.

Among the pledges the King will make on the Coronation Bible is the promise to maintain the Protestant religion and to “maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof”.

He must also declare that he is “a faithful Protestant” and will follow “the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession”.

The Oath is a legal rather than liturgical event, its wording prescribed by a 1688 Act of Parliament

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who commissioned the new liturgy and will lead the service, will explain the Church of England’s desire “to foster an environment where all people may live freely”.

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson said: “The religious and cultural context of the seventeenth century was very different to today’s contemporary, multi-faith Britain.”

He said that Archbishop Welby’s preface “will contextualise the Church of England’s modern understanding of this legal text”, referencing the late Queen’s statement in 2012 that it has “a duty to protect the practice of all faiths in this country”.

Following the Oath, the King will pray aloud before the congregation – the first time the monarch has done this during a Coronation service.

The newly-written prayer includes the words: “Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace.”

While Church of England clergy will conduct much of the service, representatives of other denominations and religions will have a significant role.

After the King is anointed with oil consecrated in Jerusalem, he will receive his regalia from members of the House of Lords, including representatives from Judaism, Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism.

Archbishop Welby will crown the King after the presentation of the regalia.  Following the fanfare and gun salutes, four leaders of other Christian denominations – including the Archbishop of Westminster – will join the Archbishop of York in offering a blessing.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, will pray: “May God pour upon you the riches of his grace, keep you in his holy fear, prepare you for a happy eternity, and receive you at the last into immortal glory.”

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99