ST EDWARD'S Crown sat
sparkling in the centre of the high altar of Westminster Abbey as
the visual focus of a service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of
the Queen's coronation, on Tuesday. Away from the Tower of London
for the first time since 1953, and joined by the Ampulla - the
ornamental gold eagle that contains the oil for the anointing of
Sovereigns - its lustre put to shame the Abbey plate that we are
more accustomed to seeing laid out there on high days.
As at the Coronation, the
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was
present. But on Tuesday the present Moderator was joined by other
religious leaders, representing the panoply of faith communities
that exists in Britain today; and, while the Abbey organists plied
their art, the various processions made their way up the nave to
their places in the quire.
A saffron-robed representative of Britain's Buddhists led a
smaller interfaith contingent than was expected, as a number of
those who had been invited to join the procession arrived late. The
UK Churches' procession included the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry
Morgan; the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd
David Chillingworth; and the Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John
MacDowell. The Churches in England were represented by, among
others, the Rt Revd Jana Jeruma-Grinberga of the Lutheran Church in
Great Britain, and by Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira & Great
Britain. The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, was
recovering from surgery; and, in the absence of the Archbishop
of Westminster, the Roman Catholic Church in England was
represented by an auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Westminster,
the Rt Revd Alan Hopes.
The choir of the Abbey, and of the Chapels Royal with its boys
in their scarlet and gold uniforms, were joined by the Queen's
Scholars of Westminster School, who half-sang, half-shouted, their
traditional Vivats during Parry's "I Was Glad". The Prince of Wales
and the Duchess of Cornwall preceded the Queen and the Duke of
Edinburgh, who attended the service despite having cancelled an
engagement on Monday.
The service continued in four parts, each intended "to evoke and
reflect the shape of the Coronation service itself", and concluding
with its own prayer. The first part, "The Recognition", included
the special prayer written by the Dean (
News, 24 May), the National Anthem, and the account of the
anointing of Solomon (1 Kings 1. 32-40), read from the Authorised
Version by the Prime Minister.
"The Anointing" followed, beginning with "Behold, O God our
Defender", written by Herbert Howells for the Coronation.
While this was being sung, a colourful procession of
"representatives of the United Kingdom" brought a flask of oil to
the altar. The representatives included Lord Wallace of Saltaire -
who sang as a chorister at the Coronation - in his parliamentary
robe; Mr Justice Cooke, in the robes of a High Court judge; and a
lollipop lady in her fluorescent uniform, but without her
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma, read
Mark 10. 35-45, before the congregation sang the hymn "All people
that on earth do dwell".
The Archbishop of Canterbury preached the sermon, taking as his
text "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your
servant" (Matthew 20:27). As the Queen had knelt in prayer before
the altar, he said, she had seen the inscription on the reredos:
"The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord
and [of his] Christ."
"Her Majesty knelt", the Archbishop said, "at the beginning of a
path demanding devotion and utter self-sacrifice - a path she did
not choose, yet to which she was called by God."
The oaths sworn by the Queen 60 years ago, and the homage done
to her then by the representatives of her people, and not least by
the Duke of Edinburgh, were signs of a "model of liberty under
authority [which] begins . . . with our duty to God".
"Her Majesty the Queen is servant of the King of Kings," the
Archbishop concluded. "[S]he serves us, as we serve her, in liberty
and under authority. It is a system that points to freedom in God,
in whose love alone we are fully human, fully free."
The Archbishop's sermon was followed by a lively anthem
commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster from the
composer Bob Chilcott, and paid for by a number of former
choristers who had sung at the Coronation. It set the first six
verses of Psalm 21, "The King shall rejoice . . .", and the
paraphrase of words from the same psalm as originally used by
William Byrd in his anthem "O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our
The prayers, led by representatives from a number of
denominations, gave thanks to God for the Queen's "constancy and
steadfastness of faith"; her "fortitude and courage"; "her
unswerving commitment to the peaceful democratic principles of
these lands"; "her affectionate service of her Peoples"; and "the
strength and inspiration she fosters in the Nations".
The third part of the service, "The Homage", took the form of a
reading by the actress Clare Skinner of the Poet Laureate Carol Ann
Duffy's poem "The Throne", read from beside the Coronation
Chair in St George's Chapel and televised in the rest of the Abbey.
The Queen was "history's bride, anointed, blessed, for a crowning"
- but the newly restored Chair looked empty without of the Stone of
Scone, which did, of course, attend the Coronation.
"The Thanksgiving" concluded the service, with the hymn "Praise
to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation", the blessing -
imparted by the Dean - and then William Walton's Coronation Te
Deum, during which the Queen's procession left the Abbey. A
few members of the congregation bowed or curtsied as she
Sixty years were commemorated in little more than sixty minutes,
and even the processions were brisk. The Royal Party was at the
West Door long before the Te Deum was over, and at "Thou sittest at
the right hand of God", the Chapter could be seen engaging its
members in conversation. By "Vouchsafe, O Lord", the Dean had seen
the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh into their car, and by "O Lord,
have mercy upon us", they were gone. Inside the Abbey, Elgar's
Pomp and Circumstance March no. 4 began, as the bells
pealed out across London.