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Four coronations witnessed by the Church Times

28 April 2023

. . . and not only witnessed: under firmly Anglo-Catholic management, the paper had clear ideas of how the service should be conducted

Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his coronation robes in 1902

Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his coronation robes in 1902

Complete Bible essential

September 27th 1901

IT HAS been stated that the copy of the Bible with which King Edward will be presented at his Coronation will be supplied by the British and Foreign Bible Society. As the Coronation Service is a Church function, and the Faith which the King pledges himself to defend is the Catholic Faith, it is necessary that the Bible he receives should be the complete volume authorised by the Church. It is scarcely likely that the volume presented by the British and Foreign Bible Society will contain those deutero-canonical books which our Bible inserts between the Prophets and the Gospel. We hope, therefore, that those who will have the arrangements of the Coronation Service entrusted to them will pay attention to this detail, whether the Bible is presented by either of the Universities or by some society. It is just the kind of detail that might escape attention, more particularly if, as is not impossible, the arrangement of the Coronation ceremonies is entrusted to persons the least fitted of all for such a task.


Use of incense

October 4th 1901 

WE MUST expect, during the next few months, to see any number of suggestions respecting the forthcoming Coronation ceremonies. The latest we have seen is a resolution of Glasgow Presbytery expressing disapproval of the use of incense in the service, and asking that there shall be no departure from the order observed during the last three centuries. The desire is stated to be “in the interests of religion and Protestantism”. It would be difficult to show how the interests of religion could be injuriously affected by such a harmless ceremony, and it would be also difficult to reconcile the Coronation Service in any way with Protestantism. Moreover, the King is not crowned at Westminster as a Protestant at all, but as a Catholic Prince; and, so long as he pledges himself, which he will do, to protect the religious rights of all classes of his subjects, what occurs at Westminster Abbey can be no concern of the Glasgow Presbytery, however important that body may be. Moreover, it is not the case that there has been one uniform way of performing the Coronation Service during the last three centuries, as everyone knows who has paid any attention to the subject.


The King’s sacring

November 22nd 1901 

William Maclagan, Archbishop of York, robed for the 1902 coronation, in which, unusually, the Northern Primate crowned Queen Alexandra, owing the frailty of the Archbishop of CanterburyPERSISTENT rumours are about that serious changes are to be made in the Coronation Service next June. These are but rumours; they may be baseless; they may represent proposals which have been made only to be rejected. They may, on the other hand, indicate what us being now arranged; they may even represent, with more or less accuracy, a settlement already determined. We could wish them altogether groundless; we hope that, at least, they may not be realized in fact. To be particular, it is said that three omissions are contemplated — the homage of the nobles, the anointing, and the Communion of the King and Queen. With the first of these we are not greatly concerned. . .

It is altogether another matter if the other changes which rumour moots be adopted. The whole purport of the Coronation requires its performance in connexion with the supreme rites of the Church. If it is anything more than a mere pageant, a piece of silly theatrical display, comparable to the Lord Mayor’s Show, it is the solemn consecration of the King’s person for his great office. It is strictly analogous to the ordination of a priest, the sacring of a Bishop, and the order of service is constructed on the same lines. The King’s sacring takes place in the course of the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and, as in all similar cases, the person consecrated partakes of the Holy Communion. Only once in the long list of English Coronations has this rule been broken. It was in the case of James II., who refused to communicate with the Church of England. He consented, with little consistency, to be crowned, anointed, and blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but he insisted on leaving the Abbey without communicating. The precedent is not a good one, nor of good augury.

The omission of the anointing, if that indeed be contemplated, is even worse. We confess that we cannot imagine why the King should go to Westminster at all, if not for the unction. To suppose this a mere ceremony, accidentally attached to the Coronation service, is to miss the whole meaning of the rite.


The form of service

May 9th 1902 

THE Form and Order for the Coronation of their Majesties has been awaited with no little anxiety. Some experts predicted it would be the best, and some the worst, since Queen Elizabeth’s. The Order of Service as now published has evidently been drawn by the Archbishop and his advisers with much care. In some respects better precedents have been reverted to. But on the whole we must confess to grave disappointment. Just as, after Mary Tudor’s death, the revised Book of Common Prayer, in spite of the conservative inclinations of the Queen, was modelled on 1552 rather than on 1549, so the general hope that there would be a return to the earlier Stuart model, or at least to that of a less debased type of Coronation Service than the one drawn up for King William IV. and Queen Adelaide, must now be abandoned. There are improvements, which we will indicate. But the solemn liturgical Procession of the Estates, “Singing all the way”, “with sound of trumpets and with chanting”, on a raised platform, from the Hall to the Abbey church, is again omitted; the houseling “towels” or palls of silk are not to be held by episcopal hands before the King and Queen at the moment of Holy Communion; the Osculum Episcoporum, or kiss of Christian fellowship (to be distinguished from the Kiss of Homage), finally disappears; certain reverential accompaniments of the Anointing, such as the touching the places annointed with tufts of fine crimson silk and bombast wool, and the placing of coifs and gloves of lawn (to be afterwards burnt) upon the head and hands, are discontinued; and some unfortunate alterations made for William IV. in the language of certain prayers are still found. One other point of nineteenth-century innovation must be mentioned. Until George IV. incense was burnt in the procession in both the open air and as far as the quire door. At the Lambeth Hearing the Archbishop of Canterbury observed that “it would always be possible, if some great occasion made it suitable, for the Sovereign, with the advice of the Primate, to order a great ceremony, in which the use of incense should form a part.” His Grace was obviously thinking of the Coronation: what “great occasion” of State could be suitable if not that? The Bishop of Peterborough, last June, told his clergy that “it would not seem unlikely that at the King’s Coronation in 1902 incense will be used. And thus”, his lordship remarked, “we may take a step towards the future legalizing for general use of a symbolic and Scriptural ceremonial act which only superstitious abuse has excluded from the services of our Church.” . . .

We regret extremely the excision of the Proper Preface. What is this modern dislike, shewn also in the new Accession Service, to speaking of Christian princes as called to the defence of God’s faith and the nursing-fatherhood of His Church? Such phrases, doubtless, have not now all their old meaning. But if the King is not put into a sacred relation to religion, why is he consecrated at all? Abbreviation can hardly be the motive for such a grave omission as that of the Preface, though it may be a reason for the further curtailment of the consecratory Litany and for the shortening or omission of seven prayers, including, by-the-bye, one for the Royal Family, and of the benedictions. After all a great solemnity cannot be hurried. It is essential that each ceremony and procession should be spacious, majestic, and deliberate. It is characteristic, perhaps, of our time that every direction for their Majesties to “repose” themselves has been cut out. The word, in fact, disappears altogether. It seems to be thought in these days of bustle that reposefulness is the same as sleepiness. . .


Prelates to be unmitred

May 16th 1902 

IN ANSWER to an inquirer the Earl Marshal has stated that the Archbishops and Bishops will not wear mitres at the Coronation. No doubt it would afford that high dignitary no little satisfaction to make this announcement, implying, as it does, that the English Episcopate lays no claim to the right of wearing the distinctive head-covering of Western Bishops. The College of Heralds being mainly, if not entirely, staffed by Romanists, we may be sure that every detail in the Coronation ceremonies that differentiates them from pre-Reformation usage would be secretly welcome. Now the King’s Coronation, when he is crowned as a Catholic Prince, with a rite of which the history goes back a thousand years and more in the life of this country and its Catholic organization, is just one of those occasions on which the continuity of the Church in England should be symbolized in every possible way, and could be symbolized without giving offence. We regret, therefore, to hear that the “Bishop Andrewes Cap”, or whatever their lordships are pleased to call the headgear of their adoption, is to take the place of the mitre. Perhaps — who knows? — at the secret conclave in which they meet to-day this matter may be reconsidered. If it is not, at any rate it is not too late for them to ask themselves whether they should not, in face of the portentous claims of the personage who calls himself Archbishop of Westminster, show by outward signs that they are as good Catholic Bishops as he is, if not very much better.


Medals for maids-of-all-work

June 16th 1902 

WITH characteristic kindness, her Majesty the Queen desires that one large and neglected section pf the working-people, the maids-of-all-work, should have some share in the national rejoicings at her Coronation. Her Majesty accordingly has commissioned the Bishop of London to organize the means of giving effect to her wishes, the plan being to give a tea and a medal to 10,000 of her humble subjects engaged in the dreary and ill-paid labour of maid-of-all-work. Though the Queen has chosen a Bishop for her almoner, it needs no saying that no distinction will be made on the grounds of religious belief. The Church, like the Sovereign, knows no such distinctions where charity is dispensed, and the Bishop of London will act through the agency of those societies which are specially devoted to the befriending of domestic servants.


Coronation postponed

June 25th 1902 

DISAPPOINTMENT is a feeble word wherewith to express the feeling of the people when they heard yesterday that the medical men in attendance on the King had decided to advise his Majesty to postpone his Coronation. For weeks past London has been busily preparing itself for the occasion with every expression of loyalty. Business has been interfered with, and few complaints have been heard; money has been lavishly spent; time, skill, and labour have all been willingly sacrificed, in order that the nation, and the Empire at large, might assure his Majesty and his gracious Consort of their devotion to the throne, as the emblem of imperial unity, strength, and now once more of peace, both at home and abroad. It is a grievous disappointment to think that the pessimists have been for the moment justified. But if that be a predominant sentiment, it is not the sole possession of the mind of the King’s subjects. The first thought is for that of the Royal sufferer, who, with, the keen interest which marks all his public actions, has entered with unflagging zest into the preparations for an event which, in the best sense, is imperial.


‘Can my people forgive me?’

July 4th 1902 

WHEN we wrote last week our rejoicing had been suddenly turned into sorrow by the news of the King’s illness. This week the note is changed from sorrow into thankfulness for the prospect of his ultimate recovery. The perfect sympathy that exists between the King and the people has been illustrated in a remarkable way. His Majesty is reported to have said immediately on recovering consciousness after his operation, “Can my people ever forgive me?” His first thought was of the inconvenience and disappointment that the suspension of the Coronation proceedings would cause his subjects. On the other hand it was evident, from the first moment when it was known that the King could not be crowned, that the one thought uppermost in everyone’s mind was not of his own but the King‘s disappointment. Never was such disturbing news affecting so many interests received with such an entire aban­donment of self-consideration.


The deferred rite

July 25th 1902 

HIS Majesty the King is now so well on the road to complete recovery that we may with confidence look forward to the Coronation as an event that will fall on the 9th of August. We suppose that, this early date having been fixed, we must accept with submission the further curtailment of the ancient rite. By the elision of the already mutilated Litany, the Sermon, and one or two small details, a saving of half-an-hour will, it is stated, be saved. This, no doubt, is a great gain when the state of His Majesty’s health is considered; but, as we have said before, there is a certain loss of dignity involved in reducing to the barest possible dimensions a function rarely performed, and full of such historic and religious significance.


The Imperial Crown

June 25th 1902 

THE Imperial Crown which will, we hope with no great delay, be laid symbolically on the brow of him who already bears the burden of the reality, stands for a high calling. Never has there been a greater work for an English King. He is no longer crowned to be King only of England, nor even of the United Kingdom of these Isles. In narrow legality he is that, and all other of his dominions are dependencies on the British Crown. But even the least imaginative Englishman begins to look beyond these technicalities. We still speak of the British Empire, but we know that in the original sense of the word there is no such thing. We are out-growing the school-boy phrase that this or that region “belongs to England”. The people of these islands do not in any sense rule the new nations which acknowledge Edward VII. as their King. The Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth may technically be enacted by the British Parliament, but that is little more than a convenient enregistering of facts. . . England is the heart of the Empire: the mother, but not the mistress.


The deferred rite

July 25th 1902 

L’UOMO Propone, ma Dio dispone is a saying which, in many different languages, leapt to the lips of all but the most frivolous when the monarch of a quarter of the world lay two days before his appointed Sacring beneath the surgeon’s knife. Mankind held its breath. Was Edward VII. to pass into history as England’s uncrowned king? By the Divine mercy our Sovereign’s valued life is likely to be spared. A date, a perilously early date, is fixed for the deferred Coronation. “Will my people ever forgive me?” were the pathetic words of the King on coming to himself. But it is no longer to gratify the popular craving for a pageant that he hastens to be crowned. That craving, in days of starved historical imagination and utilitarian prose, is natural and human. Yet the people might wait a little longer for their spectacle. Still less is the Coronation being fixed for a day in the early part of the King’s convalescence in order — as a Radical paper suggests — that wealthy people may get away to shoot grouse. But it is doubtless felt now by his Majesty and by his advisers in Church and State that the consecration of the King and Queen ought never to have been delayed for eighteen months, and that they must present themselves before the Lord their God at the earliest possible moment. . .

The courageous determination of the King not to wait for fully restored health before receiving from the Church that which has been too long delayed, requires that the least possible strain should be put upon his Majesty’s strength. But the service has already been so curtailed, that it is impossible (with the exceptions already mentioned) to go further in that direction. It would have been better than the omission of any vital part of the solemnity that it should be deferred a few more weeks or even months. The lesson will surely not be lost in days to come.


August 8th 1902 

TO-MORROW , if all be well, King Edward VII. will go to his sacring to be invested by the Church according to an ancient and splendid rite with the emblems of his exalted office, and to receive from the altar the Divine blessing upon himself and his Consort. That the great event is anticipated with lessened public interest is as evident as it is to be regretted. The fact is due to something more than the mere alteration of the date, and the absence of distinguished foreign guests who cannot be expected to come a second time to take part in the august proceedings. It is due, we think, in no small degree to the way in which we overdo everything nowadays. Coming events are prepared for with sensational announcements and all the arts of competitive journalism, and when the moment of their celebration arrives we have almost lost the relish for them. If the Coronation had not been postponed, we believe that the rejoicings would have been really less than they might have been if so much fine writing on the subject had not been inflicted on us. But this and the postponement together have combined to lessen for the public imagination the importance of to-morrow’s event. Yet, whether outwardly splendid or not, and whether the general interest in it be great or small, its profound significance is entirely undiminished. The meaning of a religious rite is not affected by any outside circumstances, and it is as a religious rite that we prefer to regard the Coronation.


August 15th 1902 

SURROUNDED by the magnates of the realm, and attended by the prayers and rejoicings of his subjects all the world over, his Majesty, King Edward the Seventh, was hallowed on Saturday as the Ruler of this Kingdom and Empire. When we remember that he lay between life and death only six weeks ago, it is truly astonishing that he bore the fatigue of so exacting a ceremony so well, and has since continued to perform a number of public duties. As his grave illness invested the Coronation with a pathetic interest, so the return of his health and vigour adds to the rejoicings. We would, refer our readers, for full particulars of the august proceedings in the Abbey Church, to the, excellent account given elsewhere by our special representative, who was an eye-witness of what was done. It ought to prove of special interest to Churchmen, since the greater part of what has been written on the subject in the ordinary newspapers bore no trace of intimate knowledge of the Coronation rite and its significance. To take a single example, that of a leading London daily; the special writer remarked that all that followed the act of Crowning was wearisome and. uninteresting, and might well have been omitted. We would not suspect him of intentional profanity, but it is evident that he missed the whole meaning of the Service, as he did not perceive that the Sacring and the Crowning are only special details included within the Celebration of the Holy Mysteries, and, as such, implying the subjection of all earthly State to the King of kings. Vicisti, Galilaee.


‘Blend of Earl’s Court and Madame Tussaud’

(By our Special Representative)

August 15th 1902

THE much debated “forgery” of the big western annexe to the ancient Abbey was gained, and its striking “make-up” of old age, with crumbling stone, chipped carvings, weather-stains, and the grime of London smoke, all faithfully imitated in cheap and evanescent materials, were gazed at, but with no admiring eye. . . On walking round to the comparatively plain south side of this building, various names were found to have been scribbled on it. If the sham stonework spoke the truth, it had been visited not only by several Harrys and Harrietts, who had left their autographs and dates, and occasionally their residences, but also by both Mr Chamberlain and Mr Kruger. . . Shortly before the original date of this Coronation the interior of the annexe was visited; and here, again, the painful incongruity of the whole matter was manifested, and the astounding lack of sense of propriety of the officials responsible for this part of the preparations openly displayed. No objection would be raised, perhaps, to a nobleman choosing the interior of these sham Gothic walls as a proper place for the display of his old tapestry; but surely the entrance to an earthly chamber of the Prince of Peace might have been spared the indignity of being decked with trophies of arms and whole suits of armour. The result was the production of a blend of Earl’s Court and Madame Tussaud, which the true lovers of the Abbey regarded with feelings of genuine shame. . .


Temple and Maclagan 

. . . A painful incident now ensued. The aged Primate [of All England, Frederick Temple] tried in vain to struggle to his feet to give the kiss on the monarch’s left cheek. The King strenuously assisted him with both hands; at last with the aid of the Bishops of Winchester and Bath and Wells (the last-named being motioned by the King as one of his supporters to assist) the Primate was led off with difficulty to the north of the altar. . .

The Queen’s Coronation followed, and it was an enormous relief to everyone concerned to hear the clear sweet notes of Archbishop Maclagan, and to know that at all events same portion of the service was entrusted to the northern Primate. The pall of cloth-of-gold was again produced and held over the Queen by four Duchesses whilst she was anointed with the holy oil upon the crown of her head. The ring was placed on her finger, the crown on her head, and the sceptre and ivory rod in her hands. During all this procedure the Queen remained kneeling at her faldstool in front of the altar. At the moment of her crowning the crowd of peeresses in the north transept put on their coronets; it was a singularly ungraceful and prolonged proceeding, for it required much dexterity to affix the small-sized toy coronets and their crimson velvet bags into right position. Had the Earl Marshal followed Mr St John Hope’s advice, and insisted on the ancient and far more comely full-sized coronets, all this would have been avoided.


Dissenting ministers

August 22nd 1902 

AT THE recent Coronation, preachers of the more important sects were, for the first time on such an occasion, invited to be present officially. One of the representative preachers has since complained of the “ miserable proportion” of the seats allotted them, while another has expressed the hope that another time the President of the “Free Church Council” will be allowed to take part in the ceremonies. As regards the complaint, we are not in a position to judge whether it is reasonable or not. But as regards the pious hope, we have something to say. It does not at all chime in with our notions, and the arrangement desired would need the consent of two parties. We are not surprised, however, at the suggestion, which has been encouraged by those members of the clergy who have dabbled in the experiment of United Services. “A Disgusted Dissenter”, writing to the Daily Chronicle on Monday, puts it neatly: “Really, the only thing left in the way of suggestions is — and one can but wonder at the moderation which has so far refrained from making it — that the Coronation of English Kings should in future be solemnised alternately at Westminster Abbey and the City Temple. But after this exhibition of the spirit in which leading Nonconformists have received the King’s invitation, it will be difficult for many people to dispossess themselves of the impression that the root characteristic of Dissent is just what they always thought it to be — namely, envy of the Established Church.”


King George V’s turn

November 11th 1910 

THE King has been pleased to proclaim Thursday, June 22nd, for the celebration of the great solemnity of his own and of his Royal Consort’s Coronation. The ancient custom, which continued till the Revolution of 1688, of selecting a holy day — one of the many points of analogy between the sacring of a King and the consecration of a Bishop — must be considered, we fear, as finally laid aside, unless, of course, we accept the possibility of the King’s advisers assuming the 22nd June to be the right day for the observance of Britain’s proto-martyr. If one could only believe that that was the case, no more suitable day in the year could have been chosen. But what is more important is that the ignorant mutilation of the Rite itself, which dates from the Coronation of William IV., when the majestic ceremonies were denounced as a superstitious mummery, should now be undone. But liturgiologists have little voice in the matter, and our hopes are not great. England alone conserves the immemorial “Order for the Consecration of a King or Queen”, and the historic feeling and science of our day ask that the mistakes of recent times should no longer disfigure it.


April 7th 1911 

In June 1911, before the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, Skeffingtons takes half the front page of the Church Times to advertise its “Coronation List”, which includes specially written hymns, a short order of prayer, seven model sermons, and booklets on the Coronation Service. Queen Mary commended one by Sabine Baring-Gould, the prolific author-cleric who had written “Onward, Christian soldiers”THE new Order of Service is, with one or two variations, practically the same as the one which was appointed for June 26, 1902, and carried out in a somewhat modified aud curtailed form at the actual Coronation of August 9th in that year. It was a careful and reverent service, but restored scarcely anything that has been lost, in the disastrous Reform era of the ’thirties, except the anointing — in the case of the King but not of the Queen — upon the breast, the actual girding with the sword, and the explicit mention of the quasi-sacerdotal vestures, the colobium sindonis or alb, the supertunica or dalmatic, and armilla or stole. And there were some further grievous impairments of the Rite, such as the omission of the First Oblation and of the Proper Preface, the restriction of the Homage to live sample Peers, and the abolition of the Princely Largess. The loss of the last picturesque ceremony was perhaps inevitable, but the Homage should surely have taken place, as in ancient times, on another day in Westminster Hall rather than be reduced to a ridiculous minimum. On the whole the Service of 1902 was a grievous disappointment. But those who ought to know say that we must be thankful it was no worse. Archbishop Temple was a very masterful prelate. . .

On the whole, it is evident that great care has been bestowed on the new Coronation Order. But it is to be feared that it marks the final acceptance of the William IV. model (slightly amended, but with some further losses) as the type for all future Coronations. The mutilations of a period which is universally regarded as the low-water mark of ritual propriety have been adopted as permanent, and a number of Catholic observances (such as the houselling cloth) which were enshrined in the Coronation Rite seem to be finally abandoned. . . It is almost incredible that at the 1902 Sacring, reverently conducted as it was, the north-end position was taken throughout the consecration of the Eucharist, and the Ablutions left to be performed by two prebendaries.


United Coronation Services

May 5th 1911 

WE MAY possibly be witnessing next June the last Coronation. As for the Carnarvon Investiture, of course, it has been possible, over the hospitable luncheon-table at Lambeth, to patch up some kind of colourless religious service in which two Bishops and two Dissenting ministers can take part. We regret the compromise of principle on both sides. But a mere local Investiture, for which there are no modern precedents, is not the same thing as the mysterious consecration of the Lord’s Anointed. . .

We are bound to regard in the same light the attempts that will be made all over the Empire to force upon the parochial clergy some kind of “united service” on the Coronation Day. But let us be understood. It is extremely natural and proper that the clergy should let the separated members of their flock know that their presence in church will be heartily welcomed, and every facility made for their attendance. If they like to attend a service at their own place of worship as well, charity will suggest an arrangement of hours which would permit them to do both. What, however, is contrary, as we conceive, to Church principle is any kind of official junction of ecclesiastical forces. How is it possible for the Church to recognize officially in her sanctuaries the place of a ministerial organization which she declares ought not to exist, as contrary to Christ’s institution? The Bishop of Worcester’s impulsive utterance has already involved his Cathedral City in bitter strife. Nor is there more to be said for a combined open-air service, perhaps in the market-place under the direction of the mayor. Intensely as every Christian must desire the obliteration of “our unhappy divisions”, especially on a day which should unite all the subjects of the King in supplication and rejoicing, yet it does not make eventually for unity that we should try to conceal the evil and the pain which are the inevitable consequence of those divisions as long as they are persisted in. As for the lawless invitation to a Joint Communion which the Bishop and Dean of Hereford have arranged, it will only trample on the sacredest feelings of Churchmen without pleasing any conscientious Dissenter. . .


Depression Coronation

February 5th 1937 

In 1937, to go with the new King George, the Pax House offered a St George reliefTHE Bishop of Chichester [George Bell] has called attention in his Diocesan Gazette to the contrast between wealth and poverty presented by the joint contemplation of the Coronation and the Depressed Areas. Vast sums are being spent in preparations for the national celebration of the King’s crowning. Neither adequate constructive plan nor adequate financial expenditure is being devoted to restoring active manhood in South Wales and north-eastern England. The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday devoted a leading article to the administration of an apostolic knock to the Bishop. It pointed out that the money spent on flags and plaques, on seating and illuminations, goes to provide increased employment, and claims that even the poor would be humiliated if the streets were not gay for the national rejoicings. Our contemporary’s statements are true, but it does not seem to have understood the point of the Bishop’s remarks. The contrast is less material than moral and psychological — between national flags and national rags, and the degree of national activity exercised in dealing with either. The impression given is that England cares much more about the pageantry than about the tragedy. We do not believe that this is true, and we are convinced that the country is eager for a greater effort to destroy depression.


The Children’s Page

April 28th 1937

ENGLAND needs lots of little St Georges who are knights of Christ and who fight against the dragons of wickedness. But just now we are thinking especially of knighthood in a great coming event — the Coronation of King George VI. What have you been thinking about Coronation Day? Have you just imagined the King driving to Westminster Abbey without a crown, and then driving back from Westminster Abbey with a crown all sparkling in the sunlight? Well, he will do that. But there is a great deal more, about the Coronation which you ought to know. For King George, like St. George, will ask God to help him to be a real knight. The knightly spurs will touch his feet as he kneels, and the Archbishop of Canterbury will give him a jewelled sword as a symbol to remind him always to do justice, to live fearlessly, to stop wickedness, and to help and protect the weak.

What must our King think when he rides to Westminster Abbey on May 12? Perhaps his mind will go back to all those Kings of England whom we read about in the history books. Some of them were good, and some of them were not so good — and perhaps that was because English people did not pray well enough that their King should be a proper knight, the kind that God likes.

Look, in imagination, at the Coronation chair. That was made in 1300 for Edward I. of England. Look at the crown of England. It is called St Edward’s crown, because King Charles II. ordered that the new crown should be made as nearly like the crown of St Edward the Confessor as possible.

Look, again, at the Imperial State crown. Can you see the great Black Prince’s ruby, right in the front? What a history that ruby has! The Black Prince himself used to wear it when he rode into battle. It was sewn in the velvet of his cap. There the stone was again, right in the front of his helmet, when King Henry V. led his army on to the field at Agincourt. King Richard III. wore the ruby on Bosworth Field. Then, in the time of the Commonwealth, this marvellous ruby — it is now said to be worth £100,000 — was put contemptuously aside, wrapped in a bit of paper, and marked “Worth £4”! Later still, an adventurer called Captain Blood tried to steak the crown jewels, but he and his men were caught, and the Black Prince’s ruby was found in the trousers’ pocket of one of the thieves. After that it was put in a safe place.

Look, too, at the jewelled Sword of State. That also is worth a very great deal of money, but — can you believe it? — it was mislaid during Queen Victoria’s reign. Nobody could think where it had got to, till at last it was found in a dusty coverng at the back of an old cupboard.

King George VI. will make very big promises when he gives himself to God as crowned King of England. After the Archbishop of Canterbury places the crown on his head, he puts a Bible into his hand, telling him that it is “the most valuable thing that the world affords”. And soon the King and Queen, putting aside their crowns, go to kneel at the altar, that in Holy Communion they may receive the greatest of all Gifts.


No mere pageant

May 7th 1937 

ALAMYKing George VI’s coronation procession. The Abbey’s temporary annexe seems to have been an improvement on that built in 1902

BEFORE the publication of our next number, King George VI., with his Consort, will, God willing, have been crowned in the Abbey Church of St Peter at Westminster, and have made his progress through the streets of his capital. To King George and Queen Elizabeth the Coronation rite will be no mere colourful pageantry. Like his father, the King is a modest Christian gentleman, perhaps a little self-distrustful, certainly with no desire for the place of high responsibility to which he has been called. The Queen was bred in the Catholic tradition of the Scottish Episcopal Church. No one will doubt that they both will realize the awful solemnity of the service in which they are to be the central figures. . .

The Empire is properly proud that, thanks to a great courageous prelate and a great courageous statesman — both of them with an intimate understanding of the national mind — an unparalleled constitutional crisis was passed, leaving hardly a ripple behind. But prelate and statesman would have failed if, when one man had fallen out, another man, simpler and perhaps less gifted, had not been ready to take his place. We do not believe that George VI. will be a mere puppet King. We believe that, within the restrictions of his office, his influence will be steadily used for the removal of social injustice and inequality, and the preservation of peace. Again, like his father, he starts with the handicap of shyness. But he has the qualities that England likes to believe are peculiarly her own. Much will be demanded of him. Much will be given. God save the King! God bless the Queen!


Crown and dictators

May 14th, 1937 

Be prepared, urged the House of Vanheems in the gathering storm in 1937. The rising price of flags and vergers’ gowns was one more cause for anxietyTHIS England! The Empire is “at home”. The outside world for the time has lost much of its interest. Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini have been politely asked to leave the stage and rest for awhile in the green room. The British Commonwealth is concerned with its own affairs, and with its welcoming gesture of loyalty to its new King and Queen. Since King George V. was crowned at Westminster, thrones have toppled over, dictatorships have been established, and a theory of government, which is the antithesis of democracy, has been accepted by great and gifted nations. Here the throne is more firmly established than ever, partly, indeed, because of the characters of the men who have sat on the throne, but even more because of the realization that it is an essential part of effective democratic government. “To many millions,” the King said in his broadcast speech, “the Crown is the symbol of unity. By the grace of God and by the will of the free peoples of the British Commonwealth I have assumed that Crown.” The solemn rite in Westminster Abbey was the expression of thanksgiving to Almighty God and prayer for the continuance of His guidance. The plaudits in the streets emphasized that King George reigns by the will of free peoples. He came to the throne suddenly and unexpectedly; but no Sovereign has ever been so certain that he is the choice, not of one nation, but of a group of free nations. In his fine speech in Cape Town on Coronation Day, General Smuts said: “In that week of peril last December there was only one voice heard over the whole of the Commonwealth. In the moment of danger there was spontaneous unanimity throughout the whole world-wide Commonwealth. One King went, with deepest regrets and sympathies and a tragic sense of loss, from millions who knew him and admired him. Another King stepped into his place with the unanimous acclaim of the whole Commonwealth. We are to-day consummating this triumph of the spirit of unity and loyalty by crowning him our common King.”


Bunkum, says Cripps

May 14th, 1937. 

SIR STAFFORD CRIPPS has described the Coronation festivities as “bunkum” and a “circus”, for which outburst he has been sharply criticized by the Socialist Lord Mayor of Manchester, and the sight of miles of gaily bedecked working-class streets is sufficient evidence that the highly prosperous Red barrister has little support from the people for whom he professes to speak. Simple people love parties. Charles Dickens knew that, and he knew how tremendously the Kenwigses and the Cratchits enjoy their parties. The Coronation is the occasion for splendidly big parties. But that is not the only reason why flags are flying in the streets. They represent, as we have said, a deep if unconscious devotion to a principle, but still more a human appreciation of a man and a woman called to high position and heavy responsibility. Poplar likes King George and Queen Elizabeth. It knows that they really sympathize with the trials and troubles of their subjects. It believes they will help all they can. So Poplar cheers with Mayfair, and its cheers have an infinitely greater value.


The Dominions

October 10th, 1952 

THE question is now being debated whether representatives of the Commonwealth should share in the Coronation of Her Majesty next year. No official ruling one way or the other has yet been given on this point. The authorities have two principles to bear in mind. On the one hand, nothing must be allowed to detract from the dignity and integrity of the ancient Christian rite, by which for so many centuries the Primate of all England has crowned the English Sovereign. On the other hand, a Coronation in 1952 must signify that Her Majesty is as truly and as distinctly Queen of Canada, of Australia, and of the rest, as she is of the United Kingdom. It should be possible to work out arrangements which will do justice to both principles. One suggestion which has been made is that the crowning in the Abbey should be followed by an enthronement in Westminster Hall. This has some historical precedent, and it would allow a greater number of persons to take part in the ceremonies. But in modern circumstances this might prove very exhausting for the Queen. There is no good reason why the Dominion representatives should not be given some part in the Abbey ceremonial, hitherto allotted to English peers. This need not involve any tampering with the essential Church rite. Both in the Pacific and across the Atlantic, strong forces now tend to draw the Dominions away from the mother country. The Coronation is a supreme opportunity to reverse these tendencies, and to draw the bonds of Commonwealth closer together.


Catholic and Protestant

November 21st 1952 

IT HAS been left to a Welsh Bishop to make the plainest public declaration for some time of the Catholic nature of the Church of England. The Bishop of Monmouth’s sermon on this subject is given elsewhere in this issue. It is a notable corrective to persistent propaganda and hazy misunderstandings; in view of the probable wording of the Coronation Oath, to which the Bishop referred, it is important that all concerned should recognize that, as applied in State documents to the Church of England, the term “Protestant” does not mean that the Church is not the Catholic Church of this land. The history of religious controversy through the centuries has bedevilled these terms, until their true meaning has often been quite obscured. There is nothing in fact contradictory about the position of one part of the Catholic Church, which has felt obliged to “protest ” against errors in which other parts have become involved. That is the sense in which the term “Protestant” can rightly be applied to the Church of England, whose religion the Sovereign will swear at her Coronation to maintain. We hope that one practical result will follow from the Bishop of Monmouth’s sermon in Westminster Abbey. It should stimulate the authorities to make known very soon the details of the Coronation rite, including the Sovereign’s Oath, which will be used next June. Churchmen will hope to be assured that there is to be no alteration in the Church’s rite, when the Primate of All England crowns England’s gracious Queen.


Preparations for June

March 13th, 1953. 

Younger readers are prepared for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which has made her “a holy person, with special work to do for God, and with a special gift of the Holy Ghost to help her to do his work here on earth”. In 1937, a quiz in weekly instalments with the prize of special Coronation Prayer Books was held by the editor. In 1952, a little “Coronation Quiz” helped the children to understand, among other things, that the coronation was not part of matins or evensong, but of holy communionIT IS not too early for parishes to begin teaching the religious meaning of the Coronation service. The public will be inundated, in the next few weeks, with articles in the daily and weekly Press, on every conceivable secular aspect of the Coronation. Experts will deal faithfully with its constitutional significance, its historical background, its pageantry, and its personalities. But none of these things matters as much as the inner meaning of the solemn act which the Church is to perform. . . The approach of the Coronation provides every church with a chance and a challenge to recall people to the rock from which this nation, under God, has been hewn. The suggestions (printed elsewhere) for keeping a vigil on the eve of the Coronation, are published at this early date, in order that parishes may make full and appropriate preparation.


Details of the rite

March 20th, 1953 

THERE are two new features of interest in the details of the Coronation service, announced this week by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Since 1689, the presentation of the Bible to the Sovereign has taken place quite late in the service. Now it is to be brought forward, and will follow immediately the administration of the Oath. This is a great gain. The presentation of the Bible in the middle of the Eucharist was out of place. The other decision, announced on Tuesday, is unprecedented. The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland is to be associated with the Archbishop in the solemn act of presenting the Bible to the Queen. It would be an error to regard this as any concession to the view which demands that all Christian bodies should, by right, be allocated parts in the Coronation service. On the contrary. The decision rightly reflects the peculiar constitutional position of the established Church of Scotland. Its Moderator is a high official of State. His participation in this preliminary part of the supreme State service does justice to the fact of the Scottish Establishment — and no more. This innovation leaves absolutely unimpaired the unique position of the Church. The sacring of the Sovereign can take place only in the context of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. None, therefore, but the Church can crown The Queen. The changes in the order of service are clearly designed, not to question, but to confirm this essential fact.


The young Queen

May 29th, 1953 

CORONATION DAY, next Tuesday, comes as the climax of unprecedented preparation. Never before has a Coronation attracted such widespread and enthusiastic popular interest. This is largely due to the personal character of the Sovereign, with its attendant response of loyalty and love. It springs too from a deep-rooted national instinct for renaissance from years of gloom. England has seized joyfully a supreme chance to put out its flags after the long dreary austerity of the war and post-war period. But there is also wide recognition of the fact that the Coronation is not only an act of State. It is first and foremost an act of Church. Christians may take heart of courage from the notable prominence given this time throughout the land to the religious meaning of the rite. In parish churches next Sunday the faithful will include in their worship of the ever-blessed Trinity special acts of thanksgiving and intercession for The Queen’s Majesty. On Coronation Day itself, millions will remember The Queen’s own request: “I want to ask you all to pray for me on that day — to pray that God will give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve him all the days of my life.” Happy is the country which has a Sovereign whose chief request is this. A great volume of prayer for Queen and country goes up to God at this Coronation-tide. May these prayers be answered in a reign made both happy and glorious by a return of the British people to the whole-hearted practice of the true faith of the Church.


‘The magic of science’

June 5th 1953 

TUESDAY’s solemnity in Westminster Abbey enshrined history and made it. At the centre of all the splendid and solemn mystery, The Queen herself moved with wonderful dignity, loveliness, and grace. She lent a new meaning to royalty. Majesty ceased to be an idea, and became incarnate in a person. The Church stood revealed as the guardian of the nation’s power and authority. To the Church, at the beginning of the ceremony, were entrusted all the supreme symbols of power. For a moment, all authority in both State and Church was in the Archbishop’s hands, to be restored by him later, in that moving sequence of action and prayer, into the hands of the Lord’s Anointed. Westminster Abbey provided a setting beyond compare. But the unique glory of this Coronation was in the vast size of the unseen congregation which was enabled, by the magic of science, to view as well as hear the solemn service. The decision to allow television in the Abbey has been triumphantly justified. It succeeded as no words, however eloquent, could ever do, in bringing home to millions the essentially religious nature of all that is done in the sacring and crowning of an English monarch. Thanks to television, last Tuesday marked a new high-water mark in the sense of unity between Crown and people. It was a unity which found its living inspiration not so much in pomp and pageantry, as in the humble adoration of Almighty God.


The heavens open 

SO FAR, the weather had been kind, but when, later, heavy and prolonged showers began to fall, the people still remained in their stands, listening to the broadcast of the solemn service in the Abbey. Reporters’ notebooks and programmes were soaked through, but still they sat, waiting through the hours for The Queen to return in triumph. But nothing, it seemed, could damp the spirits of the people. The concern they expressed was not for themselves, but for the troops who stood unmoved and undaunted. There was a ripple of laughter when, in a bright spell, the long line of Guards took off their bearskins and shook them out. The reception of the broadcast to the stands was good. The strong voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury rang out across the crowded spaces, and it seemed a strange thing, though not unfitting, to hear the familiar words of the sacred liturgy, while sitting there in the pouring rain. Regardless of the rain, hats were taken off, and the crowd rose as one man to sing “God save The Queen” at that great moment when The Queen was crowned and the Royal Salute of guns was heard. The Prayer of Consecration was not broadcast; at that point, the people remained silent, linking themselves in thought to the worship in the Abbey.


Royal communion 

SO THE gifts of bread and wine were offered in the sanctuary by The Queen, who then went to kneel by her husband before the altar; and the Eucharistic prayers were said in solemn and devout simplicity. “Ye that do truly.” Here again, was a moment for the congregation; and Her Majesty’s judges, Her Majesty’s mayors and civil representatives, and, too, Her Majesty’s ladies and gentlemen of the Press recited the Confession in humble unison. It was not easy for anyone in the Abbey to kneel in the straitly constricted rows. But some of us in Block Q2 managed to get to our knees in our seventeen inches of space, for the Prayer of Consecration. I have not had space here to write of much of the music of the Coronation Service. But, at the Communion, we listened with something like rapture to the shortest and most exquisite anthem of all — Vaughan Williams’s setting of “O taste and see how gracious the Lord is”. It began with the limpid, sweet notes of a solo boy, and carried us in heart to the altar, where the new Monarch knelt to receive the Bread from heaven and the Cup of Salvation.


Fervent villagers 

AT WRITTLE, an Essex village, the Vicar (the Rev. J. O. Nicholas) had procured five television sets for the ceremony. The Abbey service was preceded by a children’s service in the venerable Norman church. Then came the climax of the day. The congregation — for it was a congregation rather than an audience — watched with rapt attention as the solemn service unfolded. But they were not there merely as spectators, and they joined fervently with those in the Abbey in saying “Amen” as each prayer ended. The clear ringing tones of the Archbishop, and the sight of his face upon the screen, made one feel almost as if the service was taking place in Writtle itself. When the Homage was over, the television was switched off. The congregation sang the hymn, “All people that on earth do dwell”, and then the Vicar conducted a celebration of the Holy Communion. As the people of Writtle knelt at the altar, they thought of The Queen and her Consort receiving the Sacrament in the great Abbey church of Westminster, and prayed for her in their hearts.


Coronation Sunday

(by ‘Urbanus’) 

THERE were bound to be some unfamiliar faces to meet the eye in the parish church on Sunday morning. Though the day was plainly described as Trinity Sunday on the notice-board, everybody knew that it was Coronation Sunday. The BBC said it was; the papers said so; and so did the vicar when he gave out the notices. But despite all that, the liturgical observances remained stubbornly those of the feast of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, with an unwonted emphasis on the sacred ministry and the duty of Church folk in providing the means for training young men with a vocation thereto.

There was no mistaking that what the irregulars among us were waiting for was a prayer or two for The Queen. It was a flinty heart which was not touched by the warmth of the loud amens at the end of them. To some present, they probably seemed a long time coming. The words, “Thy servant Elizabeth our Queen”, in the prayer for the Church, caught the ear, but it sounded like a prayer for the Government, and was not personal enough to satisfy the ill-instructed who genuinely wanted to pray but did not know how.

Presently, in the pulpit, the vicar said that although he was not included among those incumbents to whom special forms of service for use to-day had been sent, it was said, by command of The Queen, he had the bishop’s word for it that special prayers should be used on Coronation Sunday.

Accordingly, at the end of Mass and before the angelus, the expected moment came. First, there was that prayer from an unknown hand, commanding grandeur unsurpassed in the ancient liturgies, which begins, “O Lord our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of Lords, the only ruler of princes”. It was, of course, familiar enough to the regulars, but I fancy it was new and stirring to the others. Then came a robust and unexpected supplication — “Do thou weaken the hands, blast the designs, and defeat the enterprises of all her enemies, that no secret conspiracies, nor open violences, may disquiet her reign.” It had begun by thanking God for placing Elizabeth our Queen upon the throne of her ancestors, and with that single alteration of name had been lifted intact from the Victorian Accession Day service. I think the irregulars approved.

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