CORONATION OF BRITISH KINGS AND QUEENS
by Raymond Capt M.A., A.I.A., F.S.A., Scot
The form of service used at the Coronation of the Kings and
Queens of Britain can be traced back to the time of Egbert,
Archbishop of York (A.D.732-766), who was descended from the
royal family of Northumbria. However, one cannot fail to be
struck with the similarities between the coronation of Britain's
rulers and that of the Kings of the House of David. Even the
royal regalia would appear to have some connection with the power
and position of the monarchs of ancient Israel. It cannot be pure
coincidence that all the rituals of the coronation ceremony being
used today are counterparts of those used in Old Testament days.
In the second book of Kings we read a striking account of
the crowning of the King's son. The priest, whose name was
"Jehoiada", sent and fetched the rulers and the captains of
Israel and the guard (as done today), and he took an oath of them
in the House of the Lord; "And to the captains over hundreds did
the priest give king David's spears and shields, that were in the
temple of the Lord. And the guard stood, every man with his
weapons in his hand, round about the king, from the right corner
of the temple to the left corner of the temple, along by the
altar and the temple. And he brought forth the king's son, and
put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made
him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and
said, God save the king" (2 Kings 11:10-12).
THE ENTRANCE OF THE KING INTO THE ABBEY
As the King and his Queen enter the great West Door of the
Abbey they are met by the Civil and Ecclesiastical dignitaries
who, bearing the Regalia, escort them up the Nave led by the
choristers who sing the Anthem; "I was glad when they said unto
me, we will go into the House of the Lord. (taken from the 122nd
Psalm composed by King David). Our feet shall stand in thy gates,
0 Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity in
itself." Other verses include "Whither the tribes go up ... to
give thanks unto ... the Lord. For there are set ... the thrones
of the House of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem ... Peace
within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces".
THE PRESENTATION OF THE KING TO THE PEOPLE
At the East side and afterwards at the South, West and North
sides the King is presented to the people, the Archbishop saying:
"Sirs, I here present unto you King (name), your undoubted King:
Wherefore all you who are come this day to do your homage and
service, Are you willing to do the same? Each time the people
signify their assent by acclamation, and cries of "GOD SAVE THE
"And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath
chosen that there is none like him among all the people? And all
the people shouted, and said, God save the king" (I Sam.10:24).
THE CORONATION SERMON
The Coronation sermon is delivered by either the Archbishop
of Canterbury, or the Dean of the Abbey, or some prominent
Churchman. The preaching of such a sermon absolutely originated
in Israel. There are numerous examples of the Old Testament where
the Prophet or Priest addressed the King and the people of Israel
at their coronations. An examination of the sermons given at the
crowning of various British Kings, shows that in nearly every
instance the subjects of the addresses were based on Scriptures
referring to the various Kings of Israel. A typical example is
the sermon Bishop Drummond, preached at the Coronation of George
III (1760) on I Kings 10:9, a Scripture addressed to King Solomon
nearly 3000 years ago: "Blessed be the Lord thy God, which
delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because
the Lord loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to
do judgment and justice".
THE CORONATION OATH
Following the sermon, the King expresses his free will to
taking the oath and promises to uphold justice in the Kingdom.
This he does by stating: "I am willing" and "All this will I do".
He then goes to the Altar and placing his right hand on the Bible
(God's Book of the Law) makes a solemn oath saying: "The things
which I have before promised, I will perform and keep, so help me
God". After kissing the open Book he reads aloud the following
statement, he signs a copy of the same in ink with his royal
"I do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess,
testify and declare, that I am a faithful member of the
Protestant Reformed Church, by law established in England, and I
will according to the true enactments which secure Protestant
Succession to the throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the
said enactments, to the best of my powers, according to law".
"and Jehoiada (the high Priest) made a covenant (agreement)
between him, and between all the people, and between the king,
that they should be the Lord's people" (2 Chron. 24:16).
Anointing with oil was an act which God ordained long ago as
an outward and visible sign of Divine election into an Office of
special service. In I Kings 19:16 we read of Elijah being
commanded of God to "Anoint Elisha to be a prophet". Again, at an
earlier date, God commanded Moses to anoint Aaron..."that he may
minister unto me in the priest's office" (Exod.40:13-15). In the
Coronation ceremony of the British kings, this ritual of
anointing is still enacted, and is considered the "most important
part of the service." As the King is seated in the Coronation
Chair over the Coronation Stone (Stone of Destiny) the Archbishop
of Canterbury reads the following prayer:
"O Lord, who by anointing with oil didst of old make and
consecrate kings, priests, and prophets to teach and govern thy
people Israel; bless and sanctify thy chosen servant (name), who
by office and ministry is now to be anointed with this oil, and
consecrated king of this realm: Strengthen him O Lord with the
Holy Ghost the Comforter" At this moment the Choir begins singing
the anthem "Zadoc, the Priest" by Handel, the words being taken
from the account of Solomons' anointing by Zadoc, in B.C.969 (1
Next, in order, comes the most sacred moment of the whole
Coronation Ceremony, symbolising God's choice of the sovereign of
the realm to sit on David's Throne. The Archbishop takes the
THE ANOINTING SPOON
The golden spoon in which the consecrated oil is poured; the
handle is believed to have been made in the thirteenth century.
golden Spoon into which the Dean of the Abbey has poured some oil
from the Ampulla or golden "Dove": from the Spoon, the
The anointing oil is contained in this golden vessels, which is
in the form of an eagle. It is part of the regalia which escaped
destruction during the Cromwellian period.
The Ampulla, with the spoon, the most sacred objects in the
regalia are also the oldest.
Archbishop anoints the king in the form of a cross, (1) on the
head, saying, "Be thy head anointed with holy oil, as kings,
priests and prophets were anointed"; (2) on the breast, saying,
"Be anointed with holy oil"; (3) on the palms of both hands,
saying, "Be thy hands anointed with holy oil; and as Solomon was
anointed by Zadoc the priest and Nathan the prophet so be you
anointed, blessed and consecrated king over this people whom the
Lord your God hath given you to rule and govern, in the name of
the Father, Son and Holy Ghost:".
"The king also said unto them, Take with you the servants of your
lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon my own mule, and
bring him down to Gihon: And let Zadoc the priest and Nathan the
prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the
trumpet (this is also done today), and say, God save king
Solomon" (I Kings 1:33,34).
"And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle,
and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet: and all the
people said, God save king Solomon" (I Kings 1:39).
THE PRESENTING OF THE SPURS AND SWORD
After the anointing of the King there follows the delivery
of the royal regalia: The touching with the Spurs, emblem of
chivalry, and the girding of the Swords (the Pointed Sword of
Spiritual Justice or "Sword of State" and the Curtana, or
Unpointed "Sword of Mercy", together with the offering of the
same upon the Altar, signify the King's intent, under God, to
rule in justice, equity and mercy.
The golden spurs, which the King/Queen touches are emblems of
knightly chivalry. At one time tney here worn at the Ceremony.
THE KING'S SWORD OF STATE AND SWORD OF MERCY.
"Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment,
and shew mercy, and compassions every man to his brother: And
oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the
poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in
your heart" (Zech.7:9,10).
THE PRESENTING OF THE BRACELETS
A minor but a very significant part of the ceremony is the
presentation of the Bracelets to the King. This designates the
military factor, representing the King as the one called to lead
and encourage his people and his armies in the defense of the
realm against all outside aggression. If we turn to the
Scriptures we find this custom also comes from the earliest days
of Israel, at the time when David was first made king after the
death of King Saul. The Amalekite who, at King Saul's request,
stood over him and slew him, brought tidings to David of the
death of Saul and Jonathan, and said to David: "So I stood upon
him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live
after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his
head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them
hither unto my lord" (2 Sam.1:10).
An emblem of Royalty dating back to most ancient times. The
Bracelets of Sincerity were made for Charles II.
THE PRESENTING OF THE ROBE AND ORB
The next event in the Coronation Service is the investiture
of the King with the Imperial Robe. At the same time, he is given
the Orb (a golden sphere six inches in diameter), surmounted by
the Cross. The King arises as the Dean of Westminister places the
priestly garments upon him (the "Colobium Sindonis" and the
"Supertunica" or close pall of cloth-of-gold, together with a
Girdle of the same). The Dean then takes the Orb with the Cross
from the Altar and places it in the hands of the Archbishop who,
in turn, delivers it into the hands of the King. The Archbishop
"Receive this Imperial Robe and Orb; and the Lord your God endue
you with knowledge and wisdom, with majesty and with power from
on high. The Lord clothe you with the 'Robe of righteousness' and
with the Garment of salvation. And when you see this orb set
under the Cross, remember that the whole world is subject to the
power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer. For He is the Prince of
the kings of the earth: King of Kings and Lord of Lords, so that
no man can reign happily who derives not his authority from Him,
and directs not all his actions according to His Laws".
A golden ball surrounded by a Cross symbolizes the sovereignty of
Christianity over the world.
The "Colobium Sindonis", or under-tunic indicates that the
King is the Head of the Church and symbolizes his Majesty's
priestly functions and represents our Lord's clothes after they
had cast lots for His garments at the Crucifixion. This
investiture of the Imperial Robe is also an ancient custom. It
formed part of the Irish coronation on the Stone of Destiny in
582 B.C., but its first appearance was in the Wilderness at Sinai
after the Exodus. "And these are the garments which they shall
make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered
coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments
for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minster unto me
in the priests office" (Exodus 28:4).
THE PRESENTING OF THE RING
The Coronation Ring which is now placed upon the fourth
finger of the King's right hand, is often referred to as the
"Wedding Ring" of England. The Ring signifies the union of the
King with his people; his marriage to the nation. The symbolism
of this rite has a Biblical parallel. According to the Biblical
record, the Lord Jehovah was "married" to the Nation of Israel:
"Turn, 0 backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married
unto you" (Jer.8:14).
In ancient times the Ring was a symbol of power and honor,
as the following references reveal: "And Pharaoh, took off his
ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand" (Gen.41:42).
"But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe,
and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand" (Luke 15:22).
THE CORONATION RING
The ring with which the Sovereign is wedded to the State.
THE PRESENTING OF THE SCEPTRE AND THE ROD
The next step is the presentation of two Rods to the King.
Both rods have a small Orb (the World) surmounting them at the
top. One is mounted with a cross above the Orb and is called the
"Sceptre" which is held in the King's right hand. The other is
mounted with a dove and is simply called the "Rod". The official
report of this part of the ceremony is given as follows:
"The Sceptre with the cross is given into the right hand, as the
emblem of kingly power, while in his left hand is placed the Rod
with the dove symbolising equity and mercy".
THE ROYAL SCEPTRE
with the Dove, symbolic of the Holy Ghost, is held in the
Sovereign's left hand.
THE ROYAL SCEPTRE
with the Cross is held in the Sovereign's right hand. It contains
the magnificant diamond 'Star of Africa'.
The institution of the Sceptre and Rod as the emblems of
authority for the Kings or High Priests, goes right back to the
adoption of the Israel nation (as distinct from Jewry) as God's
Kingdom upon the earth. In the days of the Exodus from Egypt in
1453 B.C., God formed Israel into a Kingdom under a code of
statutes and laws, with Himself as King. At the same time God
appointed two men Moses and his brother Aaron, to wield the
Sceptre and the Rod, as they led Israel from Egypt to Palestine.
Moses wielded the Sceptre as Israel's uncrowned King, the
Vice-Regent of God, their eternal King. From the time that God
called him, Moses used the Sceptre or Rod as evidence that he was
the Captain of Israel. In their flight from Egypt, when the
children of Israel came face to face with the Red Sea, with the
Egyptian chariots hotly pursuing them, we read in Exodus 14:
"The Lord said unto Moses ... speak unto the children that they
go forward; But lift up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over
the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on
dry ground through the midst of the sea".
(Four hundred years later, when the throne of David was
established over Israel, her Kings wielded the Sceptre as the
emblem of their Kingly office).
As to Moses' brother Aaron, he was chosen to be the one who
would supervise the religious life of Israel which was centered
in the services held in the Tabernacle and in Solomon's Temple.
The manifestations of Aaron's God-given authority was also by
means of a Rod. The Old Testament books of Exodus and Numbers
repeatedly narrate incidents where Aaron used his Rod in the
manner God directed him, to fulfill his office of High-Priest.
These divided offices, however, were never intended to
remain in perpetuity, and when the New Testament or New Covenant
came in, a new order had to be introduced, combining King and
Priest in one. The Scriptures make it very clear that Jesus
Christ came from the line of Judah, not from the priestly tribe
of Levi. Before the advent of Jesus a person from the Judah line
could not stand as Israel's High Priest, but when Christ was
crucified there occurred a great change in Israel's Ordinances.
We read that at that time, by an unseen hand, the "Veil of the
temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom"(Matt.
This act designated the closing of the old ordinances and
priesthood. The new "Great High Priest", by His own crucifixion
and death as the slain "Lamb", had put an end for ever to the Old
Testament dispensation and order, "blotting out the handwriting
of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and
took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross" (Colossians
It should be noted that it was the "Ecclesiastical Law"
containing the Ordinances (Eph.2:15), administered by the House
of Aaron that were "nailed to the cross", whereas the National
Law, containing the commandments, statutes and judgments (Deut.
4:1; 5:31; 7:11; 26:46; Lev.26:46) administrated by the House of
David was "ratified" by Christ (Matt.5:17; Dan.9:25). These are
When Christ arose from the tomb He became the initiator of a
New Covenant order; the new order in which the offices of King
and Priest were to be combined in one person. This is referred
to, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, as "the order of Melchisedec"
(Heb.7:10-17). In Genesis Melchisedek is called both "king" and
"priest" (Gen.14:18). Christ was made "a priest for ever after
the order of Melchisedec" (Heb.5:6), "Who needeth not daily, as
those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own
sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he
offered up himself" (Heb.7:27).
Once we understand the symbolism of Jacob's Pillar as
representing both the House of God and the Throne of David, and
accept the fact that God's Covenant with David is in effect, then
the significance of both the Rod and the Sceptre being put into
the hands of one person (a descendant of David as is the case
with the present monarchy of Britain) is seen. It foreshadows the
fact that our Great High Priest crowned "King of Israel" will
eventually lead all men and nations, tribes, languages, and
peoples, into His ultimate world-wide dominion of peace and
Concluding the ceremony of the Archbishop's presentation of
Sceptre and Rod to the King, the following exhortation is given:
"God, from Whom all holy desire, all good counsels, and all just
works do proceed, direct and assist you in the administration and
exercise of all those powers which he hath given you. Be so
merciful that you be not too remiss; so execute justice that you
forget not mercy. Judge with righteousness, and reprove with
equity, and accept no man's person. Abase the proud, and lift up
the lowly; punish the wicked, protect and cherish the just, and
lead your people into the way they should go: thus in all things
follow His great and holy example, of whom the prophet David
said, "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest iniquity: the
Sceptre of thy Kingdom is righteousness, even Jesus Christ our
Lord" (paraphrase of Psa.45:6,7).
To be continued