To mark the coronation of King Charles III, Lambeth Palace and Lambeth Palace Library collections brought you an exhibition of materials relating to previous coronations from that of Henry I in 1100 to that of our new sovereign.
The Library exhibition ran from 12 April to 13 July 2023 with highlights that included the manuscript coronation service prepared for William III and Mary II, Archbishop Wake’s notes for the coronation of George II, a letter from George VI thanking Archbishop Lang for his part in the coronation ceremony, and the Bible upon which Elizabeth II swore her coronation oath.
Until 14 June 2023 the Library will hosted a display of artefacts from the Palace collections used in previous coronations, including the cope and mitre worn by Archbishop Fisher in 1953 and the large banners from the 1902 coronation from which Archbishop Frederick Temple had to read the service because of his failing eyesight.
Coronation Charter of Henry I
Shown here is a copy of the first surviving English Coronation Charter, which was cited as a precedent for Magna Carta by Archbishop Stephen Langton in 1215. Dating from more than a century before Magna Carta, it was issued by Henry I, the youngest son of William the Conqueror who came to the throne after the death of his brother William Rufus. Despite his older brother Robert Curthose’s claims to the throne Henry was elected King by a group of barons at Winchester and was crowned at Westminster on 5 August 1100. In the charter issued at that time, Henry swore to maintain the freedom and privileges of the Church and rectify the injustices that had been perpetrated by his brother.
This copy of the charter was made at Canterbury around the time that Magna Carta itself was promulgated.
MS 1212 p.97v-98r., Cartulary of the See of Canterbury
The history of the coronation of the most high, most mighty and most excellent monarch, James II (London, 1687)
Here we see James II and his wife Mary of Modena at their coronation in February 1685 in Francis Sandford’s account, published only the year before James was deposed by William of Orange and his own daughter, Mary, in the so-called Glorious Revolution. According to Sandford, James had ordered ‘All, that Art, Ornament and Expence could do to the making of the Spectacle Dazzling and Stupendious’. James moulded the service in other ways too. He had the Archbishop of York revise the service and cut certain aspects of it. Chief among the changes to the ceremony was the removal of the communion service. This was done under the guise of shortening the service but was in reality because James was a Roman Catholic and could not take part in good conscience.
A formulary of that part of the solemnity which is perform’d in the church at the coronation of their majesties King William and Queen Mary at Westminster 11 Apr. 1689
This is a fair copy compiled in preparation for the coronation of William III and Mary II, which took place on 11 April 1689. It has a correction to the text in what appears to be the hand of William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury. The text of the service states that the ceremony would be conducted by the Archbishop, but Sancroft was a non-juror and William and Mary were crowned by Henry Compton, Bishop of London.
The Coronation Oath Act 1688 laid down the wording of the oath to be taken by all future monarchs. It was a departure from that taken by previous monarchs, binding the monarch to rule according to the law agreed in parliament and for the first time the inclusion of a promise to uphold ‘the true Profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed Religion Established by Law’.
MS 1079a p.2, Coronation of George II
‘The form and order of the service that is to be performed, and of the ceremonies to be observed in the coronation of their majesties King George the 2nd and Queen Caroline in the Abbey Church of St. Peter, Westminster, on Wednesday the 11th October 1727’.
A note of regalia and other items to be provided for the coronation of George II, in Archbishop Wake’s hand. The list includes the spurs, sword, sceptre, and orb used in the investiture, the spoon and ampulla required for the anointing, the two crowns, as well as the various thrones, robes and offerings required for the coronation.
A Sketch of the Procession Usually Observed in Coronation of our KINGS & QUEENS together with a PLAN Pointing out Several new Paths and their Parts Adjacent 1761.
This pamphlet argues for a change to the route of the procession for the coronation of George III, suggesting alternatives which might be ‘more commodious and proper’. The procession between Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey was the only part of the ceremony visible to the general public and attracted a large crowd. Despite proposals such as those detailed here, the procession followed a short route through New Palace Yard, along Parliament Street, Bridge Street and King Street to the west door of the abbey.
MS 1083c, The Coronation
The form and order of the service that is to be performed and of the ceremonies that are to be observed, in the coronation of His Majesty King George IIII in the abbey church of S. Peter, Westminster, on Thursday, the 19th of July, 1821
Copy of the final edition of the form and order of service used by Archbishop Manners-Sutton at the coronation of George IV, with the signature of the King at the foot of the oath. The coronation oath binds the monarch to rule according to the law agreed in parliament, and to uphold ‘the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law’. On this occasion the manuscript text of the coronation oath was mislaid and George IV signed the Archbishop’s copy instead.
KA 113 1821[**] p. 28
Facsimile of Key to ‘Mr. Leslie’s celebrated picture of the Queen receiving the Holy Sacrament at her coronation’. .
A diagram identifying the individuals depicted in Charles Robert Leslie’s painting of Queen Victoria’s coronation. In this scene the Sacrament is being administered by Archbishop Howley, towards the end of the ceremony. Lord Willoughby D’Eresby holds the Crown, while Lord Melbourne stands behind the Queen holding the Sword of State. The Coronation Chair is visible on the right of the diagram. The original painting is in the Royal Collection.
MS 2189 ff. 67-68
Facsimile of a photograph from Edward VII’s coronation, showing Frederick Temple with his sons, Frederick Charles (left) and William, a future Archbishop of Canterbury, (right). 1902. [Above Left]
Frederick Temple’s entrance ticket to the coronation ceremony. 1902. [Above Right]
MS 4514 ff. 279-280, Papers relating to the career of Frederick Temple
On 9 August 1902, Edward VII was crowned at a ceremony in Westminster Abbey. The original date was postponed for several weeks while the king convalesced from surgery. There were also grave concerns regarding the health of Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury. At 80 years old, both his eyesight and physical strength were in serious decline.
Special prompts were printed on boards in huge font to accommodate his deteriorating eyesight. The king even suggested that the service be shortened and insisted that the queen should be crowned by the Archbishop of York, William Maclagan, as Temple was so frail. Throughout the coronation the king kept muttering, ‘I am very anxious about the archbishop.
Facsimile of a photograph from George V’s coronation in 1911, including Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury (front left), Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of York (front right), and Claude Jenkins, Lambeth Librarian from 1910 to 1952 (back left), who helped revise the 1911 ceremony and was still active at the coronation of Elizabeth II.
George V’s Coronation Committee were determined that his coronation should run seamlessly. Randall Davidson, who as Bishop of Winchester had largely compiled the 1902 coronation service, was now Archbishop of Canterbury. In his papers there is a greater sense of organisation which included minute by minute timings to be used on the day.
Davidson also needed to be diplomatic on several disputed points. To one (of many) requests for an invitation to the service, the archbishop replied somewhat wearily:
‘But you realise – or perhaps you hardly realise – what the difficulties are. The Abbey unfortunately grows no bigger and the number of persons who can logically prove that they have an absolute right to be present multiplies by leaps and bounds.’
[Davidson 280 f.108] & Douglas 79/158
Lang 21 f. 128
Letter regarding preparations for the coronation of Edward VIII. 11 November 1936.
Within a year of being proclaimed king, Edward VIII had abdicated the throne and plans for his coronation were abandoned. He abdicated in order to avoid a potential constitutional crisis by marrying American socialite and divorcée, Wallis Simpson. Remarriage after divorce was opposed by the Church of England and Lang, now Archbishop of Canterbury, was particularly vocal in his insistence that that the king should abdicate.
Lang was seriously worried by the attitude of Edward VIII during the coronation preparations. The king shocked Lang by suggesting that a shortened version of the service might be adopted and in a confidential letter to the Bishop of Birmingham, displayed here, the Archbishop wrote:
‘I need scarcely add that the King’s personal position with regard to this matter [taking Holy Communion] is one that gives me great concern.’
Letter from George VI to Cosmo Gordon Lang thanking him for performing the coronation ceremony and for offering him spiritual advice beforehand. 13 May 1937.
Edward VIII’s abdication, euphemistically called ‘the new circumstances’, did not delay arrangements for the coronation. When the committee met twelve days later, no reference was made to the change of monarch. Having been present at many of the previous meetings, George VI must have known more about the coronation than his brother.
Lang found the new king much easier to deal with. The close working relationship that Lang enjoyed with the new monarch is perhaps best demonstrated by the letter on display here, which thanks Lang for his part in the coronation ceremony. The letter expresses genuine gratitude, particularly as the king admitted feeling nervous before the coronation.
Lang 318 ff. 147-149
The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments (Oxford, 1953)
This Bible is the one upon which Queen Elizabeth II swore the oath at her coronation in 1953. It was presented to Queen Elizabeth by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, James Pitt-Watson, with the words ‘Here is wisdom; This is the royal law; These are the lively Oracles of God.’ It was the first time that a head of the established Church in Scotland had taken part in the coronation of a British monarch.
The binding was designed by the artist Lynton Lamb and executed by the prestigious London bookbinding firm, Sangorski and Sutcliffe.
The form and order of the service that is to be performed and the ceremonies that are to be observed in the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II(London, 1953)
Archbishop Fisher was responsible for drawing up the Coronation Rite but did not do so alone. He was advised by a committee comprising several liturgical scholars and Dr Alan Don, Dean of Westminster. Shown here is one of the proofs of the text of the service with annotations and corrections throughout in Fisher’s own hand. This was the ninth and final proof and Fisher annotated the cover with ‘Final text for printers’.
The book is open at the point where the Queen makes her Oblation (gift at the altar) and the Archbishop prays for the Duke of Edinburgh and then blesses him. The Queen and Archbishop Fisher were keen for the Duke of Edinburgh to have a role in the service and where possible amendments were made to the ceremonial to reflect this, the most significant of which was that the Archbishop gave up his right to be the first to pay homage to the Queen, in favour of the Duke.
KA113 1953 [P]
For the Queen: a little book of private devotions (Oxford, 1953)
To help prepare the Queen for her coronation a book of private devotions was produced. It was to be used between 1 May and 2 June, the day of the coronation itself. The text for each day concentrated on a different element of the coronation service, explaining its significance, and providing prayers, meditations, and short readings to aid the Queen in her preparations.
The timescale to produce the book was very tight and Archbishop Fisher enlisted the help of the heads of the Community of St. Julian and the Community of St. Andrew to draw the material together. In this letter dated 31 March 1953 to Mother Clare of the Community of St Andrew, Archbishop Fisher requests her help and that of her Community, to gather the requisite material together. He asks that it be sent to him by 14 April and explains that he has enlisted the aid of another community and that he will choose elements from each submission. Remarkably, the text was prepared, edited and the book printed in scarcely a month. It seems that the Queen made good use of the book. Fisher wrote that on 15 May 1953, at one of the rehearsals, she ‘spoke enthusiastically of the little book saying that she was using it morning by morning in company with her family.’
Coronation … Ceremonial detail. Notes and Plans (London, 1953)
The preamble to the volume of notes and plans shown here states that it was produced ‘with a view to shortening the length of the ceremony … and to ensuring as far as is possible, a smooth and dignified sequence of movement.’ Furthermore, it states that if the participants studied it closely it would ensure that ‘there should be no need for haste, no confusion of movement, and plenty of room in which to move and manoeuvre.’ Preparations were meticulous. Between 14 May and 1 June rehearsals were held almost daily, with the Queen attending several. Indeed, while Fisher reported a few minor errors at the ceremony, the day went extremely smoothly. Alan Don, the Dean of Westminster, was impressed by Fisher, writing that ‘his voice was clear, his articulation unaffected, mastery of detail complete.’
Shown here are the positions and movements of the participants at the Anointing. The Queen is represented by the circle with the capital S (Sovereign) and the Archbishop by the circle with the capital C (Canterbury). In the left-hand margin are notes in Archbishop Fisher’s hand.
This book was presented to the Library by Lady Fisher in 1982.
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