The Coronation of Our Kings
It was actually before I was born that Prince Charles indirectly affected my life. He came into this world 2½ months before me and my parents had decided that if I was a boy, I would be named Charles but as there would be so many babies named after the Prince, they instead decided to call me Philip. Not, I would mention, after the Duke of Edinburgh.
Fast forward forty or so years to when I became involved in the monarchy-republic debate. It was after this time that Prince Charles developed the monicker for me of ‘the endangered species’ and every time he met me thereafter out came “Ahh, the endangered species”, although who was actually endangered is left to one’s imagination.
Prince Charles did not accompany his parents on any of their visits until 1970. However, in 1966 he attended Victoria’s Geelong Grammar School, including its rural campus Timbertop, for schooling. He had earlier attended his father’s schools of Cheam and Gordonstoun and apparently was not happy at either. However, at Geelong he found that he was welcomed as an ordinary student and not bullied because of his position, as occurred in Britain. He also made lasting friends including the teacher in whose charge he was, Michael Collins Persse, otherwise affectionately called ‘Colly’. Michael became a mentor to Charles until he died in 2018. Similarly, he had become a friend and mentor to me over the years and I can well understand why Charles misses his gentle counsel.
Now, that young boy who learned leadership qualities during his short time in Australia, crowned Prince of Wales, aged 20 in 1969 (although he had been created Prince of Wales aged 9 in 1958) is now King of the United Kingdom and his Realms, including Australia, with his coronation to occur on Saturday, the 6th of May 2023.
The Coronation of the Sovereigns of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the other Realms has over the past thousand years and more been a distinctly Christian ceremony. The church and the monarchy become irretrievably linked through the ceremonies and particularly the anointing and the oaths that are administered and taken.
In Britain, there has never been a secular crowning as occurs in most European monarchies nowadays. That is because European monarchies are generally subject to the State whereas the British monarchy is subject solely to God and the people.
Of course, those who are not religious or may belong to non-Christian religions, may object but without a coronation according to the traditional rites, there can be no King. It should be remembered that neither the rites nor oaths made nor anything else can ever restrict the King from being a dutiful sovereign over all of his people, whatever their race or religion. All are equal under the Crown.
In fact, the oaths that the King will swear at his coronation will bind him forever thereafter to perform his duty and to always look to the well-being of the people and never to himself.
We saw this in action with her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and we will see it in action with her son King Charles III.
Being King is no easy task, nor is it any fun, for it is a lifetime of servitude to duty and we can only pray that Charles will be able to live up to his mother’s awesome example and bear the enormous burden of kingship with his Queen by his side.
May God bless Charles, King of Australia.
Australian Monarchist League
Whilst, throughout history, there have been coronations of kings for thousands of years, the Christian Coronation of the English, and since 1707 the British, Sovereigns is looked upon as something very special, creating a communion between the Monarch and God, the Church and the People.
The words of Dr Cosmo Lang then Archbishop of York at the coronation of King George V on 22 June 1911 express this sentiment very clearly. He said "The King comes not alone to his hallowing. He bears his people with him. For the national life, as well as for its representative, this is a day of consecration ....".
The first recorded Coronation of an English monarch dates back to AD 973 when King Edgar was crowned at Bath by Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The ceremony, however, is known to date far beyond that and, of course, has its foundation in the coronation services of Biblical times.
The essence of those early Saxon coronation ceremonies have run like an everlasting thread through all subsequent coronations and will form the basis of the coronation of King Charles III.
Coronations over the past five hundred years have been based on the fourteenth century Liber Regalis currently held in the Library of Westminster Abbey. It contains six crucial segments:
# the Recognition,
# the Oath,
# the Anointing,
# the Investiture and Crowning,
# the Enthronement
# and the Homage.
Whilst each coronation has been modernised to a certain extent, as will this coronation be, they have all been based on Liber Regalis.
The coronations of Saxon kings were held in different parts of the Kingdom, until Harold I whose coronation is the first recorded one to have taken place in the Abbey. Since then, all 33 kings and 6 Queens who were crowned since William the Conqueror in 1066, were crowned at Westminster Abbey. (The Queens Regnant who were crowned were Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Ann I, Victoria I and Elizabeth II. The monarchs who were not crowned were: Edward V, Jane I and Edward VIII).
Few people are aware that as well as having descended from the William the Conqueror, King Charles is also descended from the Saxon Harold both through his daughter Gytha whose descendant was Queen Philippa the wife of Edward the third as well through the ancestry of His great- grandmother Queen Mary.
However, from the earliest days of English history, the crowning of a monarch has been rather an occasion of sacrifice for, from Saxon times and before, the King was brought forward and shown to his people as their leader and to whom he must devote the rest of his life for their protection and well-being. Despite the thinking of earlier kings, the recognition was never meant to be a matter of formal empowerment.
The Recognition forms the first part of the coronation service and dates from Saxon times where the Sovereign stands in the centre of Westminster Abbey, in the very space designed for this very purpose by the last King of Alfred's Saxon line, Edward the Confessor, and then shows himself, or herself, 'unto the people' to the East, the South, the West and the North.
In the words of the service of the last coronation in 1953, of Her late Majesty, the Archbishop proclaimed on each occasion "Sirs, I here present unto you Queen Elizabeth, your undoubted Queen. Wherefore all you who are come this day to do your Homage and Service. Are you willing to do the same?" to the shouted response "God Save Queen Elizabeth".
The recognition is completed by a tremendous fanfare of trumpets at which time the items of the regalia are handed over by their bearers to the Dean of Westminster who then lays them on the alter.
Since the time of William the Conqueror and before, monarchs of England have always sworn an Oath at their Coronations to uphold the Law. The Treaties of Liberty, including Magna Carta, confirmed the Saxon tradition that no one, not even the King, was above the Law.
During discussions in Parliament regarding the Coronation of William IV, who, due to his age at 65, did not want to go to the expense of one, it was made clear that if there was no coronation there could be no Oath and if there was no Oath then there could be no King!
From Isaiah is taken the dictum: "Behold a king shall reign in justice, and princes shall rule in judgment. The prince will devise such things as are worthy of a prince, and he shall stand above all rulers".
The essence of autocratic rule which was inbred into the Norman dynasty and encouraged by the then feudal supremacy of the Pope to whom English Kings owed spiritual and temporal fealty was often at odds with the Saxon English tradition of all being equal under the Law and those kings who flouted the law were usually summarily dealt with.
The Oath taken by our Monarchs at their Coronations has changed over time as will the Oath to be sworn by the King. However, since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the Oath has incorporated two main pledges. A vow to rule according to Law and a vow to protect the Church of England of which the Monarch is the Supreme Governor.
At the late Queen’s first Christmas broadcast in 1952 she said “At my Coronation next June I shall dedicate myself anew to your service. I shall do so in the presence of a great congregation, drawn from every part of the Commonwealth and Empire.”
It was thus, kneeling at the Alter steps with Her right hand on the Holy gospel, that Her Majesty sealed Her solemn oath with the words “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God”
It is expected that the King will do likewise.
Under the Crown which 15 Realms now share, the sovereignty of each Kingdom must always be supreme and this can only be accomplished if the sovereign is subservient only to the People and to the Parliaments elected by the people and to no outside Authority.
During his coronation, the King will swear to uphold the Law. His Oath will bind him to a lifetime of service. This is the strength of our Parliamentary Democracy and our Constitutional Monarchy.
The anointing is the central act of the religious ceremony and includes the Blessing and Consecration.
Whilst the earliest account of an anointing was a letter written in the fifteenth Century BC from King Ramman-Nisan to the Pharaoh of Egypt, it is well known that the anointing of Kings goes much further back into the distant past.
However the incorporation of the anointing ceremony of English kings was introduced by St Augustine in the 6th century AD. It is known (from the Book of Kings) that in (around 1015 BCE) "Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king" and this has been sung since the first recorded coronation of King Edgar in AD 973 but is likely that it had been chanted at previous ceremonies for several hundreds of years before. The famous setting by Handel was first used at the Coronation of George II in 1727.
A vial of sacred oil was brought across from the Holy Land to be used at the Coronation of Edward 11 in 1307 and at subsequent coronations until its contents were exhausted some two hundred and fifty years later at the Coronation of Elizabeth the First in 1558.
Since that time the oil used at the anointing of British Sovereigns has been very specially prepared and blessed in Jerusalem. The formula of the oil is secret but it is known to include oils of orange flowers, roses, cinnamon, jasmine, musk and ambergris. King Charles has required that no animals should suffer to provide the oil to be used to anoint him. Earlier oils used different parts of animals who were slaughtered for that purpose.
When the late Queen was anointed with Holy Oil she had said that it imbued her with a conviction of something irrevocable and that she felt that she had to do everything within her power to maintain the gift of royal privilege and obligation bestowed upon her. Let us hope and pray that the King is instilled with the same conviction.
THE INVESTITURE AND CROWNING, THE ENTHRONEMENT
AND THE HOMAGE
Having been anointed unto God the King will then be confirmed with actual sovereignty and visibly endowed with all the symbolic powers of Authority, by the placing on his head the St Edward’s Crown by the Archbishop of Canterbury as he sits on King Edward's chair and it is at this time that His subjects acclaim him with trumpets sounding, and the guns on Tower Hill firing a salute and all those in the abbey crying “God save the King”
Indeed the Coronation leaves few unaffected by the religious significance of the consecration of our new King. As Archbishop Lang said in 1937: “the coronation service is from beginning to end the most solemn religious act”.
Whilst the Coronation is essentially an occasion of tremendous spiritual meaning, it also has a deeply historical significance going back through the centuries of English history, not only with the Regalia, from the two Crowns (St. Edward's and the Imperial State Crown) to the bracelet originally worn by Charles 11 as a material symbol of God's protection, but also with regard to the officials.
The Lord High Steward of the Coronation is based on the 'standard' of Saxon times and the Lord Great Chamberlain originated with the Saxon 'bower theigns'.
At the coronation of Richard the first in 1189 the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Bath and Wells stood to the right and left of the King and so it was at the Coronation of our late Queen that the then Lord Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Bath and Wells occupied exactly the same positions.
Prior to Edward the Confessor, kings of England were buried wearing their crowns, however Edward was not and his crown and his other regalia originally formed the Crown Jewels of England and were used in future coronations until the reign of Charles I, after which they were broken up by the Commonwealth Parliament.
However, Edward's sapphire together with the Balas ruby of the Black Prince survived and are now incorporated into the Imperial State Crown as are four pearls which belonged to Elizabeth I.
The Sapphire of St. Edward was originally incorporated into the ring worn during his coronation in 1042 and is the oldest stone in the Crown Jewels.
The 'Balas' ruby is actually a 170 carat spinel and was named after the 'Balas' mines along the Afghanistan border. It was presented to the Black Prince (so called because of his black armour) by King Pedro of Castille in 1367.
The Republican Parliament of 1643 which in their declaration that: "Royalty is useless, burdensome and dangerous for England" could well have been talking about themselves as they destroyed, melted down or sold much of the Royal Regalia, including the seven hundred year old gold filigree Crown of Edward the Confessor and, as legend has it, the 9th century coronation robe of Wiglaf of Mercia and of even more historical importance, the Crown of Alfred the Great who was the last King be to crowned with a ceremonial helmet. The coronation of His son, Edward the Elder in 900 is believed to be the first where a formal crown was used.
The remnants of the ancient regalia were sold for the incredibly low sum of £2,647.18s.4d. Some items, including the ruby which had been purchased by royalist sympathisers for £15, were later restored to the Crown. The ruby is today considered to be the most famous and priceless gemstone in what is today the world's most famous gem collection.
The oldest complete piece of regalia still used is the twin bowl Anointing Spoon (pictured left) dating from the 12th Century. Made of silver gilt and set with four freshwater pearls it, together with the Ampulla (the vessel to hold the Oil) are the only known relics to have escaped the Cromwellian purge. Parts of the Ampulla are thought to have been made during the Byzantium era.
The only reason why the Coronation Chair, built by Edward III in 1296 at a cost of 100 shillings to contain the Stone of Destiny, survived is because Cromwell had it moved to Westminster Hall for his own Coronation as Lord Protector of England.
The usage of the Coronation Robes descends from Saxon coronations and are similar to those worn at the earlier enthronements of the Christian Byzantium Emperors, a tradition which has come down to us through the ages via the teachings of such missionaries as St. Augustine.
However, in the coronation of King Charles III there will be a number of modernisations and it is mooted that the King will not be dressed in robes but will wear a military uniform. Similarly, the peers attending will not be dressed in their robes and coronets, but simply in business suits. The length of the Coronation Service is also expected to be greatly shortened. Many feel that this will be too great a change, but others welcome a more modern affair.
Whatever the case, the coronation of the King will be a splendid and memorable affair. One that will be watched potentially by billions around the world.
We should not forget that everything King Charles does will be to prepare a smoother journey for the new Prince of Wales as he trains to eventually take over as King.
May God bless King Charles and Queen Camilla. May they serve the people as the Queen had so served over many years.
MUSIC AT THE CORONATION
THE Coronation Service is the centrepiece of a new reign, and a great occasion of festivity and celebration with pageantry, ceremony and music. While the Coronation of Charles III and Queen Camilla will, in a novel innovation, incorporate music and musicians from outside the Church of England, I hope that it will be no different to more recent coronations in splendour and appropriateness in respect to Divine Service.
The choice of anthems and settings for the Coronation Service has evolved over time, reflecting changing musical tastes and the personal preferences of individual monarchs. Certain monarchs have perhaps approached the Coronation with less musical zeal than others, such as Victoria for whose coronation only one new piece of music was written under the direction of the musician-in-chief, Sir George Smart.
Charles, by comparison, is well-known for his vigorous and forthright support and patronage of the arts and it is no surprise that His Majesty has personally commissioned twelve new pieces for his Coronation, and “shaped and selected the musical programme for the Service.” Perhaps had Victoria taken such an active role, Her Majesty’s coronation would have produced more notable works than a single anthem by William Knyvett, “This is the day the Lord hath made”.
In addition to new pieces, there are always existing pieces which are chosen for parts of the Service. Some of these pieces have become so popular over the years that they have been repeated in later coronations.
One of the most famous anthems performed at the Coronation Service is the anthem, “Zadok the Priest”, sung at the Anointing. This piece was composed by George Frederic Handel for the Coronation of King George II in 1727 and has been sung at every Coronation since. The text of “Zadok the Priest” is taken from the Book of Kings, and has been used at coronations since mediaeval times. It tells of the anointing of Solomon by the eponymous Zadok the priest, with the subsequent acclamations by the people of their king. The piece is part of Handel’s “Coronation Anthems”, which also include popular and well-known anthems such as “The King shall rejoice”, “Let thy hand be strengthened” and “My heart is inditing”.
Another popular anthem sung at the Coronation service is “I was glad” by Sir Charles Hubert Parry. This piece was written for the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, replacing Atwood’s setting used at the Coronation of Victoria, and has been performed at every Coronation since. The text is taken from Psalm 122 and is believed to be a reflection by King David on the joy felt when invited to go up to Jerusalem upon a pilgrimage. At the Coronation, it is used upon the entrance of the King into the Abbey, the veritable house of the Lord. Parry’s setting incorporates the traditional “Vivats”. These are sung by the King’s Scholars of Westminster School, despite having had their legal claim so to do rejected by the Court of Claims before the late Queen’s coronation.
The settings of the ordinary texts of the holy Communion has frequently changed from reign to reign, and it is likely that this Coronation will be no different. The Credo and Sanctus from Vaughan Williams's 1921 Mass in G minor was sung at the Coronation of Elizabeth II, along with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s Gloria, which was first composed for the Coronation of George VI. It appears that the Ten Commandments ceased to be used after the Coronation of Victoria, whereat a setting by Smart was sung. At the Coronation of Edward VII, the Commandments were omitted entirely, and not replaced by the Kyrie which later reappeared at the coronation of Elizabeth II being only said, not sung. By the Palace’s mention of William Byrd’s music being used again, it may seem like it will be his setting of the Credo and Sanctus that will be used for Charles III, having been used previously at the Coronation of George VI.
The great Te Deum has taken various positions within the Coronation Service, William Walton’s setting for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, Vaughan Williams's setting for the Coronation of George VI and Parry’s setting for the Coronation of George V were sung as the finale, before the Recess, while Stanford’s Te Deum was sung immediately before the enthronement and Homage at the Coronation of Edward VII.
It is likely that a new setting of the Te Deum will be composed for Charles III.
Hymns, other than the Veni Creator Spiritus have not traditionally formed part of the Coronation Service proper although they are recorded as having been sung beforehand OR although it is recorded that they were sung beforehand during the various processions around the Abbey.
At the Coronation of Elizabeth II, for the first time a congregational hymn was sung—“All people that on earth do dwell”. The memorable setting of the “Old 100th” by Vaughan Williams is a triumph of twentieth century sacred music. It may be likely that at the upcoming Coronation more hymns will be included, although such may seem to conflict with the purported desire to shorten the length of the Service.
The new music announced for the Coronation of Charles III includes at least one anthem by Lord Lloyd-Webber, as well as orchestral and other choral works. There are several novel choices that have also been announced.
The King has made an interesting choice by incorporating Greek Orthodox music into the service which will be sung by The Byzantine Chant Ensemble as well as including choir girls from Methodist College, Belfast, a “handpicked gospel choir”, who presumably will sing music in the gospel style and a portion of the service in Welsh, which is spoken in parts of the Principality. It remains to be seen how these innovations will be received; however, with the solid backbone of traditional English church music and tasteful new pieces, it seems that Charles’ coronation will indeed be a musical, as well as sacred, national occasion not to be missed.
Jeffrey Fong (AML Melbourne)
‘A Sign of Royal Majesty’: The Symbology of Five Tangible Elements of the Coronation Ceremony
Scott Coleman, AML Canberra.
As the time draws nearer for the Coronation of our King, His Majesty Charles III, I have in this article called to mind five tangible elements from ceremonies in Westminster Abbey from centuries past to the present, which evoke for us the historical and spiritual underpinnings of the Coronation of a new Monarch.
The Coronation Chair
This sturdy oaken chair dates back to 1296, when it was commissioned by King Edward I to hold the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, which was brought to England from Scotland. Legend has it that the stone was used as a pillow by Jacob in the Bible, and later brought to Scotland where it was used in the coronation of Scottish kings. Edward I brought the stone to England in 1296, and it has been used in every coronation since.
St. Edward's Crown
St. Edward’s Crown is one of the most striking symbols of royal authority. The crown, structured in gold, was made in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II.
Since then, it has been used to crown five further monarchs: King James II (1685), King William III (1689), King George V (1911), King George VI (1937), and Queen Elizabeth II (1953).
King Charles III will be the seventh to wear this historic piece. The crown is decorated with over 400 precious stones, including diamonds, rubies, and sapphires and is adorned with fleurs-de-lis. The fleurs-de-lis, a French monarchical symbol, represent purity and the Trinity. They were incorporated into the design of the crown during Charles II’s reign. Intending to symbolise the ties between the English and the French crowns, the fleurs-de-lis were incorporated into the design of the crown.
In 1953, the crown was remodelled to accommodate the smaller head of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This involved removing some of the precious stones and reduced the weight of the crown from 4 pounds 12 ounces to 4 pounds 4 ounces.
St. Edward's Crown is generally only worn during the coronation ceremony and is otherwise kept in the Tower of London.
The Anointing Oil
The anointing oil, also known as Chrism, is a mixture of olive oil, rose oil, sesame, jasmine, cinnamon and orange blossom, and it is used to anoint the monarch during the coronation ceremony. His Majesty’s head will be anointed in the shape of a cross, and then the oil will be spread over his forehead, hands, and feet.
Anointing has vivid biblical origins; in the Old Testament, the prophet Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. 1 Samuel 10 (KJV):
Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?
Buckingham Palace said in a statement on 3rd March 2023: “The Chrism oil which will be used to anoint His Majesty The King on 6th May 2023 has been consecrated in Jerusalem today, Friday 3rd March 2023.”The ceremony to mix the oil took place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and was consecrated by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III and the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Reverend Hosam Naoum. The oil was derived from groves on the Mount of Olives, one of which was at the Monastery of Mary Magdalene, the burial place of the King’s paternal grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece.
From top: Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Robe; Supertunica, Stole and Spurs
Receive this Imperial Robe,
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 garments of salvation. Amen.
The Archbishop of Canterbury during the 1953 Coronation Ceremony
Dr David J Crankshaw, a lecturer in the History of Early Modern Christianity at King’s College London, as quoted by the Telegraph:
“Just as with so much of the service, the robes take their place and importance from the Liber Regalis [the 14th century manual outlining the order in which certain proceedings should take place in British coronations]. The vesting with the Colobium Sindonis and Supertunica have their origins in this text. These are the robes with the longest tradition and therefore of most importance to be retained within the ceremony.”
A robe and stole are generally worn by the monarch during the coronation ceremony. The Robe Royal has traditionally been a silk robe lined with ermine and decorated with gold embroidery and worn over the simple linen garment known as the colobium sindonis. The Royal Collection Trust describes the garment as "a simple white linen dress with no sleeves, wide arm openings and a plain collar closing with a single button, intended to represent a priest's, alb". The crimson of the robe represents the blood of Christ, while the ermine lining symbolises the monarch's power and authority. More specifically, the white fur is said to represent purity, with it being said of the ermine creature that “potius mori quam foedari”: they would rather die than be defiled.
From the Romanov coronation robes and the 1762 coronation train of Catherine the Great, which was ermine trimmed and gold embroidered velvet and required 6 chambermaids to help navigate throughout the ceremony, to the Coronation of Emperor Napoléon I. Ermine has been an opulent synonym for royalty and the wealthy since the mid twelfth century, confirmed by contemporary mentions testifying its status. One later example is the 1762 coronation of Catherine the Great where it was said that her ermine trimmed, gold embroidered velvet train, required 6 chambermaids to help carry it throughout the long ceremony. The Stole Royal is a garment hung behind the neck, made of silk and also decorated with gold embroidery. It is reminiscent of priestly authority. It remains to be seen what attire the King will choose to wear to the coronation ceremony, with a potential for his military service to inspire a uniform rather than robes.
The Two Sceptres
The sceptre has its origins in ancient Egypt, where pharaohs carried a staff or rod. The use of sceptres was also common in ancient Greece and Rome, and the tradition was later adopted in Europe.
There are two sceptres used in the coronation ceremony, to represent temporal and spiritual authority: the sceptre with the cross and the sceptre with the dove. The sceptre with the cross is a symbol of the monarch's temporal power and is surmounted by a cross, while the sceptre with the dove is an image of the monarch's spiritual power and is surmounted by a dove.
During the coronation ceremony, the monarch is given the sceptre with the cross immediately after the anointing, and is then handed the sceptre with the dove prior to being crowned with the St. Edward's Crown.
The Biblical Accounts of Coronation and Anointing
The most prominent coronations or anointings feature the prophets Samuel and Nathan anointing David and Solomon king, respectively (although Samuel earlier anointed Saul ruler of Israel).
The enigmatic name of Zadok, one of the high priests at Solomon's anointing and the name we hear in the famous coronation anthem, appears as part of the David narrative in the First Book of Kings, 1:39-40:
And Zadok the priest took a horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon. And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.
The Book of Chronicles records the coronation of the young child Jehoash in the doorway of the Temple in Jerusalem. Many of the elements seen in the modern coronation, including the King being led in a procession, the King having a crown placed upon his head by a high priest, and the anointing are detailed in these Books.
Following the coronation, the people "clapped their hands" and shouted "God save the King" as trumpets blew, music played, and hymns of praise were sung. Similar scenes are expected once King Charles III, newly crowned, meets his people as he proceeds through the streets of London following the ceremony.
Rachel Bailes (AML Melbourne)
Australians in London
Coronations are the most important day in the life of every sovereign, as it is upon that day that they are crowned, consecrated and dedicated to the service of their peoples. Since 1902, distinguished Australians have attended these most sacred and spectacular of royal ceremonies, and surviving photographs and mementos of those events help illustrate the grandeur of the coronations they witnessed.
Edmund Barton was the first of Australia's Prime Ministers to represent the new Commonwealth of Australia at the Coronation of their sovereign. After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 just six weeks into the life of the new nation, King Edward VII ascended the throne. The King’s coronation was set for June 1902 but four days before his crowning, however, the King fell dangerously ill, requiring an urgent operation to remove his appendix. The ceremony was postponed, but by August Edward VII was sufficiently recovered for his coronation to proceed. Edmund Barton and his wife Jeanie were principal guests at the many public functions and dinners in London to mark the first coronation for over 60 years. Edward VII was King at the time of the first opening of the new Federal Parliament in 1901, and knew that Barton was deserving of a reward for his crucial role as an advocate for Federation. Barton had declined a knighthood on three separate occasions over the previous decade, but when faced with the prospect of refusing one from the King in person, he relented; Edward VII invested Sir Edmund a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) at Buckingham Palace on 8 August 1902. ¹
When it came to the Coronation of King George V a decade later, not only was Prime Minister Andrew Fisher invited, but a parliamentary delegation accompanied him to London, made up of 12 Members and 6 Senators selected by Parliament from both parties. ² The Australian contingent was welcomed by the former Prime Minister Sir George Reid, then serving as High Commissioner in London, who took great delight in hosting his compatriots. [Image alongside]
Whereas Fisher had an abhorrence for decorations (later declining the French Légion d'honneur after The Great War), Reid had no qualms about accepting honours; George V promoted him to GCMG in his Coronation Honours List. Fisher, begrudgingly, did accept being appointed to the Privy Council - a rarity for a Labor man. Whilst Queen Victoria never saw the vast reaches of the Empire over which she reigned, the new King and Queen had; travelling to many countries including India, South Africa and Australia (in 1901) before coming to the throne. Thus, they had first-hand experience of the peoples they served. Reid later wrote of their Coronation;
Westminster Abbey never contained a fuller representation of the public men of the Dominions… than that which filled it to witness the enthronement of King George V and Queen Mary. The wonderfully elaborate ritual and the ancient ceremonies were a glorious puzzle to Colonial eyes. What an auspicious Coronation this, when for the first time in the history of the world a newly crowned Emperor and his Empress had visited all parts of an Empire which marches with the sun. ³
Australia's only Prime Minister from the State of Tasmania, Joseph Lyons, was a participant in a succession of momentous royal events during his years in office, notably the Silver Jubilee of George V, the abdication of Edward VIII and coronation of George VI. Lyons and his wife Enid attended the celebrations of George V's 25th anniversary on the throne in 1935, staying with the King and Queen Mary at Windsor Castle during their visit. Two years later, they returned to London for the coronation of his son, King George VI in May 1937. Lyons took part in the King’s procession, walking up the aisle of Westminster Abbey looking resplendent in his glittering embroidered uniform of a Privy Counsellor, with a court sword at his side. The following day, Prime Minister Lyons reflected of the event;
In collecting one's thoughts, which is difficult after such a stupendous occasion, nothing stands out more than the feeling that the whole empire consecrated itself behind the young King and Queen, determined to inaugurate a wonderful reign... I have never seen anything like it in my lifetime. ⁴
Received with as great acclaim as her husband, Enid Lyons was admired wherever she travelled during their overseas sojourn. She was deeply moved by the beauty of the Coronation service, and it left a lasting impression upon her;
It was a majestic ceremony. I doubt whether it will be possible to ever see anything like it again. The music throughout was superb, particularly when the national anthem was played. I am really unable to remember anything so thrilling and beautiful. ⁴
In his Coronation Honours List, George VI created Enid Lyons a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) for her public service to Australia, the robes and insignia of which are displayed at the home of the Lyons family in Devonport, Home Hill. [Image alongside]
At the coronation banquet at Buckingham Palace two days later, Enid Lyons dined at the King's table, with the Crown Prince of Sweden and the Earl of Athlone seated on either side of her. Dame Enid would later serve as Australia's first female Member of the House of Representatives and Member of the Cabinet, and was a guest at the 1953 Coronation.
On 2 June 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in a magnificent and moving service at Westminster Abbey, the form and order of which had changed little for almost a thousand years. Before a congregation of more than 8000 people the young Queen was consecrated to her role as sovereign. Her Coronation was the zenith of modern monarchy: an incredible spectacle of pomp and pageantry. Whilst coronations had traditionally been exclusive occasions, with only a select number of people witnessing the event, that of Elizabeth II was seen by millions across the globe thanks to the wonders of technicolour film and the recent phenomenon of television. Many Australians, from Victoria Cross recipients to politicians and diplomats, had travelled to London to attend the ceremony, including the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. Ever a student of history, Menzies recommended that the ancient practice of presenting Armills (bracelets) to the sovereign, by then long in abeyance, be revived. The Queen approved of the idea and a new set of Armills - the bracelets of sincerity and wisdom - were presented to The Queen as a sign of her bond with the peoples of the Commonwealth.
Menzies’ invitation to the service is held by the National Library of Australia [Image alongside].
Also witness to the ceremony were (Sir) Alick Downer and his wife Mary, who brought a pair of Coronation Chairs back from London which had been used in the Abbey, placing them in the Chapel at Arbury Park, their property in the Adelaide Hills. ⁵ Lady Mary Downer later loaned the chairs to an exhibition to mark Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. ⁶
The Coronation Dress worn by Elizabeth II would prove to be one of the most iconic and lavishly decorated dresses of the twentieth century, and included in its design was a subtle nod to Australia.
The dress was created by royal couturier Norman Hartnell, who at The Queen’s request incorporated the national floral emblems of the Commonwealth of Nations in the decoration, seen in this rare embroidery sample given by Hartnell to his assistant in 1953.
The national emblems of the Commonwealth countries embroidered upon the dress included the wattle of Australia, the New Zealand fern, the maple leaf of Canada, South Africa’s protea, a lotus flower for India, another lotus flower for Ceylon, and wheat, cotton and jute for Pakistan.
Complementing these were the floral emblems of the United Kingdom: the Tudor rose of England, the Scots thistle, the Welsh leek and the shamrock of Ireland.³ Hartnell’s embroiderers took nine weeks and 3,000 hours to complete the dress. ²
The Queen later wore the shimmering gown when she Opened Parliament in Canberra on 15 February 1954, the first reigning monarch ever to do so. [Image alongside].
Cecil Beaton’s iconic official portraits of the royal family taken in 1953 captured the regal splendour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, with the young Prince Charles (now Charles III) and Princess Anne pictured here with The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace after the service. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh used this image on their 1953 Christmas card. [Image below].
One can only hope that the coronation of King Charles III in May will be as grand, moving and joyous an occasion as the coronations of the past were for those Australians in London who witnessed them.
Scott Coleman (AML Canberra)
1. ‘Star of the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George awarded to Sir Edmund Barton #2013-0006-1’, Museum of Australian Democracy, Canberra, Museum of Australian Democracy, 2013, https://collection.moadoph.gov.au/objects/2013-0006-1/, (accessed 23 Mar 2023)
2. Kate Cumming, ‘Royalty and Australian Society’, National Archives of Australia, Canberra, National Archives of Australia, 1998, p. 36, https://www.naa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-08/research-guide-royalty-and-australian-society.pdf, (accessed 24 Mar 2023).
3. G.Reid, My Reminiscences, Cassel and Company, Ltd., London, United Kingdom, 1917, p. 292.
4. ‘Mr and Dame Enid Lyons. Impressions of Coronation Ceremony’, Townsville Daily Bulletin, 14 May 1937, p. 7.
5. ‘How they live: the house that Mr. Downer built’, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 23 Jul 1958, p. 33.
6. A. Higgins, ‘Lady Downer has best seat in the house’, Sunday Mail (South Australia), 2 Jun 2012, https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/lady-downer-has-best-seat-in-house/news-story/2e11bbcb3054c3a044e7cb7058e9099b, (accessed 24 Mar 2023).
7. M. Pick, 2007, BEDAZZLED! Norman Hartnell: Sixty Years of Glamour and Fashion, Pointed Leaf Press, New York, USA, 2007, p. 158.
Figure `1: Courtesy of MoAD, Canberra
Figures 3 & 4: Courtesy of the National Library of Australia
Figures 2, 5 & 6: Courtesy of a private collection, Canberra
THE CROWN AS A SYMBOL
On 6 May 2023, His Majesty King Charles III will be crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury with St Edward’s Crown. Some of us may have seen that crown in real life while visiting the Tower of London, where it is usually on display. Most of us will see it on television or in a newspaper as the Coronation is broadcast and reported on. But for most of us, it is not an object that we see every day.
Artistic representations of crowns, on the other hand, are something that we see around us in our everyday life. They are the instantly-recognisable symbol of government authority. In this article, I propose to explore where they come from, how they are used, and how they are useful.
The use of the crown as a symbol in this way has its origins in heraldry, and it is still almost (but not quite) always in the context of heraldry that we see a crown used. In an heraldic achievement, perhaps the most recognisable manifestation of heraldry, are combined recognisable elements, most commonly a shield (or escutcheon), some kind of headwear such as a helmet or crown on top, animal or human supporters on each side, a motto at the foot, and sometimes other elements. The combined effect, of course, is a physical impossibility, even to the point of ridiculousness, but the art of heraldry tricks you into seeing something depicted that your imagination tells you could be real.
Heraldry, then, contains both elements of truth, and also elements of fiction. This is reflected in the depictions of the crowns we see around us in everyday life. Although many heraldic crowns are depictions of a real, physical crown, this is not necessarily the case. The Kingdom of Belgium has never had a physical crown, although a depiction of one is used there heraldically.
The artistic representations of crowns that are and have been used in Australia (and other Commonwealth Realms) have a long and varied history. For heraldic purposes, it is convenient to start the story with Henry VIII. He is documented to have had a (physical) golden crown which either he or his father Henry VII had commissioned. This crown is known as the “Tudor Crown”. By the reign of Charles I, an artistic representation of this crown was being used heraldically. Different versions of this crown have featured repeatedly in heraldry ever since.
Charles I’s heraldic Tudor Crown
Image © User:Sodacan/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0
The physical Tudor Crown itself was, together with the other English regalia then extant (including the original St Edward’s Crown), destroyed shortly after the execution of Charles I by being broken up and its materials sold off.
Following the Restoration, Charles II commenced using heraldically an artistic depiction of the new St Edward’s Crown that had been made for him.
St Edward’s Crown
This was the crown that was used heraldically up to and including the reign of Queen Victoria. Following Queen Victoria’s becoming Empress of India in 1876, a new style of heraldic crown was invented to signify her new imperial status. This new heraldic crown was not modelled on any actual physical crown, but it bore a resemblance to the “Tudor Crown” of Charles I, and is therefore conventionally referred to by that name.
The depiction of the new Tudor Crown varied greatly during Victoria’s reign and was standardised by Edward VII. This new Tudor Crown can be seen on the old Victoria Police pith helmet depicted below.
Images © International Military Antiques, Inc ima-usa.com
Upon Elizabeth II’s accession, she commenced using the St Edward’s Crown heraldically in lieu of the Tudor Crown.
I speculate that Her late Majesty made this decision with the fact in mind that the Tudor Crown had been brought into use following Victoria becoming Empress of India, a title which the Sovereign had ceased to hold by 1952.
Regardless of whether I am correct about that, King Charles III reverted to using the Tudor Crown upon His Majesty’s accession, as depicted in his Royal Cypher:
Despite Elizabeth II being the only Sovereign since Victoria to use the St Edward’s Crown heraldically, the length of her reign has meant that this is the only artistic depiction of a crown most of us remember being used in Australia or the Commonwealth.
Perhaps the most commonly-seen representation of crowns in Australia is that appearing on the coats of arms of our police forces. Crowns also feature in the emblems of the three branches of our armed forces.
Although crowns do feature in the Australian coat of arms by reason of their being part of the state badges of Victoria and Queensland, the achievement is crested by the Commonwealth seven-pointed star instead of bearing a crown.
Many government buildings, particularly those constructed prior to Federation, bear the Royal Arms (and the crown with them) as a prominent architectural feature. Examples in Melbourne include the Treasury Place Government Offices, Old Customs House, and the former Royal Mint. Following Federation, the Commonwealth and the states were gradually granted coats of arms of their own, following which those coats of arms were used instead of the Royal Arms. Three of the state coats of arms include a crown (Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland), and crowns therefore continue to be used as a part of those arms. Three state Supreme Courts (Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia) continue to use the Royal Arms as their emblem to this day.
One of my favourite architectural manifestations of crowns (unusually, not appearing in an heraldic context) are the delightfully eccentric crowned lampposts which are a feature of the Victorian Parliament House. They are a more flamboyant version of the more restrained crowned lampposts seen outside the Westminster Houses of Parliament in London.
Crowns have been, but are no longer, used by our postal services, both as an architectural feature on the top of some of our earlier cast-iron postboxes, and by use as part of the Royal Cypher. The Royal Cypher used to be regularly installed on our post offices, and in many cases Elizabeth II’s Cypher remains on current and former post offices. In the case of postboxes, unlike, for example, England, the Royal Cypher ceased being incorporated in the cast-iron design in Australia, and was replaced here with a two-dimensional depiction printed or painted on the postbox. I recall seeing, as late as the early 2000s, a faded Royal Cypher of Elizabeth II on the Australia Post postbox in Mount Egerton, Victoria. Writing this article has made me wonder if it is still there.
I have a childhood recollection of seeing that my parents’ passports bore a crown above the Australian coat of arms and feeling jealous that my newer passport did not. The crown was a feature of Australian passports only for two decades, between 1964 and 1984.
After this review of how the crown is actually used, then, the question arises – is it useful? What is there to recommend its continued use? Or its abolition? Can it be replaced?
A crown is an instantly-recognisable symbol of authority. When you see someone wearing a cap or a badge with a crown on it, you know instantly that that person is exercising the authority of the state. In this, it cannot be replaced in my view with any other symbol that would have the same effect. We might try to replace it with the seven-pointed Commonwealth Star, but stars are not symbols of authority. We might try to replace it with a kangaroo. But kangaroos are not symbols of authority. These symbols might acquire that status with time and usage, as the American bald eagle arguably has in the United States. But, like the bald eagle, there is something these symbols lack.
Because in these post-mediaeval times, crowns have acquired a symbolism beyond mere authority. They also remind us of the spirit of public service embodied in the person of the King. Eagles do not serve the public. Kangaroos and stars do not serve the public. The symbol of the crown acts as an exhortation to those who exercise the power of the Crown to follow the King’s personal example of devotion to public service in carrying out their tasks. And apart from exhortation, there is also comfort for the Crown’s servants, and the Crown’s subjects, in this. The King, like every one of us, is a human being. He has failings (some of them well documented) and can only do his best. He also has human feelings, and can choose to exercise his prerogative of mercy. The crown is a very human symbol, and not a symbol derived from the harsh, wild, unforgiving world of nature.
Samuel McMahon is a solicitor living and working in Melbourne.
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