Thinking allowed

The Coronation of English and British Kings and Queens

(Coron­a­tion of King George VI, 1937, painted by Frank Salis­bury; Roy­al Col­lec­tion Trust)

Begin­ning with the coron­a­tion of James I in 1603 there have been six­teen Eng­lish-lan­guage coron­a­tions of Eng­lish, or from 1714 Brit­ish, mon­archs. Before that, upto and includ­ing the coron­a­tion of Eliza­beth I, the ser­vice had been con­duc­ted in Lat­in. The sev­en­teenth, for King Charles III, is sched­uled to take place on Sat­urday 6 May 2023.

As a small boy, over half a cen­tury ago, I was cap­tiv­ated by a souven­ir of the 1937 coron­a­tion of King George VI and Queen Eliza­beth which belonged to my grand­par­ents, and which con­tained the text of the ser­vice along with copi­ous illus­tra­tions and some his­tor­ic­al notes. From 1994 I have col­lec­ted cop­ies of the order of ser­vice of every coron­a­tion back to that of George IV in 1821, along with repro­duc­tions and edi­tions of the earli­er ser­vices back to 1603, as well as the music edi­tions that have been pub­lished since 1902.

For some time I have thought of pro­du­cing an his­tor­ic­al edi­tion of the coron­a­tion ser­vice with the dif­fer­ent texts in par­al­lel columns, mak­ing it easy to see the changes that have been made over the cen­tur­ies. This is a bit com­plex to pro­duce as a book (and per­haps not com­mer­cially viable) but a web page is easi­er to cre­ate, and can have oth­er help­ful fea­tures such as hid­ing or show­ing dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the page. So now there is a new page at that con­tains the text of all the coron­a­tion ser­vices from 1953 back (cur­rently) to that of George II in 1727. Work on adding earli­er texts continues.

In each column the texts are aligned so that cor­res­pond­ing rub­rics and spoken words match across the page. Indi­vidu­al columns can be hid­den, mak­ing it easy to com­pare dif­fer­ent years. Hid­ing rows, or sec­tions of the text across all columns, is a fea­ture that will be added soon.

The coron­a­tion of King Edward VII and Queen Alex­an­dra sched­uled for June 1902 was post­poned because of the king’s ill­ness. When it did take place in August, a num­ber of modi­fic­a­tions were made to place less stress on the con­vales­cent king. Both the June and August texts are included in par­al­lel columns.

With the Coron­a­tion of King Charles and Queen Cam­illa sched­uled for next year, I hope this will be a use­ful his­tor­ic­al archive.

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