The world has not seen a coronation in nearly seventy years but on May 6th it will happen again. Charles III will be coronated at Westminster Abbey in London. The one thousand-year-old coronation service, based on the crowning of Israelite kings in the Bible, will be replete with Scripture. In Part 02, we will focus on the role of Scripture and the actual anointing of the monarch, which is the most important moment of their lives.
In Part One we learned that all English/British monarchs were coronated at Westminster Abbey, London, utilising the same oath that has been used for the past one thousand years. Coronation is the ‘crowning’ service. The key part of the monarch’s oath is that he or she ‘maintains the laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel.’ This is their number one priority. The service is based on Scripture and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which we are about to see in this second and final part.
Word and Spirit
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 – 1 Kings 1:39
Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God — Matthew 22:29
We now understand that the crowning of the monarch is not some civil ceremony in a secular venue: it is a sacred service conducted in a church under the guidance of a high-ranking clergyman. It is a Christian ceremony revolving around the monarch, who also serves as the newly-inducted Governor of the Church of England. This monarch, who wears many hats but represents one crown, including ‘King of Australia,’ ‘King of Canada,’ ‘Head of the Commonwealth,’ and more, is actually pledging before God to serve the people in His Name.
The parallels between the servant-leadership of the monarch and that of Christian ministry are remarkable. Consider that the late queen would have been satisfied being a minor royal, living a privileged life in the countryside catering to corgis and horses; her husband would have been most content pursuing his naval career for decades. Yet a quiet normal existence was not their destiny: it was to dedicate their lives to sacred high-profile public service, which they did for seventy years. The new King and Queen Consort pledge to do likewise.
The above Bible passages highlight that the current coronation service utilises the pattern found in Scripture. Saul, David, and Solomon, kings of the united tribes of Israel, were all anointed with oil and after the ceremony, the people shouted ‘God Save the King.’
Yet we need more than God’s Word in order to be on track; we need the Holy Spirit too. Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel highlight the source of erroneous thinking on the part of the otherwise Biblically-literate Jewish sect known as the Sadducees, who were the aristocracy and temple guardians. They did not believe in angels, spirits, or the resurrection (Acts 23:8). Their error stemmed from two deficiencies: they did not know the true meaning of Scripture nor were they familiar with the power of God. The latter is accessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Biblical Christians are born of the Spirit and baptised in the Spirit. If you neglect God’s Word, God’s Spirit, or both, your chances of being in error are one hundred per cent. Yet if you have both Word and Spirit, your chances of getting it right are also one hundred per cent.
The Word: In addition to the all-important coronation oath, the service incorporates both Word and Spirit. In the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II, the service was infused with Scripture. The following passages were quoted: 1 Kings 1:39-40; Psalm 84:9-10; 122:1-3, 6, 7; 141:2; Matthew 22:15-22; 1 Peter 2:13-17 (which ends with these words: Fear God. Honour the king).
While the St. Edward’s Crown and Imperial State Crown are collectively worth close to a billion pounds, they are not the most valuable items in the service. That honour is accorded to the Bible. In presenting God’s Word to the monarch, the archbishop says these words:
Our gracious Queen (or King): to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the Law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords (emphasis mine).
Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.
Yes, God’s Word is the most valuable thing on earth. Psalm 19:10: ‘More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.’
The Spirit: For Elizabeth II, the most moving moment of the entire televised coronation service was the part that no one saw – her anointing. It was considered so sacred that she was temporarily hidden from the public under a canopy. Stripped of all fancy regalia, she sat in a simple white dress like a bride. The archbishop used a gilt spoon, dipped his thumb and anointed her on the hands, breast, and crown. Again, in terms of value, the precious anointing was more priceless than the jewel-crusted crowns she wore.
Royal biographer William Shawcross wrote: ‘When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, she found, like her mother before her, an almost sacrificial quality at the heart of the service … It was the moment when the holy oil was applied to her, rather than her crowning with St Edward’s crown of solid gold, that was of supreme importance for the Queen. Indeed it was the most solemn and important moment of her entire life.’
Uncovering and recovering our Christian roots is one of the most vital tasks facing the church today. We will better know where we are going when we understand from where we came. Knowing and responding to our Christian history and heritage can help facilitate revival, too. The coronation service is a reminder of the primacy of God’s Word and Spirit in the Christian life today, tomorrow, and forever.
 Mark Greene 7 Catherine Butcher. The Servant Queen and the King She Serves, 2016, page 19, Hope, Bible Society, LICC.