Coronation Anecdotes Part 2

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The Sword of Justice to the Spirituality is _obtuse_, that of Justice to the Temporality _sharp_ at the point. "Henry VIII.," says a writer in a respectable periodical publication for July, "seems to have exercised his taste in endeavouring to abolish this discrepancy."


[Footnote 22: "Comite Cestriae gladium S. Edwardi, qui _Curtein_ dicetur, ante regem bagulante," &c.]

[Footnote 23: Glory of Regality, p. 73, 4.]

No. 6. _Of the Ring, Spurs, and Orb; and St. Edward's Staff._

In the book of Genesis we read of Pharaoh's ring being given by him to Joseph, as a method of investing him with power: and thus the Persian monarch Ahasuerus transferred his authority to Haman and to Mordecai[24]. What is added in the Scripture narration of one of these latter cases will ill.u.s.trate the significancy of this mode of invest.i.ture. "Then were the king's scribes called, on the thirteenth day of the first month; and there was written according to all that Haman commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province--to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and _sealed_ with the king's ring."

Of the golden ring with which our kings are invested, as "the ensign of royal dignity, and of defence of the catholic faith," there is yet another miracle of the coronation to relate. A certain "fayre old man"

having asked alms of St. Edward the Confessor, he had nothing at hand to bestow upon him but his ring. Shortly after, two English pilgrims lost their way in the Holy Land, when "there came to them a fayr ancient man, wyth whyte heer for age. Thenne the olde man axed theym what they were, and of what regyon. And they answerde that they were pylgryms of England, and hadde lost theyr fellyshyp and way also. Thenne thys olde man comforted theym goodly, and brought theym in to a fayre cytee; and whanne they had well refreshed theym, and rested there alle nyhte, on the morne, this fayre olde man went with theym, and brought theym in the ryght waye agayne. And he was gladde to here theym talke of the welfare and holynesse of theyr kynge Saynt Edward. And whan he shold depart fro theym, thenne he tolde theym what he was, and sayd, 'I am JOHAN THE EVANGELYST; and saye ye vnto Edward your kyng, that I grete him well by the token that he gaff to me, thys _rynge_, with hys one handes[25].'"

By the exact mode that we have quoted from Scripture, do we find Offa, king of the East Angles, appointing Edmund as his successor; and with the ring, it is noticed, with which he had been invested at his own promotion to the royal dignity[26].

On the detention of James II. by the fishermen of Sheerness, in his first attempt at escape from this country, in 1688, it is particularly noticed in his Memoirs, "The king kept the diamond bodkin which he had of the queen's, and the _coronation ring_, which for more security he put into his drawers." The captain, it appeared, was well acquainted with the dispositions of his crew; (one of whom "cried out, 'It is father Petre--I know him by his lantern jaws;' a second called him an 'old hatchet-faced Jesuit;' and a third, 'a cunning old rogue, he would warrant him!') for, some time after he was gone, and probably by his order, several seamen entered the king's cabin, saying they must search him and the gentlemen, believing they had not given up all their money.

The king and his companions told them that they were at liberty to do so, thinking that their readiness would induce them not to persist; but they were mistaken; the sailors began their search with a roughness and rudeness which proved they were accustomed to the employment: at last, one of them, feeling about the king's knee, got hold of the diamond bodkin, and cried out, with the usual oath, he had found a prize, but the king boldly declared he was mistaken. He had, indeed, scissors, a tooth-pick case, and little keys in his pocket, and what he felt was undoubtedly one of those articles. The man still seemed incredulous, and rudely thrust his hand into the king's pocket; but in his haste he lost hold of the diamond bodkin, and finding the things the king mentioned, remained satisfied it was so: by this means the bodkin and ring were preserved[27]." Whatever may be our opinion of the conduct of the monarch, we cannot follow him into these scenes without compa.s.sion for the _exile_, whose family seems to have been born to demonstrate how much of our pity unfortunate princes may claim, apart from their personal worth.

This is said to have been originally a favourite ring of the beautiful but unfortunate Mary queen of Scots; to have been sent by her, at her death, to James I.; through whom it came into the possession of our Charles I., and on _his_ execution, was transmitted by bishop Juxon to his son. It lately came into the possession of his present Majesty, through the channels by which he has obtained all the remaining papers of the house of Stuart.

Richard II. resigned the crown to Henry IV. by transferring to him his ring. A paper was put into Richard's hands, from which he read an acknowledgment of being incapable of the royal office, and worthy, from his past conduct, to be deposed; that he freely absolved his subjects from their allegiance, and swore by the holy Gospels never to act in opposition to this surrender: adding, that if it were left wholly to him to name the future monarch, it should be Henry of Lancaster, to whom he then gave his ring[28].

The SPURS are a very ancient emblem of knighthood; in later coronations, the abundance of ceremonies has only allowed time for the king's heel to be touched with them. At the battle of Crecy, when Edward III. was requested to send reinforcements to his son, his reply was: "No; tell Warwick he shall have no a.s.sistance. Let the boy win his spurs[29]."

The ORB, or MOUND (Fr. _monde_), is an emblem of sovereignty, said to be derived from imperial Rome; and to have been first adorned with the cross by Constantine, on his conversion to Christianity. It first appears among the royal insignia of England on the coins of Edward the Confessor; but Mr. Strutt authenticates a picture of Edgar, "made in the year 996," which represents that prince kneeling between two saints, who bear severally his sceptre and a globe surmounted by a cross[30]. This part of the regalia being inductive of supreme political power, has never been placed in the hands of any but kings or queens _regnant_. In the anomalous case of the coronation of William and Mary as joint sovereigns--the 'other world,' that Alexander wept for, was created; and the spare orb is still to be seen amongst the royal jewels of England!

The only remaining member of the regalia now in use is St. EDWARD'S Staff; but whether so called from any of the pilgrimages of the Confessor--from its being designed to remind our monarchs of their being but pilgrims on earth--or simply from its being offered with the other regalia at that monarch's shrine, on the coronation of our kings, we have not the means of determining. All the regalia are supposed, indeed, to be in the custody of the Dean, as the successor of the Abbot of Westminster, at the period of each coronation.


[Footnote 24: Esther, iii. 10, and viii. 2.]

[Footnote 25: Golden Legende (Julyan Notary, 1503).]

[Footnote 26: Battley's Antiq. St. Edm. Burgi, p. 119.]

[Footnote 27: Memoirs of James II., ed. by Clarke. 2 vols, 4to.]

[Footnote 28: Rot. Parl. iii. 417.]

[Footnote 29: Lingard's Hist. England, iii. p. 51.]

[Footnote 30: Strutt's [Saxon: Horda Angel-c[.y]nnan], v. ii.]

No. 7. _The Royal Vestments_

Of England are amongst the most gorgeous "makings of a king" known to history. In the robes ordinarily designed to be worn in Parliament; and consisting of a surcoat of the richest crimson velvet, and a mantle and hood of the same, furred with ermine, and bordered with gold lace, the king first makes his appearance on the Coronation day; (on which he wears a _cap of state_, of the same materials, and at this time only.) These are, therefore, called his Parliament Robes, in distinction from the Robes of Estate, for which he exchanges them in the Abbey, at the close of the coronation, and which only differ from the former in being made of purple velvet.

These sumptuous external robes are of course laid aside during the anointing, and other parts of the coronation service.

The ARMIL, or STOLE, is the only ecclesiastic symbol now retained in the invest.i.ture of our kings. In "MS. W. Y. in the College of Arms," quoted by Mr. Taylor, Henry VI. is said to have been "arrayed at the time of his coronation as a bishop that should sing ma.s.s, with a dalmatic like a tunic, and a stole about his neck[31]." This writer insists that the conductors of our English coronations since Henry VII.'s time (at the least) have very singularly mistaken the Stole for the Armil of more ancient times, and transferred to the latter the form of delivery originally designed for "a BRACELET or royal ornament of the wrist." It is singular that the form in question should appear, as it certainly does, to suit either symbol. "Receive this armil as a token of the divine mercy embracing thee on every side[32]." The ornament at present in use embraces the neck.


[Footnote 31: Glory of Regality, p. 81.]

[Footnote 32: These were (prudently enough, after the error hinted at,) the whole of the words used at the late ceremonial.]


We regard the coronation ceremonies of England as presenting a bird's-eye view of our history; and particularly of the various claims and privileges--and changes--of the monarchical branch of the Const.i.tution. Some of these ceremonies, as we have seen, had their origin in those remote periods in which every believer in Revelation must accord "a divine right" to the kings of Judea; others are connected with the ancient hero-worship of our Pagan ancestors; while a third cla.s.s perpetuate certain feudal rights and customs, of which they form the only distinct remaining traces. Some, again, are memorials of the triumph of our princes over the liberties of the people, while others present the plainest proof of the n.o.ble and successful struggles of the people against the encroachments of the crown.

The RECOGNITION, with which the coronation, strictly so called, begins, is an elective rite, in which some of the more direct terms of appeal to the people are disused. Its t.i.tle, "the Recognition," is of modern date[33]. After reciting the coronation oath, a respectable writer of queen Elizabeth's time thus gives the "sum of the English coronation."

"Then doth the archbishop, turning about to the people, declare what the king _hath promised_ and _sworn_, and by the mouth of an herald at arms asketh their _consents_, whether they be content to submit themselves unto this man as their king, or no, under the conditions proposed; whereunto when they have yielded themselves, then beginneth the archbishop to put upon him the regal ornaments[34]." Some of the questions anciently asked, accordingly, were, "Will you serve at this time, and give your good wills and a.s.sent to this same consecration, enunction, and coronation?"--To which the people answered, "Yea, yea."

This was the form observed on the coronations of Edward VI., Henry VIII., and Henry VII. That of Henry VI.'s reign is curious. The archbishop made the "proclamacion on the iiij quarters of the scaffolde, seyend in this wyse: Sirs, heere comyth Henry, kyng Henryes sone the Vth, on whose sowle G.o.d have mercy, Amen. He humblyth hym to G.o.d and to holy cherche, askyng the crowne of this reame by right and defence of herytage; if ye hold y^e pays with hym say Ya, and hold up handes. And then all the people cryed with oon voyce, Ye, ye[35]."

King John claimed the throne by "unanimous consent of the kingdom;" and the prelate of the day observed to the people that it was well known to them "that no man hath right of succession to this crown," except by such consent, and that "with invocation of the Holy Ghost, he be elected for his own deserts[36]."

During the Norman reigns it is evident that the coronation oath was administered before the recognition, and then the archbishop having stated what the king had engaged to do, asked the people if they would consent to take him for their king[37]? And of an earlier period, says Mr. Turner, "From the comparison of all the pa.s.sages on this subject, the result seems to be that the king was elected at the Witenagemote, held on the demise of the preceding sovereign[38]."

On the whole, what is left of this ceremony seems rather unmeaning. The people are addressed, "ye that _are come_ this day _to do_ your homage, service, and bounden duty, are ye willing to do the same?" A feudal "recognition," and feudal "homage," it is not for the people, but the prelates and peers to perform; the ceremony, however, establishes what our history will corroborate, the undoubted right of the people to interfere with, and limit the succession of their princes, on extraordinary occasions, while it is the peaceful and sound policy of the Const.i.tution to keep as near to the hereditary line as the emergency of the times shall allow.

It was at Edward VI.'s coronation that the ancient form of receiving the king's oath, prior to the recognition, was first reversed.--See the Chronological Anecdotes.

Coronations were anciently regarded as a species of parliamentary meeting between the king and his subjects. Writs of summons issued for the coronation of Edward II. are preserved in Rymer, which require the attendance of the people by their "knights, citizens, and burgesses;"

and which differ very slightly from the ordinary parliamentary writs.

Selden observes that at the coronation of Henry I. _clerus Angliae et populus universus_ were summoned to Westminster, "when divers lawes were both made and declared[39]."

The coronation oath has undergone some remarkable changes. The oath of aethelred II. dated A.D. 978, is extant both in Latin and Anglo-Saxon, and agrees exactly with that of Henry I. preserved in the Cotton Library--a proof, as Lord Lyttleton observes, that even at the Conquest it was thought expedient to respect this fundamental compact between the prince and people. In the reign of Edward II. it first a.s.sumed the interrogatory form in which it is now administered, and remained in substance the same until the accession of Charles I. In this reign Archbishop Laud was accused of making both a serious interpolation, and an important omission in the coronation oath--a circ.u.mstance which, on his trial, brought its introductory clauses into warm discussion. Our forefathers had ever been jealous of all encroachments on what some copies of the old oath call "the lawes and customes of the people," by "old, rightfull, and devoute kings graunted;" and others "the laws, customs, and franchises granted to the clergy, and to the people by the glorious king St. Edward, according and conformable to the laws of G.o.d, the true profession of the Gospel established in this kingdom," &c. They had even compelled the Conqueror to engage repeatedly that these ancient statutes of the kingdom should not be violated; a stipulation renewed expressly in the great charter of his son Henry I. Laud was charged with adding, after the clause last quoted, the words "agreeable to the king's prerogative;" and of omitting these words, "which the people have chosen or shall choose." Of the latter charge he soon disposed by proving there were no such words in the oath of James I.; and on the former he remarks, "First, I humbly conceive this clause takes off none of the people's a.s.surance. Secondly, that alteration, whatever it be, was not made by me--'tis not altogether improbable [it]

was added in Edward VI. or Queen Elizabeth's time; and hath no relation at all to the laws of this kingdom _absolutely_ mentioned before in the beginning of this oath; but only to the words, 'the profession of the Gospel established in this kingdom:' and then immediately follows 'and agreeing to the prerogative of the kings thereof,'--If this be the meaning, he that made the alteration, whoever it were, for I did it not, deserves thanks for it, and not the reward of a traitor[40]."

In James II.'s oath, as preserved by Sandford, and in which the precedent of Charles II.'s coronation was followed, we find both these alleged alterations!

On the accession of William and Mary it was enacted, that "as the [coronation] oath hath hitherto been framed in doubtful words and expressions, with relation to ancient laws and const.i.tutions at this time unknown, and to the end that one uniform oath may be in all times to come taken by the kings and queens of this realm, and to them respectively administered at the time of their coronation," the oath, of which the following is a copy, should be taken by all succeeding sovereigns.

"_Abp._ Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this kingdom of England [now, this united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,] and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the statutes in parliament agreed on, and the [respective[41]] laws and customs of the same?

_King._ I solemnly promise so to do.

_Abp._ Will you, to your power, cause law and justice, in mercy, to be executed in all your judgments?

_King._ I will.

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