Ancient Coronation Traditions & Etiquette

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Previous page: Part 2 - Ancient Coronation Traditions & Etiquette

Of the Great Officers of State of feudal origin the two most important are the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Earl Marshal. Both offices are hereditary. The office of Chamberlain was originally granted to the family of de Vere, Earls of Oxford, in the time of Henry I., and that family being extinct in the male line, it passed to co-heirs in the female line, who, having equal hereditary rights, now perform the service in rotation or by arrangement.

The Lord Great Chamberlain's duties within the Abbey are extensive. He attends the King at the Altar during the Oath, prepares his Majesty for the Anointing, performs the monies of the Spurs and of the Girding on of the Sword, assists at other ceremonies, such as the Investiture with the Armill and the Royal Robe and at the Inthronization, and finally divests his Majesty of his Royal Robe and arrays him in his Robe of Purple Velvet with which he leaves the Abbey. For his fee and perquisite it has been claimed that the Lord Great Chamberlain is entitled to forty yards of red velvet.

The family of Howard, Dukes of Norfolk, has held the office of Earl Marshal from the fifteenth century. Prior to that the office belonged to the families of Mowbray, Bigod, and others, and has always apparently been hereditary.

The Marshal's duties in the Abbey are not so extensive on the Coronation day as are those of the Chamberlain, but his responsibilities are enormous. It is he who has organised and arranged the entire Ceremonial, has allocated the stations and seats for everyone within the Abbey, to the number of about 7000, and is held to be responsible for order in the King's presence.

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