Progressive Changes in the Coronation Services

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The third recension dates from the twelfth century and is known as the Order of Henry I. The arrangement of the Service follows that of the Ethelred Order. It is found in a Canterbury Pontifical now in the British Museum. It in turn influenced the Fourth recension made in the fourteenth century, of which the best known and fullest versions are contained in the celebrated "Liber Regalis" and in the Missal of Abbot Litlyngton, both of which are preserved in the Library of Westminster Abbey.

In its earliest form this recension seems to have been used at the Coronation of Edward II., and a Norman French version of this service was found some years ago among the Muniments at the Abbey.

It is usually said that the "Liber Regalis" contains the form of the Service which was used at the Coronation of Richard II. in 1377. It may have been so, but the evidence is not entirely satisfactory.

The manuscript itself is English work dating from the last quarter of the fourteenth century, and it has been suggested that Bohemian influence can be traced in its illuminations. If this is so, it is just conceivable that it may have been prepared for the Coronation of Anne of Bohemia, which took place a few days after her marriage to Richard II. early in 1382. It is perhaps unlikely that a book of this character should have been prepared except with a Coronation actually in view.

The "Liber Regalis" is written on thirty-four leaves of vellum, with illuminated initial letters and borders. The rubrics are in red, and there are three full-page illuminations depicting the Coronations of a King alone, of a King and Queen together, and of a Queen alone. There is also an illumination depicting the tomb of a King, together with a long rubric directing what should be done on the death of the Sovereign.

The manuscript was re-bound in leather by Dean Vincent in 1806. Although it was probably made and intended for royal use, it may even have been, as Mr. Leopold Wickham Legg has suggested, the book used by the Sovereign himself during the Service. It appears to have been kept in the custody first of the Abbots and then of the Deans of Westminster. It must be remembered, however, that the Abbot or Dean of Westminster at each Coronation is, as the "Liber Regalis" calls him, "eruditor Regis", and that to him alone belongs the right to instruct the Sovereign on all points in the Service.

Other copies of the "Liber Regalis" are known to exist. They were probably used originally by those taking a prominent part in the Services. One of these, formerly in the possession of the late Sir Thomas Brooke, is now in the British Museum and appears to be closely allied to the Westminster manuscript.

Another manuscript is believed to be in the archives of Pamplona, hut its exact relation to the "Liber Regalis" has not yet been established.

A third manuscript, in the Public Library at Evora, in Portugal, has also been claimed as a contemporary copy of the "Liber Regalis." It would appear, however, that this manuscript is not earlier than the middle of the fifteenth century, and that it is concerned with Services held in the King's private chapel at Westminster. It was apparently written by William Say, who is described as "Dean of the Royal Chapel," for Alfonso V., King of Portugal (1438-81).

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