Progressive Changes in the Coronation Services

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Previous page: Part 3 - Progressive Changes in the Coronation Services

It is curious and interesting to find that the Service contained in the beautiful manuscript, now in the British Museum, known as the Coronation Book of Charles V. of France (1364-80), which continued to be used as the Coronation service in France until the French Revolution, is not only based upon and preserves many of the forms of the Ethelred recension of the English Service which later dropped out of use in England, but that it is also closely allied to the contemporary English "Liber Regalis." The Services differ in arrangement, but the liturgical forms and ceremonies were almost the same in both countries.

The accession of James II. to the English throne meant a further recension of the Service, in order to adapt it to the fact that the Sovereign was a Roman Catholic. The revision was made by Archbishop Sancroft, and as a result the Communion Service was entirely omitted.

Some notes said to be in Sancroft's hand can still be seen in the "Fiber Regalis," hut his manuscript copy of the Service which he used throughout the ceremony is now preserved in the library at St. John's College, Cambridge.

The accession of King William III. and Queen Mary called for yet another revision of the Service, and this was undertaken by Flenry Compton, Bishop of London. Among other changes, the Oath was considerably altered and the Service was again - as in Saxon times - made a part of the Communion Service. The Service remained substantially unaltered throughout the eighteenth century.

After the splendid but somewhat theatrical Coronation of King George IV. there was a reaction, and King William IV. was crowned with the minimum of ceremony. The banquet in Westminster Hall after the Service was done away with and the enthronement of the Sovereign amongst his Peers in Westminster Hall on the morning of the Coronation, followed by the solemn procession on foot from the Hall to the Abbey, was also omitted, and these have never been revived.

The form of "election" by the various estates is now, therefore, confined to the "recognition" in the Abbey. The last revision was made for the Coronation of King Edward VII. It was carefully and reverently done, mainly owing to the influence of Dr. Armitage Robinson.

The most serious omission was that of the first Oblation, and the Homage was confined to the premier Peer of each order. On the other hand, various improvements were made which, although small in themselves, have had the effect of restoring to this great Service the dignity and the solemnity which were lacking in the nineteenth century.

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