Queen’s Coronation

02/06/13 | Posted by Ian Black

Sixty years ago today, the Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey (2nd June 1953). A prayer has been issued by Westminster Abbey for use on this occasion. Almighty God, at the hands of priests and prophets you anoint your chosen servants with the oil of gladness and strengthen them with the gifts of your Holy Spirit: accept our joyful praise as with united voice we give thanks for the long and glorious reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth. Renewing your blessings, pour on her your choicest gifts, and on all your people the spirit of humility and mutual service shown in the life and death of him who is the anointed King of all, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

 Ralph Heimans’ portrait of The Queen

This prayer picks up on various themes in both the National Anthem and the anointing which takes place during the coronation service.  It seeks grace to sustain and guide in fulfilling the office.  It carries notions of service and reminds us that all authority sits under the sovereignty of God.  There is thanksgiving for a life of service.

For all the pomp and splendour of the occasion, the words of the coronation service take us to the heart of what authority is for.  The Queen was enthroned not to lord it over everyone, but in the words of the oath she took “to cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed”.  As she was given the Sword she was told to “do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the church, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order.”  It is in doing these things that she “may be glorious in all virtue” and reign.  She was given bracelets of sincerity, that she may be protected and strengthened for what was to come.  She was robed with a prayer that God would endue knowledge and wisdom, righteousness and salvation.

When the National Anthem was sounded, the first words were and are that she be gracious: ‘God save our gracious Queen’.  At the root of the word grace is gift.  It is to be so imbued with a sense of God’s gift that our hearts are filled with thanksgiving which in turn demonstrates itself in a generous spirit.  Generosity is open and welcoming, it is merciful and looks for gift in those it meets and in how they are greeted.

Majesty is not just something to be viewed in the hope some it might rub off on us.  Majesty is about dignity and being impressive.  As the oaths and commission remind us, majesty lies in upholding justice and reforming offenders, protecting the vulnerable, stopping the growth of iniquity and having spiritual values to provide focus and purpose.  The more I think about these the more I think we could do with an annual reminder of them.  Just celebrating occasions of pomp, without a reminder of the responsibilities and core values that underpin the power, does not help us very much.  The values behind these oaths matter enormously.  We have seen them under attack from extremists of all hues: those who present a different vision of Britain which is hostile and not gracious, and those who just want to attack us because they are filled with hatred; both are iniquities to be stopped. 

We give thanks today for a holder of the highest office of state in this land, who has carried out her duties in exemplary manner, who has seen this as a vocation.  Celebrating the 60th anniversary of her coronation takes us back to what actually happened at that coronation, to the oaths she made and the commission she received.  These will help us as we face the challenges in front of us: social cohesion in its many facets and social justice where no one is regarded as being collateral damage.

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