Religious Lessons And Symbolism From A King’s Coronation

May 5, 2023

Paul Marshall, RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Director, wrote a piece published in Religion Unplugged today in which he considers the religious elements and symbolism of the upcoming coronation ceremony for King Charles III this weekend. Marshall reflects on “the deep meaning of this ceremonial installation of a new king,” writing:

Above all else, the coronation of this King is a worship service, held in Westminster Abbey and presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is an explicitly Christian worship service, though it will have participants from many religions. Rishi Sunak, the U.K. prime minister and a serious Hindu, will read from the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, a text that more than any other proclaims the lordship of Christ over all creation. Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other Hindu leaders will also take part. Prayers will be recited in Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic, as well as English. 

The monarch will be presented with the Sovereign’s Scepter, which bears a cross, as does the Sovereign’s Orb, and he will be crowned with the St. Edward’s Crown. During the coronation ceremony, the Sovereign’s Orb is typically carried in the monarch’s left hand, while the scepter, which represents the monarch’s temporal authority, is carried in the right hand. Together, the two objects symbolize the monarch’s dual role as both a religious and a temporal leader. While briefly hidden behind a screen, he will be anointed with holy oil in explicit imitation of the anointing of Solomon by Zadok the priest, recounted in 1 Kings 1:39. This verse will be quoted and, as put to music by Handel in 1772, will be sung as the anointing takes place.

As Tom Holland writes: “Charles III will share in a ritual that originally marked out the kings of Israel — Saul and David and Solomon — as the adopted ones of God.” The ceremony acknowledges that power, including political power, comes from God.”

Read the full article: “Religious Lessons And Symbolism From A King’s Coronation.