April 23 (1661) was the date of the Coronation of King Charles II; the return of Merry England marked by a Coronation on the Feast of S George, Patron of the Realm. After His Majesty's death, his brother James fixed his Coronation (1685) for the same date (and I am sure that a political point was being made when 'Queen Anne' did the same).
But the Coronation of King James VII & II offered a complication. The form of the English Coronation Service, laid out in a venerable liturgical book called the Liber Regalis, kept at Westminster Abbey, retained the old Catholic structure of a Coronation inserted into a non-communicating Pontifical High Mass. (Apart from the Celebrant, he only Communicant was the Sovereign, and, if he had one, his Consort.) The celebrant was, normally, the Archbishop of Canterbury; deacon ('Gospeller') and subdeacon ('Epistoler') were senior diocesan bishops.
All well and good. But since the Schism which Bloody Bess perpetrated (incidentally, after her Coronation by Catholic rites and lawful Catholic bishops), the Eucharistic Rite had been the new Anglican one. James VI & I; Charles I; Charles II had all thus been crowned. And the Celebrant, who also performed the Anointing and the Crowning. was a prelate not in communion with the See of Rome.
And, in 1685, the new King was a Catholic.
They tried to persuade him that, since the Eucharist was an integral part of the ceremony, he should receive Holy Communion according to the Anglican Use. But he resisted; and, on April 23, for the only time in history, a King of England was crowned according to a rite which excluded the Eucharist.
You may or may not have have found all that interesting. But here comes the really intriguing bit.
There have been persistent rumours that King James had himself crowned privately according to Catholic rites, before his 'Anglican' Coronation.
Where? No problem there. Despite the Schism, most Queens Consort had been Catholics, and, just to the North of S James's Park, there is the Chapel Royal of the Queen (built by Inigo Jones). So there was a Royal Catholic Chapel fully equipped with clergy and other necessary persons and appurtenances.
By whom? This is the dodgy bit. At that time there was no Catholic Bishop in England.
Andrew Barclay's doctoral thesis on King James' Household alludes to notes by a Benedictine called Ralph Benet Weldon. He claimed that the King, and Queen Mary of Modena, were anointed and crowned in private by a Capuchin priest called Mansuet, using oil sent from Rheims by Louis XIV (British Library Additional Manuscript 10118, folio 93).
A lovely idea. But it worries me. Kings should be crowned by Bishops, both in the traditions of the English Monarchy and according to the Post-Reformation Pontificale Romanum.
I find it hard to believe that a mere presbyter took it upon himself to do a full Coronation Service, according to either of those two rites.
Might he have simply anointed King James, on the grounds that the anointing in Westminster Abbey was going to be invalid?
Or, possibly, the information is a garbled version of information to the effect that King James received Holy Communin from Fr Mansuet (of course, reception of Holy Communion by layfolk was not very common among Catholics at that time and might therefore have been noticed).
It would be interesting to know if there is any other evidence which does not come ultimately from the Weldon-source.