"One of the most extraordinary scenes imaginable". That is how Dale Hoak describes a moment in the Coronation of Elizabeth Tudor, alias Gloriana, alias Bloody Bess, alias Elizabeth I.
Before the moment in the service when the new monarch swore the oath, Mr Secretary Cecil emerged from the side of the coronation stage and 'delivered' to the bishop of Carlisle, who was standing before the seated queen, a book containg the questions to be put to her.
The bishop of Carlisle was officiating at the coronation because the rest of the bishops refused, having little confidence in Bess's catholic orthodoxy.
Part of this mystery arises from the fact that we do not have the text of the oaths sworn byTudor Monarchs. These texts are securely kept in Clio's bosom.
Hoak argues that the oath sworn by Elizabeth was 'substantially' the oath sworn by the heterodox infant Edward Tudor in 1547, with an addition to the effect that in respect of the law, the sovereign was to act 'according to the laws of God, [and] the true profession of the gospel established in this kingdom.' Cranmer and Cecil are likely to have had a hand in designing this oath. Cranmer is on record as having argued that "the solemnites of coronation have their Ends and Utility", but that kings "be anointed, not in respect of the oil which the bishop useth, but in consideration of their Power, which is Ordained ... Your Majesty is God's Vicegerent and Christ's Vicar within your own Dominions".
One might, indeed, wonder why Zwinglians such as Cranmer needed a coronation service at all. My suspicion is that the Coronation was so securely integrated into the consciousness of [at least] the elite, that leaving a monarch uncrowned was deemed to be dangerous: it offered malcontents a ready-made argument for denying a monarch's legitimacy.
As far as concerns the oath, it transformed the transaction from being merely a declaratory statement or definition of the law as it was thought to exist; instead, its laws existed in their own right.
" The effect", Hoak concludes, "was to remove all limitation on the scope and authority of statute."
As so often, I a grateful to Professor Tighe for showing me this piece.