27 February 2023

CORONATIONS ... English Unction

Legg again ... "In days of Anglo-French rivalry the prestige accruing to the King of France from being anointed with this heaven-sent oil [of Clovis: see yesterday's post] was a source of much jealousy to the King of England, and we find traces of a rival story under Edward II, which ripens under Richard II into the detailed legend that the Virgin Mary had given to St  Thomas of Canterbury, when in exile, a phial of oil for the anointing of the King of England. It would seem that Richard had had ideas of being anointed a second time with oil from this phial, which was miraculously anf opportunely found at the Tower, but nothing was done before his deposition. To Henry IV the discovery of the phial was a godsend. In view of the weakness of his title to the throne, he could obtain great prestige as compared with Richard, if he could say he had been consecrated with oil from St. Thomas' holy ampulla, while his rival had not. The phial was therefore placed in a golden eagle ..."

I wonder whether this oil was used at the coronations of Bullen and of Tudor's two daughters. Objects connected with Byshop Bekyt may not have enjoyed much favour in the years between 1532 and 1552. Perhaps 'plain' Chrism was used. 

After the Great Rebellion, the regicides included the eagle-shaped ampulla in their disposal of the implements used in coronations (so a new eagle had to be made at the Restoration).

Nowadays, most Anglican diocesan bishops consecrate the customary oils, and most probably Chrism is used in the coronation. Or, perhaps, they continue the earlier Anglican custom of having oils specially blessed on the morning of the coronation by an episcopal member of the Westminster Chapter.

Does anybody know?


Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

As I understand it in 1953 the oil was consecrated by the then Bishop of Gloucester in St Edward’s Chapel on the morning of the Coronation.
May I add that a lot of books suggest the Ampulla is actually the medieval one, but very extensively reworked in 1661. This is based on the screw mechanism in the neck which is considered much earlier than the seventeenth century.
As you say for King Henry IV the oil was very much a Godsend, and eagles occur on the tester of his tomb at Canterbury as a reference to it. However the oil did apparently produce an allergic reaction on his scalp. In 1559 Elizabeth I complained about the smell of the oil, possibly suggesting it had “gorn orf”. It was not used in 1603 as James I was not anointed, having already received the sacramental at his Scottish Coronation in 1567.

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

A further thought - Legge is unfair I think to say Henry IV’s claim to the throne was weak. He was the next adult male in line, and on the basis of the letters patent of Edward III from 1376-77 which were discovered in the 1970s the direct heir. Succession to the throne had not yet achieved the precision that has been there since the seventeenth century.

Arthur Gallagher said...

I know that there is a special recipe, and that the coronation oil contains all sorts of costly ingredients. Also that some was saved after each coronation, but that Mary I refused to use "protestant" oil.

Shaun Davies said...

The late Canon Brian Brindley asked a question in the General Synod about the constituents of the oil for the Coronation. I do not remember what was said and who said it, but I do remember that Savoury and Moore (Pharmacists) in Bond Street had a part in its dispensing and making. Where does (Once I was a clever boy) the information about the Bishop of Gloucester come from ?
And I wonder if the Litany will be sung in procession before the Coronation service in May ?

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

I regret that I cannot recall which book I read that recorded the Bishop of Gloucester as the consecrating prelate in 1953. It might well be Brian Brindley’s useful “When The Queen was Crowned” published in the 1970s.

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

I think I made a typographical error of nomenclature in my last comment - the book is by Brian Barker - and not the late Canon Brindley

Shaun Davies said...

Thank you for the suggestion. I think I know the book. Anyway, the "Traddies" will not be able to complain that the blessing of the oil this time is "not valid"; there are some superb short video films of the blessing of the oil on Friday by the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

CHSIII said...

For the record: