Edward VI’s coronation was subjected to substantial revision and interpretation. He was the first monarch to be formally proclaimed king prior to his coronation and the Recognition and the oath were redrafted by his Privy Council. The most radical change of the ceremony was the considerably reduced role of churchmen, traditionally the intermediaries between God and the King. The ceremony itself was shortened because of the boy’s young age: instead of the usual twelve hours, it took “mere” seven.
A dais had been erected in the richly decorated Abbey. On it was a throne decorated in damask and gold, with two cushions to help raise the small King. The ceremony started with Edward VI taking his coronation oath (promissio regis) on the Sacrament – the usual form since 14th century. After taking the oath, Edward was prepared for receiving unction. From 14th century onwards two special tunic-like shirts, one of white lawn, the other of red tartaryn, were worn by the Monarch for this part of the ceremony. The antiphon “Veni Creator Spiritus” was sung during the preliminaries to anointing.
The task of divesting the King of his clothes in readiness for anointing was traditionally the prerogative of the Archbishop and/or other senior clergymen. For Edward’s coronation, the task fell to the Lord Great Chamberlain. Only two ceremonial tasks were assigned to clergymen: the Bishop or Dean of Westminster dried the anointed places with a cotton cloth and delivering the royal buskins (soft boots) and spurs to the Lord Great Chamberlain.
Edward’s anointing was surprisingly religious, so to speak, because the coronation itself generally played down the notion of the King needing any additional sanctity. Edward received both chrism and holy oil on his breast, elbows, wrists, crown and, uniquely, the soles of his feet. This very thorough anointing was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury who in his address to the King at the coronation strongly attacked the sacramental nature of the traditional consecration and unction, and denied Popes had the power to make Kings. Among other things, the Archbishop declared that the “solemn rites of coronation have their ends and utility; yet neither direct force or necessity” and that “the oil, if added, is but a ceremony”.
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