Today is the 65th anniversary of the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey. The words of the 20th century Anglican liturgical scholar Edward Craddock Ratcliff are especially worthy of reflection as they touch upon the genius of the English Coronation Service, with its distinctive and effective homogenisation of the sacred and the secular.
‘The tradition of the English Coronation is not rigid and immutable like that of the Byzantine Imperial ceremony; without losing its individuality, it can adapt itself, or its parts, to new conditions with such signal success that we may not inaptly say of it, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Borrowing from biblical, Frankish, Roman, Byzantine, German and French sources, arranging and re-arranging these diverse elements from period to period, and adding to them from its own native inspiration, it has presented them, and still presents them to us in a remarkable unity, which is distinctively English in aspect. The Coronation Service is a mirror, as no other institution can be, in which our nation has been formed, and in which we ourselves are living to-day. It reflects the persistent English intertwining of sacred and secular, of civil and ecclesiastical. It reflects particularly the historic English conception of the mutual relations of Sovereign, Church and People, and of all three to God, Whose blessing and protection it invokes. In a word, the English Coronation Service symbolises national continuity considered sub specie Christianitatis’.
E.C. Ratcliff, 1896-1967
O God, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love: vouchsafe so to bless thy Servant our Queen; that under her this nation may be wisely governed, and grant that she being devoted to thee with her whole heart, and persevering in good works unto the end, may, by thy guidance, come to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon