Coronation Anecdotes Part 4

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[Footnote 40: Wharton's Troubles of Archbishop Laud, p. 324.]

[Footnote 41: Inserted on the union with Scotland, in 1707.]

[Footnote 42: In the oath recently taken by His Majesty the latter members of this clause, read 'within England and Ireland, and the territories thereunto belonging.']

[Footnote 43: Stow's Annals.]

[Footnote 44: In France we read of the exaltation of king Pharamond on a s.h.i.+eld, so early as the year 420; of the chairing of Gunbald, king of Burgundy, A.D. 500, in which that prince fell from the supporting arms of his subjects, nearly to the ground; and of king Pepin being elevated on a target in 751. (Greg. Turon. Hist. lib. vii. cap. 10. Mezeray Hist.

de Pepin, &c.) In Navarre, the king and queen, after being anointed, were thrice elevated before the altar on a s.h.i.+eld emblazoned with the arms of the kingdom, and upheld by six staves.]

[Footnote 45: Thus in the ordo of Henry VII.'s coronation; "the cardinal," it is said, "sitting, shall anoynte the king, kneeling."--IVE'S _Papers_.]

[Footnote 46: Vide Taylor's Additional Notes, p. 347, &c.]

[Footnote 47: It will complete the sketch of the history of an inst.i.tution closely connected with our subject, to observe, that George I. on restoring it in 1725, const.i.tuted it a regular military order of thirty-six companions and one grand-master, having as officers a dean, genealogist, king at arms, register, secretary, usher and messenger; and a seal, on one side of which is the figure of the king on horseback in complete armour, the s.h.i.+eld azure and three imperial crowns with the circ.u.mscription, _Sigillum Honoratissimi Militaris Ordinis De Balneo_; and on the reverse the same, impaling the royal arms.

The badge of the order exhibits a happy specimen of the art of moulding old inst.i.tutions to modern purposes. It consists of a rose, thistle and shamrock, issuing from a sceptre surrounded by three imperial crowns, enclosed within the ancient motto _Tria juncta in uno_. Of pure gold chased and pierced, it is worn by the knight elect pendant from a red riband across the right shoulder. The collar is also of gold, weighing thirty ounces troy, and is composed of nine imperial crowns, and eight roses, thistles, and shamrocks, issuing from a sceptre, enamelled in proper colours, tied or linked together with seventeen gold knots, enamelled white, and having the badge of the order pendant from it. The star consists of three imperial crowns of gold, surrounded by the motto upon a circle of red, with rays issuing from the silver centre forming a star, and is embroidered on the left side of the upper garment.

The installation dress is a surcoat of white satin, a mantle of crimson satin lined with white, tied at the neck with a cordon of crimson silk and gold, with gold ta.s.sels, and the star of the order embroidered on the left shoulder; a white silk hat adorned with a standing plume of white ostrich feathers, white leather boots, edged and heeled, spurs of crimson and gold, a sword in a white leather scabbard with cross hilts of gold. Each knight is allowed three squires, who must be gentlemen of blood, bearing coat armour, and who are ent.i.tled during life to all the privileges and exemptions enjoyed by the esquires of the sovereign's body, or the gentlemen of the privy chamber.

We need hardly add, that both in the number of knights and the brilliancy of its appearance, this order maintained its full splendor at the coronation of the fourth sovereign of the House of Brunswick.]

[Footnote 48: Johnes' Froissart, v. 12. p. 160, 1.]

[Footnote 49: King Richard II.]

[Footnote 50: Rot. Parl, vi. 278.]

[Footnote 51: Lingard's History of England, v. iii. p. 662, 3.]

[Footnote 52: Ives' Coronacion of Queene Elizabeth, p. 120.]

[Footnote 53: Ives' Coronacion of Queene Elizabeth, p. 120.]

[Footnote 54: Hall's Chronicle.]

[Footnote 55: Hall's Chronicle, Henry VIII.]


The a.s.sistant offices of the coronation are, for the far greater part, ecclesiastical or hereditary. They are connected therefore with all the religious changes, and family honours of the empire. The n.o.bility bear in person a part in the royal day, and approach and actually touch that crown, from which, as the fountain of honour, they seem to renew, and re-invigorate, their most ancient claims to distinction: while the metropolitan of the English Church enjoys the exclusive right of consecrating and crowning the monarch.

As early as the Norman Conquest, this privilege of the see of Canterbury is spoken of as well-established; and but two subsequent instances occur of its being overlooked or denied: both remarkably a.s.sociated with the history of the papal power in this country[56]. In the first, that of the coronation by the archbishop of York of prince Henry, son of Henry II., may be traced the incipient cause of the of archbishop Becket, whose martyrdom became conducive to the highest triumphs of that power: in the second, queen Elizabeth's coronation by Oglethorpe, bishop of Carlisle, and the refusal of all the other prelates to a.s.sist in the ceremony, we behold its dying struggles for a dominion never more to be renewed.

Mr. Lingard, who, as a Catholic, may be supposed to state these transactions with a sufficient leaning to his own church, as expressly connects the murder of Becket with a jealousy on this subject as any other of our historians. Henry II. had employed the known enemy of the archbishop, Roger of York, in the consecration of his son above alluded to; but the primate and the king met on friendly terms at Rouen, in the following month; they compromised their differences; and the former set out on his return to his diocese. The Pope, however, "before he heard of the reconciliation, had issued letters of suspension or excommunication against the bishops who had officiated at the late coronation." The archbishop had at one time resolved to suppress these letters, our historian admits; and surely it was now an imperative duty so to do. But the prelates concerned, it seems, who knew that he carried them about him, had a.s.sembled at Canterbury, and sent to the coast Ranulf de Broc, with a party of soldiers, to search him on his landing, and take them from him. Information of the design reached him at Witsand: and "in a moment of irritation," says Mr. L., "he despatched them before himself by a trusty messenger, by whom, or by whose means, they were publicly delivered to the bishops in the presence of their attendants. It was a precipitate and unfortunate measure, the occasion, at least, of the catastrophe that followed."

The prelates hastened to Normandy to demand redress and protection from the king; who, irritated by their representation, exclaimed: "Of the cowards who eat my bread, is there not one, who will free me from this turbulent priest?" and the blood of Becket flowed a few days after in reply. When he asked one of his, "What is thy object?" he was told that he must instantly absolve the bishops--"Till they offer satisfaction, I will not," said the primate. "Then die," exclaimed his murderers, and closed around him[57].

The _Lord Great Chamberlain's_ office commences with carrying the king his s.h.i.+rt on the morning of the coronation, and a.s.sisting the chamberlain of the household to dress his majesty. Queens regnant depute this office to some of the ladies of the household: we are told that the celebrated d.u.c.h.ess of Marlborough last enjoyed it, at the coronation of queen Anne.

The office gives a claim to all the furniture of the royal chamber, in which its duties begin. The idea of our ancestors was, that the coronation, and particularly the consecration of a king, conferred new honours and talents of the most sacred and extraordinary description. He was now made a new man, and elevated into a new order of beings;

"Consideration, like an angel, came And whipt the offending Adam out of him; Leaving his body as a paradise, To envelope and contain celestial spirits[58]."

Hence every part of his office was new and kingly. Froissart describes the consecration of Henry IV. immediately after the recognition, thus: "after this the duke descended from his throne, and advanced to the altar to be consecrated. This ceremony was performed by two archbishops and ten bishops: he was stripped of all his royal state before the altar, naked to his s.h.i.+rt, and was then anointed and consecrated in six places; that is to say, on the head, the breast, the shoulders, before and behind, on the back and hands: they then placed a bonnet on his head; and while this was doing, the clergy chaunted the litany, a service that is performed to hallow a font[59]." The lord chamberlain is official governor of the palace for the time being, and the personal attendant of the king.

The _Lord High Constable_ also attends the royal person, a.s.sists at the reception of the regalia from the dean and chapter of Westminster, and, together with the earl Marshal, ushers the champion into the hall.

_Of the Royal Champions.h.i.+p._

Whether we consider its uninterrupted exercise, and that by one family, for so many centuries, its feudal import, or its present splendid and imposing effect, the office of champion certainly eclipses all the other services of the coronation.

Since the coronation of Richard II. A.D. 1377, (of which there is in Walsingham a detailed account) this office has been performed by a Dymoke, the head of the family of that name who have held the manor of Scrivelsby in Lincolns.h.i.+re, worth about 1200 per annum, by the tenure of this service. During the reigns of Edward II. and III. the right was in dispute: prior to that period and from the days of the Conqueror it was vested in the far-famed family of MARMION, whose chief, as

"----Lord of Fontenay, Of Lutterworth and Scrivilbaye, Of Tamworth tower and town,"

came from Normandy with William, and is there supposed to have held the first of these possessions, on condition of performing the service of champion to the successive dukes.

At the conquest the feudal system was established in England in its maturest and strictest forms; and the present office being the most perfect relic of that system known to modern times, a slight sketch of its peculiarities will not be uninteresting.

The foundation of all the subsequent customs of homage, suit, service, purveyance, &c. is to be traced in the original connexion between the va.s.sal and his lord, or the chief and his retainers, which Tacitus notices as remarkable in ancient Germany. According to this, every follower was to be found fighting by the side of his chief in time of war, as the very first duty of social life--and in time of peace to look up to him as the only legitimate fountain of honour and justice.

Certain it is, that this relation was, in substance, as well known and supported by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, before the accession of William, as it was by our Highland neighbours, down to the rebellion in 1745. A striking instance of the romantic and desperate courage to which it gave rise occurs as early as the reign of Cynewulf, king of Wess.e.x, A.D. 784.

Sigebircht, the deposed predecessor of this prince, was, in the first year of his rival's reign, found murdered in the forest of Andreswald: but left a brother, of the name of Cyneheard, who cherished for thirty-one years the secret purpose of avenging his death. At last he returned, with eighty-four retainers, into the neighbourhood of Winchester, the royal residence; and, tracing the king to a country seat at Merton, the abode of a favourite lady, surrounded the house at midnight. Cynewulf was quickly roused; but his followers were scattered throughout the place, and could not be collected until, after a brave personal conflict with the enemy, the king's life-blood had satiated his vengeance. Cyneheard now offered the royal train their liberty and possessions, on condition of their peaceable departure; but they rejected his proposals with scorn, and to a man died on the threshold of their master. On the intelligence reaching the court, in the morning, Osric and Wavirth, two powerful chieftains, surrounded themselves with their va.s.sals, and rode to Merton, where they were met by Cyneheard, with professions of friends.h.i.+p. He called their attention to the injuries of his family, the duty of avenging which had devolved upon himself; urged his claim to the vacant throne; made them the most liberal offers, in case of their acknowledgment of him; and concluded by reminding them, that many of his adherents were their own near kinsmen.

"Our kinsmen," they indignantly answered, "are not dearer to us than was our lord. To his murderer we shall never submit. If those who are related to us wish to save their lives, let them depart." "The same offer," rejoined the followers of Cyneheard, "was made to the attendants of the king, who refused it. We will prove to-day that our attachment is equal to theirs:" and Cyneheard, and all his adherents except one, were slain[60].

But the Conqueror, owing his crown to the sword, more strictly adapted the system which he found in use to his own military notions and future safety. Having divided all the estates of the country amongst his va.s.sals, he converted the English military tenures into a regular obligation, called knights' fees, which compelled each tenant in chief to have a certain number of knights, or hors.e.m.e.n, always ready to a.s.sert the rights of the crown, and to fight under its banner, in any cause, "We will," says a law on this subject, yet extant, "that _all_ the freemen of our kingdom possess their lands in peace, free of all tollage and unjust exaction: that nothing be required or taken from them but their free service, which they owe to us of right, as has been appointed to them, and granted by us with hereditary right for ever, by the common council of our whole kingdom." "And we command that all earls, barons, knights, serjeants, and freemen, be always provided with horses and arms as they ought; and that they be always ready to perform to us their whole service, in manner as they owe it to us of right, for their fees and tenements, and as we have appointed to them by the common council of our whole kingdom, and as we have granted to them in fee a right of inheritance[61]." This free service required the due quota of hors.e.m.e.n, which each va.s.sal was to furnish, to come, completely armed, on his requisition, and to be maintained under the royal command, at the charge of the party sending them, for forty days. Even the dignitaries of the church, and monastic bodies holding lands, were not exempt from this service.

Each tenant in chief subdivided his property into sub-va.s.sals.h.i.+ps, imposing a similar service, and carrying downwards all the obligations of homage, fealty, and personal attendance on all important occasions.

Out of such a system, that a favoured va.s.sal should be selected to a.s.sert the personal right of the monarch to his throne, will appear very natural: it is only surprising that the violence and constant habit of appealing to the sword, in which this with the other feudal claims originated, should have left it to flow on in such an uninterrupted course--a course of succession far more regular than the transmission of the crown it is supposed to defend.

The champions.h.i.+p is connected also with a remarkable feature of ancient jurisprudence, the wager of battle, recently abolished. This was regarded as an appeal to the judgment of _G.o.d_; and succeeded, at the Conquest, the fires and other ordeals of our ancestors, which the Normans affected to despise. The reader, however, may be disposed to conjecture, that as much of the divine interposition might be expected to decide the healing of a burn or scald, as the issue of a battle. The older custom was for the accused to plunge his hand into a cauldron of boiling water, and take out a stone or piece of iron of a given weight; the depth of the vessel being proportionate to the magnitude of the crime charged: or for him to seize, at the end of a religious service, a bar of iron placed on a fire at the beginning of the service, and run over a certain length of ground with it: the method in which the wounds healed, in either case, being the criterion of guilt or innocence.

The wager of battle was certainly of more splendid pretensions, and was introduced at first with these stipulations. If the opposite parties were countrymen, they were to follow their national customs, whatever they were; if the appellee were a foreigner, or of foreign descent, he might offer wager of battle, and on its being declined, purge himself by his own oath and that of his witnesses, according to the Norman law; or if a native of the country, he might have his choice of the trial by ordeal or by battle.

The solemn feelings and great religious sincerity with which our forefathers regarded combats of this description, cannot be more powerfully or more accurately depicted, than in the memorable combat scene of IVANHOE:--

"The draw-bridge fell, the gates opened, and a knight, bearing the great standard of the order, sallied from the castle, preceded by six trumpets, and followed by the knights preceptors, two and two, the grand master coming last, mounted on a stately horse, whose furniture was of the simplest kind. Behind him came Brian de Bois Guilbert, armed cap-a-pee in bright armour, but without his lance, s.h.i.+eld, or sword, which were borne by his two esquires behind him.--He looked ghastly pale, as if he had not slept for several nights, yet reined in his pawing war-horse with the habitual ease and grace proper to the best lance of the Order of the Temple. His general appearance was grand and commanding; but looking at him with attention, men read that in his dark features from which we willingly withdraw our eyes.

"On either side rode Conrade of Mont Fitchet and Albert de Malvoisin, who acted as G.o.dfathers to the champion. They were in their robes of peace, the white dress of the order. Behind them followed other knights companions of the Temple, with a long train of esquires and pages, clad in black, aspirants to the honour of being one day knights of the order."

After these walked the accused in a coa.r.s.e white dress, surrounded by wardens in sable livery.

Coronation Anecdotes Part 4

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