Cornelis de Vos. The Anointing of Solomon. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie
In the 2018 documentary featuring the late Queen Elizabeth II, it has been revealed that the oil used during Her Majesty’s coronation included sesame and olive oil, ambergris, civet, orange flowers, roses, jasmine, cinnamon, musk and benzoin. This secret formula was similar to the one used for Charles I in 1625/6. It was originally prepared from a mixture used by Peter Squire for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902, King George V in 1911 and King George VI in 1937. A phial with remaining oil, carefully hidden in the Deanery, was destroyed in a bombing raid in May 1941, so the new batch had to be made for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Peter Squire’s firm of chemists who had mixed the last known anointing oil had been purchased by a new company, Savory and Moore Ltd. They were asked by the Surgeon-Apothecary to mix a new supply, based on the ancient recipe. Savory & Moore took over John Bell & Croyden and they were in turn bought by Lloyds in 1992. To this day, the John Bell & Croyden pharmacy in Marylebone also holds two bottles of sacred oil.
In a break with tradition, the oil to be used for the upcoming Coronation of King Charles III has been consecrated in Jerusalem, at a special ceremony in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It has been created from the olive groves of the Mount of Olives and has been perfumed with similar oils to that of 1953, including sesame, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, neroli, benzoin, amber and orange blossom. This is a reference to the King’s late father, the Duke of Edinburgh, whose mother Princess Alice is buried at the Mount of Olives near her aunt, Grand Duchess Elizabeth. The choice of anointing oil from Jerusalem is also a pointer to the Abrahamic religions, with Jerusalem being a city of great importance and significance for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.