British Coronations Project, c.973 - present
The UK stands at a crossroads. Historic events have occupied centre stage in our headlines and on our television screens. We have seen the passing of longest monarch (the late Queen Elizabeth II) and the accession of Charles III and accompanying royal proclamations. We now have a forthcoming coronation in May 2023 - the first British coronation of this century, the last having taken place at Westminster Abbey in 1953.
Royal weddings, Platinum Jubilee celebrations, award-winning films and plays – all highlight the continuing fascination with Britain’s monarchy. Scottish and Brexit referenda have stimulated re-evaluations of the Union. National identity is at stake. Precisely because they are infrequent, inaugurating reigns, coronations are momentous ritual occasions, layered with religious, constitutional, political, social and cultural meanings, in which a monarchy and its subjects project their beliefs and aspirations.
Launched in 2017 and led by Dr David Crankshaw and Dr George Gross, the ‘British Coronations Project c.973–present’ is harnessing newly discovered sources to break free from hackneyed, superficial accounts to provide an original and comprehensive analysis of what these great events reveal about our past, our present and about ourselves.
'I may now shut my eyes against any other objects ... as being sure never to see the like again in this world'.
Writing on the day of Charles II's 1661 Westminster Abbey coronation, Pepys was right! A coronation offers a spectacle like no other, bringing together in one momentous event Crown, Church and People. All societies, both ancient and modern, have taken the opportunity of a ceremonial inauguration to celebrate a new beginning. Unimaginative past approaches concentrated only on the act of crowning itself. Our work, however, shows that there was far more to a coronation than that. We bring to life the processions, anointing, oath-taking, homage and feasting, plus the remarkable celebrations held across the realm and overseas.
Starting with examples from the classical world, particularly those of ancient Egypt and Rome, our work encompasses a systematic study of English and British coronations. For the British Isles, we span the period c.973 to the present day, telling the story of these coronations in all their dimensions: politically, socially, religiously, culturally, financially, legally and constitutionally. A series of inter-related projects examines the international phenomenon of coronations in all their fascinating diversity.
Lectures & Seminars
Lecture given at the Gray's Inn History Society (29 September 2022): "The Lord's Anointed: English Coronations"
School of Public Policy seminar discussion, Constitution Unit - University College London (UCL) (4 July 2017)
Discover the story of the coronation of Charles II, the last King to be crowned at Scone.