coronation, ceremony of crowning and anointing a sovereign on his or her accession to the throne. Although a public ceremony inaugurating a new king or chief had long existed, a new religious service was added when Europe became Christianized. The service, derived from Old Testament accounts of the anointing of Saul and David by Samuel, helped to alter the concept of kingship, because anointment was thought to endow a prince with divine blessing and some degree of priestly (possibly even divine) character.
In England, from the coronation (973) of Edgar, the ceremony included a coronation oath, anointment, investiture, enthronement, and homage. The pageantry of the English coronation, which since 1066 has taken place in Westminster Abbey, is still that of medieval times. Kings of Scotland were crowned at Scone on the Coronation Stone, which, according to tradition, is the stone Jacob used at Bethel; it was the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, of early kings of Ireland, and, taken to Scotland, was used in coronation ceremonies there. In 1296 Edward I took the stone to Westminster, where it was under the seat of the coronation chair until 1996, when it was returned to Scotland and displayed in Edinburgh Castle.
In France, Pepin the Short, first king of the Carolingian line (see Carolingians, was twice anointed by popes, partly to legitimize his supersession of the Merovingian dynasty (see Merovingians). Later the French coronation came to resemble the English form, which was probably introduced into France in the 10th cent. The custom whereby the Holy Roman emperor was crowned by the pope dates from the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800. The anointing of the emperor by the pope was instituted by Louis I in 816. In 1804, Napoleon I brought Pope Pius VII to Paris to crown him in Notre Dame cathedral; but, in a famous episode, he seized the crown from the pope's hands and crowned himself.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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