Anointing the King: Hallowing Hope for the World in the English Coronation
Bond, Susan E.
Havrilak, Gregory C.
By means of her anointing, in an order of service that dates to the anointing and crowning of King Edgar at Bath in 973 as the first King of All England, Elizabeth II carries into the present age a profound theology of kingship first articulated in the early 1100s by the Norman Anonymous and more fully by John Wycliffe in the fourteenth century, in which the sovereign is the living embodiment of Christ the king: Rex imago Christi. Great Britain is the last Christian monarchy to anoint its sovereign. The thesis is that the ideal of Christological kingship continues to obtain today although in a radically different historical and political context than that of its beginnings. History and liturgical theology are the methods of approach. As a history, the paper looks to the historical context of anointing, which leads to an examination of anointing the king in the modern context. As liturgical theology, the paper examines the meaning of imago Christi as it pertains to the anointing and hallowing of the image of the human person (imago hominis) in the eternal image of Christ the king. As liturgical theology, this examines the significance of the symbols and rituals of the anointing, vesting, and crowning of the British monarch. In the beauty of holiness the coronation stirs up the hope for our humanity embedded in our birthright as human persons made in the image and likeness of God. The hallowing of anointing the monarch is the living prayer that the love of God be manifested and generously poured out on crown and kingdom. The thesis includes a discussion of the human values embedded in the crown: duty, sacrifice, and faithful love. The ideals of human rights and ruling with justice and mercy slowly grew out of this hope for holiness—generally unrecognized as such—in the leadership of an anointed monarch. Paradoxically under the impact of democracy, the tenth-century ideal of Christological kingship is well-realized in Elizabeth II.