Coronation: A History of the British Monarchy
The definitive history of coronations and the Royal Family, from acclaimed writer Roy Strong.
’What is the finest sight in the world? A Coronation.
What do people talk most about? A Coronation.
What is delightful to have passed? A Coronation.’
Horace Walpole, 1761
As a boy of sixteen, Roy Strong watched the grand procession carrying Queen Elizabeth II to her coronation. The spectacle was considered the greatest public event of the century. But now, so many years later, many people have little notion of what a coronation is and are unaware of the rich resonances of the ritual, or its deep significance in terms of the committal of monarch to people.
This book is the first of its kind – a comprehensive history that sets each coronation into its political, social, religious and cultural context. The story is one of constant re-invention as the service has had to respond to all the changes in fortune of the monarchy or the country: everything from legitimising usurpers to reconciling a Catholic rite to the tenets of Protestantism. It even had to be recreated from scratch after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. In this way, Strong tells the story of the British monarchy since the tenth century, and looks forward to the coronation of King Charles III. The musical history alone is one of extraordinary richness – involving Henry Purcell, Handel, Edward Elgar, William Walton – plus the celebratory poetry, the art and the spectacular engravings published at coronations are all explored, as is the more recent role of photographers. The book particularly concentrates on post-1603 developments, including the incredible story of the Stuarts, when the crown jewels used for hundreds of years at coronations were melted down as symbols of the hated Divine Right of Kings.
As Charles III succeeds to the throne and preparations are made for his coronation, Strong speculates as to the revisions now called for to its ritual and pageantry to meet the changes in the role of the monarchy in the twenty-first century.
”'Lavishly illustrated throughout, this is, however, much more than a coffee-table book…a beautiful and informative book.” - Sunday Telegraph
”'Strong points out in his survey of the 1,000 year history of the event…the changing significance of monarchy.” - Financial Times
”'A well organised, sympathetic and fascinating account of the central ritual of the English people. This is a serious book with a full scholarly apparatus of notes, bibliography, charts, chronologies and index…this new book fulfils a need…a model of the illustrated history genre…the design and layout are exceptionally clear and elegant…Sir Roy has been admirably served by his publishers.” - Spectator
'A fascinating and compellingly readable study… all the themes are dealt with eloquently and with wit' TLS -
”'A magnificent book, meticulously researched, never dull, and beautifully illustrated.” - Country Life