Public Domain, Wiki Commons
It’s at least six centuries old, was inscribed on vellum and is written in Latin but it’s about to play a part in the most anticipated royal event of the year. The Liber Regalis is the template for the coronation service and it will ensure that the crowning of King Charles III and Queen Camilla follows traditions that have been in use since the 14th century.
The Liber Regalis, or Royal Book, belongs to Westminster Abbey. It is an illustrated medieval manuscript that sets out what happens in a coronation service. However, who it was made for isn’t certain.
The year 1382 is widely associated with this all important book. Its gilded illustrations include the coronation of Anne of Bohemia, first queen consort of Richard II, who was crowned on January 22nd 1382, soon after her marriage to the king.
However, its purpose is very clear. It was created to provide a template for important royal events including the crowning of a king, the crowning of a king and queen consort together and the separate crowning of a queen consort. It also has details on how a monarch’s funeral should unfold.
At the time it was written, the role of Earl Marshal was already developed. This member of the royal household already had the job of organising major regal events. The role is hereditary and the Liber Regalis would become a handbook for a long line of Earl Marshals.
The Liber Regalis sets out the order of a coronation service. The stages include the Recognition, when the monarch or consort is presented to the people followed by the Oath, where they make solemn promises. The Anointing, the most sacred part of the ceremony, then follows when holy oil is used to make crosses on their heads, hands and chest. The Coronation then follows. All of this takes place within a Eucharist service.
The ceremony was first translated fully into English in the 17th century and minor alterations have followed through the years. But all coronations since the end of the 14th century have followed this pattern.
The Liber Regalis is now on show in the Diamond Jubilee Galleries at Westminster Abbey, opened by Queen Elizabeth II and her then heir, Charles. When the crown is placed on his head, in the Coronation Theatre below the Galleries, it will be in line with the instructions set out in the manuscript.