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As we prepare this week for the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, I cannot help but take a quick look ahead to another upcoming event. It has been announced by Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf that there will be a special “service of dedication and thanksgiving” held at Edinburgh’s High Kirk (St. Giles Cathedral) later this year, which will include the ceremonial presentation to the King of the Honours of Scotland – Scotland’s historic Crown, Scepter, and Sword of State dating to the 16th century. The Stone of Scone, sans the Westminster Coronation Chair, will also be featured after having been repatriated from its brief journey down to London for the ceremonies on 6 May. I am guessing that the service will take place during the annual Scotland Week at the beginning of July when the King and Queen take up residence at Holyrood Palace at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
Queen Elizabeth II returning the crown of the Honours of Scotland to the care of the Duke of Hamilton, in St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, during the Scottish National Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication in 1953
This summer’s service will be modeled on the service of Thanksgiving Service held for the late Queen Elizabeth II during her post-Coronation visit in 1953. As with the Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s life held in Edinburgh in last September, the dedication service will be under the direction of Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) leaders and traditional Scottish royal officers (the Lord Lyon, etc.). It will doubtless include other Christian and Interfaith leaders. The preliminary plan is for the Honours to be escorted on their short journey down the hill from Edinburgh Castle by a “People’s Procession” of about one hundred representatives chosen from around the country.
It is key to note, for all concerned, that this Scottish ceremony will not be a SECOND Coronation. The Honours themselves were last used in a Coronation in 1651, interestingly enough for the crowning of King Charles II at Scone. (Cromwell and his English Parliamentarian forces chased the young King off to Europe shortly thereafter.) King Charles III will neither wear nor bear the Honours. He will merely receive them. He will not be re-anointed, but he and Camilla will be blessed. If the model of 1953 is followed, Charles and Camilla will wear formal day dress, not formal robes and regalia.
I admit that I have rather mixed feelings about the Coronation on 6 May. The late Queen’s 1953 Coronation took place in a still-imperial context, though the Empire was already transitioning into the Commonwealth. The House of Lords was actually still the House of LORDS back then. The established Church of England involved a far greater proportion of the English people at the time. (And, the Moderator of the Kirk was at least accorded a brief walk-on role, to present a Bible to H.M.) Even so, the 1953 pageantry seemed rather archaic… and that was 70 years ago.
Since World War II, the United Kingdom has been the only European monarchy that has continued to anoint and crown its sovereigns. The last non-British coronation in Europe was for the young King Michael of Romania in 1940. Other European monarchies now use simpler ceremonies of enthronement and blessing, at most. The upcoming Scottish service will be more in that mode.
Back in September, I commented to various friends that the Thanksgiving Service for the Queen’s life in Edinburgh was “the “real funeral” as far as I was concerned. The formal State Funeral in London was historically interesting; but, for me, it was the Edinburgh service that best combined simple dignity with sincere heartfelt affection in honoring Her Majesty. I have a suspicion that may prove similarly true in a few weeks when King Charles and Queen Camilla come again to the High Kirk. The old Kings of Scots were ne’er sae pompous and grand as those down in England, and traditionally – whether they liked it, or not – they were closer to their people. After many years of observing him, I suspect that is rather more what King Charles ultimately wants for the future of the Crown, and I hope he succeeds in bringing it to pass. I wish the King and Queen well.
Ken Cuthbertson – the Laird o’ Thistle
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