A crucial part of any Coronation is the oath that the new Sovereign takes.
Just like the ceremony itself, the oath that is part of it has changed throughout the centuries, according to historical context and the will of the Monarch.
The last big change to the oath came in 1937, when other “territories and realms” were also included in the formula, an acknowledgement of all the nations that were later known as “Commonwealth Realms”, as well as the whole United Kingdom.
So it was only the last two Monarchs before Charles III, King George VI (crowned in 1937) and Queen Elizabeth II (crowned in 1953), that were crowned as Monarchs of the United Kingdom and “the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs”.
The oath is generally administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, and has been created using the same formula since the Coronation Oath Act of 1688, written for the coronation of King William III and Queen Mary.
This new oath represented a drastic change from the past mainly on two aspects. It provided that the King should act in accordance with the Law agreed upon by the Parliament, therefore effectively making the Kingdom a parliamentary monarchy. It also changed the perspective of Church and Monarch, going from the promise to “Protect and defend the Bishops and Churches under my Government” to a more explicit oath to maintain “the true profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed Religion established by Law”.
The full oath recited by Queen Elizabeth II read:
“I solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and of my Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs.
I will to my power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all my judgements.
I will to the utmost of my power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel. I will to the utmost of my power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law. And I will maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England. And I will preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them.
The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep.
So help me God”.
With less than a month to go before King Charles III’s coronation, the public will soon find out if the “modernised” ceremony that the King is constructing will also include modifications to the oath he will take as he is crowned.