This paper focuses on the functional analyses of the English coronation rites. From the 9th to the 17th century onwards there are four recensions of the English coronation service, the most interesting of which is the Liber regalis («The Royal Book»), because this recension contains the most complete and systematic description of the English coronation of the Middle Ages. Despite the fact that the different versions contain the various order of ceremonies and prayers, the core of the coronation ritual remains fixed. The first part of coronation consists of the election of a king by people and the oath taken by a king to govern justly. The second part contains the important rite of unction, and the third consists of the enthronization and delivery of the royal ornaments including crown.

The most important function of the coronation rites is an initiation because the coronation is essentially a "rite of passage", as it requires a change of social status of an individual (in this case – a pretender to the throne). Another important function is the communicative function. In this case we deal with two types of communication: 1) communication between the sacred and the profane, the purpose of which is to confirm the right of a new king to the throne and receiving the divine blessing (and for which the unction is done); 2) communication within the group taking part in the ritual, the core of which is a system of mutual vows and promises, which essentially boils down to this: the king agrees to obey the ancient laws and customs, and his subjects agree to be loyal to him.

After a functional analysis of the English coronation rituals from the 9th to the beginning of the 17th century, we came to the following conclusions:

1) Functional analysis of the ritual performed by most researchers on the material of archaic rituals, entirely suitable for the analysis of more recent (medieval) rituals. From ritual functions allocated to researchers, the vast majority manifested in the English coronation ritual.

2) The variety of functions demonstrates the high importance of the coronation rituals in the medieval society. The main functions of the coronation rituals are initiation and communication, as determined by the goals of coronation – to enthrone a new monarch, thus ensuring the reproduction of social relations of well-established models.

Key words: studies of rituals, coronation, functional analysis, history of England, sacralization of power

Download the paper (PDF)

About the author


Evgeniy O. Babintsev Postgraduate student at the Department of Philosophy of Religion and Religious Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University;

1 Leninskie Gory, Moscow, Russia, 119991; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.