Postcard depicting the coronation of King Edgar at Bath in 973, produced for the Bath Historical Pageant (1909)

Downing Fellow's new book published 

A new book by Dr David Pratt, Fellow in History at Downing, has recently been published.

English Coronation Ordines in the Ninth and Early Tenth Centuries provides new editions and translations of the two earliest texts for the rite of royal anointing in Anglo-Saxon England.

The earliest text examined in the book, the First Ordo, believed to go back to the ninth century, is the earliest surviving coronation liturgy from anywhere in the West.

Although mainly focused on the first two ordines texts, the volume includes extensive research on the pontificals in which the ordines are preserved, as well as a summary of the overall development of the English coronation rite up to the modern era.

Although the modern coronation service reflects major revisions made in the late seventeenth century, it retains several direct survivals from the Anglo-Saxon coronation liturgy. These comprise the prayer ‘O God, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love’; the anointing formula ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, who by his father was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows’; and the enthronement prayer ‘Stand firm and hold fast from henceforth the seat and state of royal and imperial dignity’; together with the anthems ‘Zadok the Priest’ and ‘The king shall rejoice’ (originally items of Gregorian chant).

Dr Pratt has a long-held interest in the coronation ordines from a historical and liturgical perspective.

“I was prompted to work on the coronation ordines for a number of reasons,” Dr Pratt said.

 “Firstly, new editions were needed of the texts in question, and it seemed appropriate to provide English translations in order to enable wider access.

“Secondly, the coronation ordines are important for the understanding of the theory and practice of Anglo-Saxon kingship.

“As has long been recognised, the Anglo-Saxon ordines were formative for the later history of the English coronation service, so casting light on the earliest ordines has implications for the overall development of the English rite.”

English Coronation Ordines in the Ninth and Early Tenth Centuries is published by the Henry Bradshaw Society.

Published 14 February 2023