Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of London, coronation, Coronation Chair, James II-VII of England, Mary II of England, Mary of Modena, Stone of Destiny, Stone of Scone, William III of Orange, William Sancroft
During the Glorious Revolution of November 1688 James II-VII, king of England, Scotland and Ireland was deposed and replaced by his daughter Mary II and her husband, stadtholder William III of Orange, the de facto ruler of the Dutch Republic. The Glorious Revolution
can be seen as both the last successful invasion of England and also an internal coup that toppled the reigning monarch.
William III, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, Stadtholder of the Netherlands with his Imperial State Crown
The Revolution ended a century of political dispute and strife between the Crown and Parliament by confirming the primacy of Parliament over the Crown, a principle established in the Bill of Rights 1689.
English coronations were traditionally held at Westminster Abbey, with the monarch seated on the Coronation Chair. Main elements of the coronation service and the earliest form of oath can be traced to the ceremony devised by Saint Dunstan for Edgar’s coronation in 973 AD at Bath Abbey. It drew on ceremonies used by the kings of the Franks and those used in the ordination of bishops.
William III and Mary II are the only co-monarchs in English/British history. They’re still the only two people to have been jointly crowned as sovereign rulers. For example, Felipe II of Spain, claimed to rule England and Ireland via the concept Jure uxoris (a Latin phrase meaning “by right of (his) wife”) which describes that a title of nobility is being used by a man because his wife holds the office or title suo jure (“in her own right”).
Despite all laws and statutes being issued jointly in Mary I and Felipe II’s name, Felipe II’s tenure on the throne ended with the death of Mary I in 1558 and he is regarded as a King Consort and not a sovereign in his own right.
Because of their joint rule their 1689 coronation posed a unique problem: the nation only had one set of coronation regalia. The original regalia had been destroyed when the monarchy had been abolished by order of Oliver Cromwell. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1661, a new set of regalia had been made for King Charles II by Sir Robert Viner.
The 1661 crown, called St. Edward’s Crown, would be used by the new King William III, but Queen Mary II — who actually had the better claim to the throne — would need a different set to use. William III of Orange was third in succession to the throne behind his wife Mary and her sister Anne. Anne allowed her place in the succession to be changed in favor of William to inherit the throne.
The consort’s regalia, which had been made in 1685 for Mary’s stepmother, Mary of Modena, was thought to be insufficient because Mary II wasn’t being crowned as a consort, she was a monarch in her own right, and she would need a set of regalia equal to that of her husband.
William III and Mary II were proclaimed joint sovereigns on February 1689. With the coronation set for April 11, 1689. The men charged with planning the coronation faced a major time crunch. Since William III and Mary II had gained the throne through revolution their supporters wanted them to be crowned as soon as possible to cement their legitimacy as monarchs.
It was an enormous task. An elaborate ceremony was planned which included a massive number of peers, and even a second wooden coronation chair for Mary had to be constructed and carved. Because of the time pressure, parts of Mary’s regalia ultimately were repurposed from Mary of Modena’s set.
During the portions of the coronation ceremony both William III and Mary II had to wear different crowns. William III was crowned with St. Edward’s Crown; Mary II was simultaneously crowned with Mary of Modena’s coronation crown.
William III also wore the Imperial State Crown made for Charles II in 1661, Mary II wore the state crown made in 1685 by Richard de Beauvoir for Mary of Modena.
That state crown is now on display at the Tower of London. While the state crown of 1685 remains today much as it was when it was made (albeit without the same gemstones), the coronation crown has been significantly altered over the centuries. It’s currently in the collection of the Museum of London, where it is displayed with imitation gemstones.
An interesting note, William Sancroft, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who typically presides over the coronation, refused to do so because he continued to support James II-VII. This fact is particularly ironic.
William Sancroft was the 79th Archbishop of Canterbury, and was one of the Seven Bishops imprisoned in 1688 for seditious libel against King James II-VII over his opposition to the king’s Declaration of Indulgence. Despite this fact he still supported James II-VII.
Although Sancroft refused to officiate the coronation of William III and Mary II he was deprived of the office of Archbishop of Canterbury but not for that reason. He was eventually deprived of his office in 1690 for refusing to swear allegiance to William III and Mary II.
In officiating the ceremony Sanford was replaced by the Bishop of London, Henry Compton.
Being crowned by another bishop is something that happened several times in the Middle Ages, but there would often be a second coronation done with the Archbishop of Canterbury of for sake of continuity and because of fears over the illegitimacy of the ceremony.
King Edward’s Chair (or St. Edward’s Chair or the Coronation Chair) has been used for the coronation of English (and British later on) since Edward II, with the exceptions of Edward V and Edward VIII, both of whom were not crowned. Mary II was not crowned in the chair as well. A second chair was constructed before the coronation for Mary to sit in.
Underneath the Coronation Chair sits the Stone of Scone, also called the Stone of Destiny.
Various theories and legends exist about the stone’s history prior to its placement in Scone. One legend place the origins of the Stone in Biblical times and identify it as the Stone of Jacob, taken by Jacob from Bethel while on the way to Haran (Genesis 28:10–22). This very same Stone of Jacob was then supposedly taken to ancient Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah.
Historically, the artefact was kept at the now-ruined Scone Abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland, having been brought there from Iona by Kenneth MacAlpin circa 841 AD. After its forced removal from Scone during Edward I’s invasion of Scotland in 1296, it was used in the coronation of the monarchs of England as well as the monarchs of Great Britain and latterly of the United Kingdom following the Treaty of Union.
Another orb also had to be created for Mary II to match the orb used by William III.
As joint sovereigns Mary II mostly deferred to William III a renowned military leader and principal opponent of Louis XIV, when he was in England. She did, however, act alone when William was engaged in military campaigns abroad, proving herself to be a powerful, firm, and effective ruler. Mary’s death from smallpox at the age of 32 in 1694 left William III as sole ruler until his death in 1702, when he was succeeded by Mary’s sister, Anne.