From the Emperor’s Desk: Coronations in Europe were previously held in the monarchies of Europe. The United Kingdom is the only monarchy in Europe that still practices coronation. Current European monarchies have either replaced coronations with simpler ceremonies to mark an accession (e.g. Norway and Denmark) or have never practiced coronations (e.g. The Netherlands and Belgium). Most monarchies today only require a simple oath to be taken in the presence of the country’s legislature.
However, as the majority of monarchies in Europe transitioned from a form of absolutism to the form of a Democratic or constitutional monarchy they dispensed with or abolished the right of coronation.
Here is a select list of monarchies and when they abolished the coronation rite. This is not an exhaustive list but just hits some certain highlights.
The Holy Roman Empire
Since Charlemagne in 800, Holy Roman Emperors were crowned by the pope. Since 911, the various German princes had elected the King of the Germans from among their peers. The King of the Germans would then be crowned as emperor following the precedent set by Charlemagne, during the period of 962–1530.
Charles V became the last Holy Roman Emperor to be crowned by the Pope, at Bologna. His successor, Ferdinand I, merely adopted the title of “Emperor elect” in 1558. The final Holy Roman emperor-elect, Franz II, abdicated in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars that saw the Empire’s final dissolution.
Emperors of Austria were never crowned (unlike their predecessors in the Holy Roman Empire), as a coronation was not viewed as being necessary to legitimize their rule in that country.
However, they were crowned in some kingdoms within the Austrian Empire. Ferdinand I was crowned as King of Hungary with the Crown of Saint Stephen in 1830, as King of Bohemia with the Crown of Saint Wenceslas in 1836, and as King of Lombardy and Venetia with the Iron Crown of Lombardy in 1838.
After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Emperors of Austria were only crowned as King of Hungary (again with the Crown of Saint Stephen): Franz-Joseph I in 1867 and Charles I (as Charles IV of Hungary) in 1916.
In 1806, the German duchy of Bavaria was upgraded to full “kingdom” status. The former Duke of Bavaria, who now became King of Bavaria, Maximilian I, commissioned a set of crown jewels to commemorate Bavaria’s elevation. However, there was no coronation ceremony, and the king never wore the crown in public. Rather, it was placed on a cushion at his feet when displayed on occasions. The Bavarian monarchy was abolished in 1918.
The last Spanish monarchs being solemnly crowned were Juan I of Castile (1379), Fernando I of Aragon (1414), and Leonor of Navarre (1479). Joan III of Navarre was crowned as late as 1555, although she ruled Navarre beyond the Pyrenees.
After the 17th century, all Spanish monarchs have taken the royal rank by proclamation and acclamation before the Church, and since the 18th century, before the Cortes Generales, although the royal crown has been present in these ceremonies.
The current king, Felipe VI, was proclaimed King of Spain on 19 June 2014, having the following symbols displayed in front of him:
The commemorative crown (i.e. the corona tumular) bearing the marks of 1775, possibly made for the funeral of Elisabeth Farnese, queen consort of King Felipe V. The crown, made of gold-plated silver and no gems, displays the heraldic symbols of the founding kingdoms of Castile and León, with a turret and lion respectively. It was made by order of King Carlos III in Madrid.
The French coronation ritual was similar to that used in England, from 925 and above all 1066, with the coronation of William the Conqueror.
The last French royal coronation was that of Charles X, in 1825 by Jean-Baptiste de Latil in Rheims cathedral. Charles’ decision to be crowned, in contrast to his predecessor, Louis XVIII, who was not crowned, proved unpopular with the French public, and Charles was ultimately overthrown in a revolution in 1830. His successor, Louis Philippe I, opted not to have a coronation. The French government broke up and sold off most of the French Crown Jewels after 1875, in hopes of avoiding any further royalist agitation against the newly restored republic.
Although Greece retains a set of crown jewels given to it by its first king, Otto I, no King of Greece was ever crowned with them. All monarchs apart from Otto took office by a swearing-in ceremony in front of the Greek Parliament, until the Greek monarchy was abolished in 1974 by a referendum.
The coronation of the Danish monarch was a religious ceremony in which the accession of the Danish monarch was marked by a coronation ceremony. It was held in various forms from 1170 to 1840, mostly in Lund Cathedral in Lund, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Copenhagen and in the chapel of Frederiksborg Palace in Hillerød.
In 1660 the coronation ritual was replaced with a ceremony of anointing: the new king would arrive at the coronation site already wearing the crown, and he was then anointed.
This rite was in turn abolished with the introduction of the Danish constitution in 1849. Today the crown of Denmark is only displayed at the monarch’s funeral, when it sits atop their coffin. The present queen, Margrethe II, did not have any formal enthronement service; a public announcement of her accession was made from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace, with the new sovereign being acclaimed by her prime minister at the time (1972), Jens Otto Krag, then cheered with a ninefold “hurrah” by the crowds below.
The first coronation in Norway, and Scandinavia, took place in Bergen in 1163 or 1164. The Christ Church (Old Cathedral) in Bergen remained the place of coronations in Norway until the capital was moved to Oslo under King Haakon V. From then on some coronations were held in Oslo, but most were held in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.
In 1397, Norway, Sweden and Denmark united in what is referred to as the Kalmar Union, sharing the same monarch. During this period the kings were crowned consecutively in each of the three countries until the union was dissolved in 1523. Following this dissolution, Norway entered into a union in 1524 with Denmark which would eventually evolve to an integrated state that was to last until 1814. No coronations were held in Norway during this time. Meanwhile, the monarch underwent a coronation and later, with the introduction of absolutism in 1660, an anointing ceremony in Denmark.
In 1905, the personal union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Haakon VII was subsequently elected Norway’s monarch. Haakon and his wife Queen Maud (daughter of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom) were the last to be crowned in Nidaros Cathedral in 1906. Following this, the constitutional provision requiring the coronation was repealed in 1908. Thereafter, the monarch has only been required to take his formal accession oath in the Council of State and then in the parliament, the Storting.
King Olav V, desiring a religious ceremony to mark his accession to the throne in 1957, instituted a ceremony of royal consecration, known as Signing til kongsgjerning. This “blessing” rite took place again in 1991, when King Harald V and Queen Sonja were similarly consecrated. Both consecrations were held where the coronation rite had formerly taken place: Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.
Prussia and the German Empire
Only two kings of Prussia actually had a coronation.
King Wilhelm I was crowned in 1861 as King in Prussia, prior to the establishment of the German Empire (1871). He was crowned with great pomp, becoming the first king to be crowned in Prussia since the coronation of King Friedrich I in 1701. A significant number of politicians opposed the idea. Wilhelm I took the crown with his own hands from the altar and crowned himself, while saying that he was receiving the crown from God’s hands. These words were intended as a warning to Prussian Constitutionalists and Liberals.
Both coronations took place at the church at Königsberg Castle having been the last capital of the Ordenstaat, and capital of the Duchy of Prussia.
The King of Prussia was also Emperor of Imperial Germany from 1871 to 1918. Although a design and model for a German State Crown were made, no final diadem was ever produced, and none of the three German emperors were ever formally crowned.
The Crown of Wilhelm II, also known as the Hohenzollern Crown, is the 1888 crown made for Wilhelm II, German Emperor, in his role as King of Prussia. It was only used for heraldic purposes.