Which part of the Coronation ceremony on May 6th is required by law?

This month’s Coronation of King Charles has its origin in the crowning of Anglo-Saxon kings over 1000 years ago. Following the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, the church played an increasing role in state affairs. This was symbolised by God’s acceptance of a new king in a ceremony led by archbishops. The first recorded service was that of Edward the Elder who was crowned ‘King of the Anglo Saxons’ in 900AD at Kingston. A central part of the service was the ‘Coronation Oath’ which places an obligation on the monarch to govern according to the rule of law. In surviving documents of the time, the King’s promise’ (promissio regis) specifies that the king undertakes to maintain peace, good order and the rule of law. It is the only part of the service which today is required by law.

This is how the coronation oath of Edward, King Alfred’s son, is described in my latest historical novel King Alfred’s Daughter:

“The Archbishop turned to Edward. ‘Will you, Edward, swear to rule according to our ancient laws?’

‘I will,’ he said, projecting his voice to make sure everyone heard.

‘Will you carry out justice and enforce our laws?’

‘I will.’

‘Will you use your utmost powers to maintain the Church of the One True God.’

‘I will.’

As I listened to the oaths, I recognised the hand that had scripted them. The bishops were putting on a show to signify that God had chosen Edward to be king. If anyone disputed his authority from this day forward, they would have to answer to the Lord of Heaven.”

(from chapter 6, King Alfred’s Daughter, by David Stokes, The Book Guild, 2023)

Image from the British Library of the Promissio Regis – the Old English Coronation Oath