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ON venturing before the public in a department of national antiquities almost new to our language, the author feels it right to give some account of the reasons which have led to the present undertaking, and of the matter and method of the following pages.
Having some time ago met with the translation of M. Menin's Historical Treatise of the French Coronations, and derived considerable pleasure from the reading of it, he was prompted to inquire whether any book on a similar plan had been written to illustrate those of his own country. This inquiry he soon found to be fruitless; but shortly after obtaining Mr. Sandford's splendid and exact History of the Coronation of King James the Second, and a manuscript copy of the Claims exhibited on that
of Queen Anne, he was induced to look over such of his former collections as had any affinity to the subject, with a view to the compilation of a work which might in some measure supply this deficiency. In the prosecution of such a design, however, it was not in his power to advance speedily. The author believes he may say with Sir John Ferne in his Glory of Generositie, that it is now “about viij. yeeres” since his labour commenced; for, like his, it hath been rather an “intermissive delectation” than an object of regular pursuit.
It may be necessary to state that although at the time referred to no one book had been given to the public which treated generally of the ceremonies used in the inauguration of our kings, much valuable matter was scattered through the works of several of our greatest antiquaries, and the various collections of archæology, which it was highly important to examine, to collect, and to digest. This it hath been endeavoured to accomplish on a small scale in the present volume; but the design having been executed under many discouraging circumstances, the author fears he may not be justified in having
attempted it. Such as it is, however, he commits his work to the censure of the public; professing only to have used the materials within his reach to the best of his ability, and trusting that where he hath erred in judgement or expression, the error may be such as will be pardoned in an inexperienced pen.
To procede to an analysis of the subject :we may well apply to the English throne the words of a learned foreigner, “non uno gradu tam sublime solium conscendere, nec simplici actu tam ponderosam induere majestatem, poterat amplissimi imperii candidatus:" the ceremonies attending the inauguration of our kings have indeed become so numerous and complicated, that before they are displayed at length it is necessary for the reader's guidance to point out their leading and essential features, and to . divide the whole into such parts as will explain their origin and effect.
The principal acts hereafter described may be distinguisht as 1. POLITICAL, 2. FEUDAL; or as belonging to the respective characters of Sovereign and Seignor which are united in the person of the King; and the former of these is
attended with rites and ceremonies which
may be divided into civil and ecclesiastical.
1. The political act, or that in which the nation is more immediately concerned, is the most important as well as most antient part of the ceremony of inauguration. This, in our present formulary, consists in demanding the consent of the people, and in requiring the prestation of an oath from the king before he receives the crown. When the sovereign is thus acknowleged and admitted to his office, as it becomes the interest no less of the people than of the king that his person and character be adorned with the highest honour that worldly pomp and the solemnities of religion can afford, the church receives him in its sanctuary, and its ministers confirm and strengthen his authority with prayers and benedictions, accompanied by the most holy and awful rites: while, by the formal delivery of the crown, the sceptre, and the sword, he is publickly invested with the powers and prerogatives of royalty.
2. As by the constitution of the kingdom all territorial dignities and possessions are held of the king as chief lord, the accession of a new