On the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, yesterday, I read through the order of service which is fascinating. The service reflects the values of the age, especially the strong relationship between church and monarchy and the preeminence of the bible in matters of law, society and government.
The service began with the entrance, the recognition of the queen and her oath, in which she said the following:
Archbishop: Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?
Queen: I will.
Archbishop: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel?
Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?
Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?
And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?
Queen: All this I promise to do.
Following the oath, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland presented the Queen with the bible.
V. The Presenting of the Holy Bible
When the Queen is again seated, the Archbishop shall go to her Chair; and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, receiving the Bible from the Dean of Westminster, shall bring it to the Queen and present it to her, the Archbishop saying these words:
Our gracious Queen:
to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God
as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes,
we present you with this Book,
the most valuable thing that this world affords.
And the Moderator shall continue:
Here is Wisdom;
This is the royal Law;
These are the lively Oracles of God.
Then the service of communion began.
The striking aspect of the service is the preeminence given to the bible as the rule of law. The words of the oath and the presentation of the bible reflect the theology of Scottish theologian Samuel Rutherford in his seminal work, Lex Rex (God’s law is King). Rutherford’s work was burned in Edinburgh and St Andrews by the monarchy of his day, in 1661, and Rutherford was arrested for High Treason and died in prison before his trial. Yet, in subsequent generations, his view of the rule of law came to be established and was enshrined in the Coronation service.