By Baron Steffan ap Kennydd

A Coronation Service for the Kings of France, ca. 1230 translated from the Latin


The early coronation ceremonies in the Society were largely based upon fantasy and conjecture; the widely-used fealty oaths ending "until death take me or the world end" are taken verbatim from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings[1], and even today, "SCA standard" court ceremonial can normally claim little beyond Hollywood for documentation. Richard A. Jackson's recent publication of the Ordines Coronationis Franciae[2] therefore represents a potential major improvement in the source material of our coronation ceremonies. This is a compilation of all known medieval Frankish and French coronation ordines, or orders of service, in the original medieval Latin and period French.

I have chosen to translate the Ordo of Reims, Jackson's Ordo XXA. This Latin ordo from about 1230 is a significant text for both SCA and mundane scholars. It is, in Jackson's words, not really an ordo, but a modus? That is, it lacks the actual wordings of the liturgical formulas (most of which would be of little use for our purposes) but presents a framework, stage-directions if you will, for the mechanics of the ceremony. Upon this framework we may, perhaps, construct SCA coronation ceremonies more evocative of the cultures we study. It also marks a transition from Frankish to peculiarly French ceremonies, in that it provides for anointing with the holy oil from the Sacred Ampulla, said to be sent directly from Heaven by the hand of the Blessed Virgin. It also is the first ordo to call for the active participation of the Peers of France.

I make no claim that this is a perfect translation from the Latin; indeed, I eagerly invite corrections from others similarly engaged with these ordines. I hope that this will inspire both heralds and royalty to produce more authentic court ceremonial.


1. The order of anointing the king.

2. This is the order of anointing and crowning the king. There is to be prepared, first, a dais in the manner of a scaffold projecting a little, near the outer choir of the church between and beyond the choir, placed in the middle, upon which by steps one may ascend, and upon which the peers of the realm, and any who may be necessary, may stand with the king.

3. The king, now, on the day on which the coronation shall have come, must be received in procession not only by the canons but also by the other conventual congregations. On the Saturday preceding the Sunday in which the king is to be consecrated and crowned, after compline has been completed, the precincts of the church are to be committed to the guards appointed by the king, with the proper custodians of the church. And the king must at the right time of night come in silence to the church to give prayer, and in that place, if he wishes, to stand vigil a bit in prayer.

4. Now when matins is rung, the king's guards must prepare to watch the entrance of the church, whereby (other entrances of the church being bolted strongly and securely) the rest of the canons and clerks of the church, not only thereupon but also later in the day as well, should it be necessary, must be honorably and carefully admitted.

5. Matins are to be sung according to the usual custom. Which being fulfilled, prime is rung, and prime is sung, when the appearance[16] is to be made ready. After the singing of prime, the king must, with the archbishops and bishops, barons and others, who he should wish to admit, come to the church before the benediction is made; and thrones must be arranged around the altar, where may be seated honorably the bishops and archbishops, the thrones of the bishops who are peers of the realm separately across from the altar, not far from the king, nor much being improperly interposed.

6. Between prime and tierce must come the monks of St. Remigius in procession with crosses and candles, with the sacred ampulla, which the most reverend abbot must carry under a silken canopy lifted up on four poles by four monks clothed in albs. And when he comes to the church of the blessed Dennis, or, if it is more proper because of the pressing crowd, all the way to the larger door of the church, the archbishop must with the rest of the archbishops and bishops, and certainly with the canons, if it can be done, meet, or, if it should be more proper because of the confusion of the press of the multitudes outside, in any event with some of the bishops and barons, receive it from the hand of the abbot with a promise to return it in good faith, and thus carry it to the altar with the great reverence of the people, the abbot and some of the monks likewise attending, others awaiting until all should be finished and the sacred ampulla returned to the church of the blessed Dennis or the chapel of the blessed Nicholas.

7. These deeds being done, the archbishop prepares himself for the mass with the deacons and subdeacons, clothed in very distinguished vestments, and having put on a pallium. Clothed in this manner, now he comes in procession in the usual manner to the altar. To whom arriving, the king must reverently arise, standing at that place.

8. Now when the archbishop has come to the altar, he must either by himself or by some of the bishops for all the churches subject to him, ask the king that he promise and by an oath guarantee that he will respect the rights of the bishops and churches, as a king must defend the kingdom, and the other things such as are ordinarily included, where three promises and oaths to the same should be proposed, besides the oath of the Lateran Council, namely concering the expulsion of heretics from his realm. And so these things being promised by the the king and guaranteed by oaths upon the holy Gospels, all are to sing Te Deum Laudamus ["Thou, O God, We Praise"]

9. Meanwhile[3] are prepared and placed upon the altar the royal crown, the sword sheathed in the scabbard, the golden spurs, the gilded sceptre and the rod measuring one cubit or more, having on the top an ivory hand. Likewise, boots of hyacinthine[4] silk not only totally interwoven with golden lilies, but also a tunic of the same colors and work, in the style of the tunics which are worn by subdeacons at mass. And besides, in fact, a surcoat[5] of the same colors and work, which are generally made in the style of a silken cape without hood, all which the abbott of St. Denis in France must carry away from his monastery to Reims and, standing at the altar, must guard.

10. The king, standing before the altar, puts aside his clothing except for his silken tunic and shirt deeply exposed in front and behind in the breast and between the shoulders, the tunic openings mutually fastened to themselves with silver fastenings[6]. Thereupon firstly there the said boots are put on for the king by the Great Chamberlain of France. And afterwards by the duke of Burgundy the spurs are bound to his feet and at once removed. Afterwards the king is girded with a sword with scabbard, by a sole archbishop. Which being girded, immediately the same sword is drawn from the scabbard by the archbishop, the scabbard placed on the altar, and it is given to him in his hands by the archbishop, which the king must carry humbly to the altar, and immediately recover from the hand of the archbishop, and not retaining it, give it to the seneschal of France to be carried before himself, both in the church until the end of the mass, as well as after the mass when he goes to the palace.

11. And so these things being done, the chrism having been prepared on the altar on a consecrated paten, the archbishop must uncover the sacred ampulla on the altar and therefrom with a golden pin draw up a bit of the heaven-sent oil, and the prepared chrism diligently mix for the anointing of the king, by which custom he shines forth among all the kings of the earth by this glorious privelege, that he should be singularly anointed with oil sent from heaven. Thereupon the fastenings of the openings in front and back being undone, and with his knees placed on the ground, first the archbishop in the same place anoints him with oil on the top of the head. Secondly on the breast. Thirdly between the shoulders. Fourth, on the shoulders. Fifth, on the joints of the arms. And, while he is being anointed, this antiphon is sung by the bystanders: Inunxerunt Regem Salamonem ["They Anointed King Solomon"].

12. After this the fastenings of the openings for the anointing are connected, and then he is clothed by the chamberlain of France in the hyacinthine tunic, and over that the surcoat, in such a way that he has his right hand free in the opening of the surcoat, and moreover on the left side the surcoat raised as a priestly chausuble[7] is raised.Thereupon is given him by the archbishop the sceptre in the right hand and the rod in the left. Finally, the peers of the realm and bystanders having been called by name, the archbishop receives the royal crown from the altar, and solely places it on the head of the king. Which being placed, all the peers of the realm, so clergy as laity, lay a hand on the crown and support it on all sides.

13. Then the archbishop, with the peers supporting the crown, conducts the king, distinguished in such a way to his throne, covered and adorned with silks, where he places him in the high seat from where he may be seen by all. Whom sitting down in his chair in such a way, next the archbishop, having put aside his miter for respect, kisses. And after this the bishops and lay peers who support his crown. Next, during the girding of the sword, the anointing, the giving of the scepter and rod, the placing of the crown, and when he is placed on the throne, the archbishop says prayers[8] which are included in their own places in the Ordinary. And so, the king having sat down in his throne, and the peers of the realm with him supporting his crown, he returns[9] to the altar.

14. The order of anointing the queen.

15. Truly if the queen is to be anointed and crowned with the king, there is similarly prepared for her a throne on the left side of the choir, the throne of the king a bit higher, located on the right side of the choir. And after the king sits down on his throne in the aforesaid manner, the archbishop having withdrawn to the altar, the queen, dressed in silk, by the same is anointed on the head and on the breast only, not with the heaven-sent unction of the king, but with simple sanctified oil. After the anointing a small scepter is given her by the archbishop, of another kind than the royal scepter, and a rod just like the rod of the king. Thereafter a crown is placed upon her own head by a sole archbishop. Which being put on, the barons support from all sides, and thus they conduct her to the throne, where she is placed in a prepared chair, by the surrounding barons and very noble ladies[10].

16. These things being completed, the mass then finally is begun and solemnly recited by the cantor and subcantor[11], keeping the choir[12]. The Gospel, moreover, being read, the greater among the archbishops and bishops assisting, he accepts the book of the Gospels, and so to the king as to the queen, he brings it to be kissed. Thereafter, it is returned to the archbishop who celebrates the mass.

17. Now while the offertory is sung, the king as also the queen is solemnly conducted from the throne, and each offers to the hand of the archbishop not only one loaf[13] but also wine in a silver pitcher, and thirteen pieces[14] of gold afterwards.

18. Which being done, they both are returned to their thrones and chairs. Then the mass is celebrated by the archbishop; before he says Pax vobis ["Peace be with you"], he makes a benediction upon the king, the queen, and the people, and a kiss of peace being accepted from the archbishop, he who had before carried the book of the Gospels to be kissed, he gives the peace to the king and queen sitting on their thrones. And after that, all the archbishops and bishops give the kiss of peace one after the other to the king, sitting on his throne.

19. After the reception of the Eucharist made by the archbishop, again the king and queen descend from their thrones, and approaching the altar, receive the body and blood of the Lord from the hand of the archbishop. And the mass being completed, the archbishop removes their crowns from their heads. Which royal insignia having been taken off, he again places on their heads the ordinary[15] crowns. And thus they go to the palace, preceded by a naked sword.


1. Tolkien, J.R.R., Return of the King, NY, Ballantine, 1984, (73rd printing), pg. 31. [ISBN 0-345-29608-7]

2. Jackson, R.A. Ordines Coronationis Franciae [2 vols.] Phila., U of Penn. Press, 1995 [ISBN 0-8122-3263-1 and 0-8122-3542-8]

3. Meanwhile: the original Postmodum iam antea is literally "a little later even before that".

4. Boots of hyacinthine silk: the original has caligis sericis et iacinctinis intextis...liliis aureis ("boots of silk and of hyacinthine interwoven with golden lilies"). Hyacinthine is defined (at the online Merriam-Webber dictionary at as "a deep purplish blue to vivid violet". Jacques LeGoff, in discussing a slightly later ordo, refers to "the hyacinthine tunic, the color worn by the high priests of Israel which became the color of the kings of France" (making blue the color of power [and] of thesacred). (In Janos Bak, ed., Coronations: Medieval and Early Modern Monarchic Ritual, ISBN 0-520-06677-4). (Thanks to Mistress Thora Sharptooth for consultations on textiles and dyeing).

5. Surcoat: the Latin has socco, which is "slipper". That doesn't fit "in the style of a...cape without hood", and in fact, the Official French Translation, made about a century later, (Jackson's Ordo XXB) has sercot or surcot.

6. Fastenings: Ansulis, or "little handles". Perhaps "points" or "aiglettes" is meant.

7. Priestly chasuble: casula sacerdotis. XXB has la chasuble d'un prest

8. Prayers: orationes "orations".

9. He returns: ad altare revertitur. Presumably "he" is the archbishop.

10. Very noble ladies: matronis nobilioribus

11. Cantor and subcantor: cantore et succentore

12. Keeping the choir: chorum servantibus "keeping [being observant of] the choir".

13. One loaf: panem I, literally "one bread".

14. Pieces of gold: another manuscript gives besancios aureos, "gold bezants".

15. Ordinary: modicas coronas "small [or ordinary, or modest] crowns".

16. Monstrance or host

Reprinted from the Fall, 2005, issue of Arts and Sciences, a special issue of the Pikestaff,
the official newsletter of the Kingdom of the East. Used by permission.