Bath Voice Feature: when Bath witnessed the Coronation of the new King – the only time when Westminster Abbey was not used to anoint a new monarch

By Harry Mottram: It seems highly unlikely that anyone today in Bath is old enough to recall the events of 973 since it was several hundred years ago but if they could via a time machine they would have witnessed the Coronation of King Edgar (pictured). The event took place several years after he became the head of state of Mercia and most of the Danelaw in 957. He took over as King of Wessex two years later when his brother died thus becoming monarch of most of what we call England. It was only after the nation was roughly consolidated that he had his coronation in 973.

What the coronation looked like we are unsure of but it clearly had a strong religious content based on elements of the Bible and the ceremonies for Frankish Kings since it was held in the Abbey and Edgar was involved in the development of the monastic movement. The Arch Bishop of Canterbury Dunstan was the officiate at the ceremony thus setting a tradition that has continued ever since.

Like our own monarch Edgar appears to have had a colourful love life as he either was married three times or had three consorts – there is conflicting evidence as to the facts although most agree he was married to Ælfthryth when he was crowned in 973. There was no mass media then so we don’t know who got invited, how long the service was or if Ælfthryth was titled Queen Consort or simply Queen Ælfthryth.

We can be sure, just like today, a considerable amount of preparation and etiquette was involved despite it being an era of warfare as England struggled with the Danes and others as to who ruled the country.

On the subject of King Charles’ Coronation Buckingham Palace has issued this statement: “The Coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort will take place at Westminster Abbey on Saturday 6th May, 2023.

“The Service will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. As previously announced, the Service will reflect the Monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in long standing traditions and pageantry.”

These long standing traditions can be traced back to King Edgar and Dunstan although there were coronations or at least crownings to signify a new King before that such as the one at Winchester a century before. That was when King Alfred was crowned in 871 as monarch although he had his work cut out to battle with the Danes who occupied much of the East of the country. Sadly the coronation of King Edgar was to be Bath’s only Royal succession held at the Abbey, as London’s increasing prominence grew as the capital of England. In 1066 almost a century later King Harold had himself crowned at Westminster Abbey to out manoeuvre William of Normandy – who went to London after defeating Harold at Hastings to have himself crowned at the same Abbey.
Since then Westminster has been the place for coronations. Edgar died just two years after his crowning and was eventually buried in Glastonbury.

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