13 unusual coronation customs from gold ingots to the threat of a duel

- Advertisement -

The intricate coronation ceremony and its celebrations comprise a host of curious customs.

Here are a few of the unusual rituals past and present which have featured in the historic occasions.

A night in the Tower of London

For hundreds of years the monarch stayed at the Tower of London two nights before the coronation.

Preparations included the creation of the Knights of the Bath – the monarch’s special escort for the coronation.

The Tower of London where the monarch used to stay before a coronation (PA)

The next day they were “dubbed” – knighted – by the monarch before escorting the sovereign in their procession from the Tower.

The monarch made their way through the City of London to Westminster the day before the coronation, seeing a series of pageants set on elaborate stages as part of the journey.

The last coronation procession from the Tower of London was Charles II’s in 1661.

Secret recipe for holy oil

The exact recipe for the oil used for the anointing of a monarch is kept a closely guarded secret.

It is usually made by the Surgeon-Apothecary and consecrated by a Bishop, with a large enough batch mixed to last a few coronations.

Queen attends multi-faith reception
The Ampulla and Coronation Spoon used for the anointing of a monarch (Matt Dunham/PA)

A new batch had to made from scratch for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.

Charles III’s holy oil was made sacred in Jerusalem, and consecrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem.

King Charles III coronation
Oils from the Mount of Olives being mixed with essential oils and blessed in Jerusalem to be used at the King’s coronation (Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Buckingham Palace/PA)

The oil is vegan-friendly, whereas the oil used to anoint Elizabeth II came from a musk deer, a civet cat and a sperm whale.

The King’s Champion

The office of King’s Champion began in the reign of William the Conqueror.

It was the Champion’s duty to ride, on a white charger, fully clad in armour, into Westminster Hall during the coronation banquet.

The King’s Champion, mounted and in full armour, at a coronation banquet (Classic Image/Alamy/PA)

Queen Victoria dispensed with traditional ride and challenge custom at her coronation, and Henry Dymoke – Queen’s Champion at the time – was made a baronet by way of compensation.

A member of the Dymoke family carried the Royal Standard at Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Francis Dymoke, a former accountant and the 34th generation of the family to run the Scrivelsby country estate in Lincolnshire, is the current champion, but is not expected to be taking to a horse for the proceedings nor demanding any duels.

Sale of coronation furniture

Throughout 20th century coronations, it was customary for chairs and stools to be specially designed for those attending and to include the royal cypher.

Royalty – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – London
Guest watching as Queen Elizabeth II walks through the Abbey (PA)

In 1953, applications could also be made to buy the carpets which covered the floor of the Abbey and for the damask frontals, with preference given to churches.

The hidden anointing

Because the anointing of a monarch with holy oil is the most sacred part of the ceremony, no-one sees it apart from the sovereign and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The King, according to tradition, will be hidden beneath a golden canopy held over his head as he is consecrated – with the anointing signalling that he has been chosen by God.


According to tradition, a monarch offers an ingot – or wedge – of gold of a pound in weight (around 450g) – worth about £18,500 for a troy pound – at the High Altar before their communion.

The monarch traditionally offers a gold bar at the altar
The monarch traditionally offers a gold bar at the altar (Alamy/PA)

A Queen Consort traditionally offers a mark weight of gold – which is eight troy ounces (250g) – and worth around £12,500.

There have been suggestions Charles will dispense with the ritual of offering ingots at his own coronation.

Handel’s coronation anthem

The dramatic, stirring Zadok The Priest has been sung at coronations in England for more than 1,000 years.

Royal Wedding plans
Schoolboys singing in the choir of Westminster Abbey (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

It is sung just before the anointing as the monarch is divested of their robe and takes their seat in the Coronation Chair for the first time.

The Stone under the Chair

Beneath the Coronation Chair will be the Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone.

The ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy – a large rectangular block of sandstone weighing more than 150kg – was seized by Edward I of England in 1296 and not officially returned to the Scots until 700 years later.

Stone of Scone 1
The Coronation Chair, containing the Stone of Destiny (Sean Dempsey/PA)

It now leaves Scotland only for coronations.

According to Scottish myth, the stone was brought to Scotland by Pharoah’s daughter Scota.

In the English version, it was the stone on which the patriarch Jacob had laid his head at Bethel and dreamed of a ladder of angels stretching from earth to heaven.

Monarchs stay at home

It is rare for foreign monarchs to attend the coronation of a British King or Queen, according to the House of Commons Library.

In 1953, the ceremony was attended mostly by crown princes or princesses – although the Queen of Tonga and a number of sultans were there.

Queen Elizabeth II funeral
Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco attending the late Queen’s funeral in 2022 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

One hundred shillings for a sword

During the service, one of the peers traditionally offers the price of 100 silver shillings for the jewelled Sword of Offering in its scabbard to symbolically redeem it.

The jewelled Sword of Offering (left) with the the Sword of State, and the Sword of Mercy
The jewelled Sword of Offering (left) with the Sword of State and the Sword of Mercy (The Picture Art Collection/Alamy/PA)

The peer then draws the sword and carries it in its “naked” form – without its scabbard – before the monarch for the rest of the service.

The intricate tapered sword, which was made for George IV’s coronation in 1821, is decorated in roses, thistles, shamrocks, with its hilt encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

Blood princes and peers

The Archbishop of Canterbury pays homage to the monarch, followed by the senior peers, with the Prince of Wales and other blood princes taking precedence.

Royalty – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – London
Queen Elizabeth II receives the homage of the Duke of Edinburgh at her coronation (PA)

It has also been suggested that the King will cut the homage of other peers – dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts and barons – from his ceremony to save time.

The ritual involves the peer placing their hands between the King’s and swearing allegiance, touching the crown and kissing the King’s left cheek.

MPs never pay homage at a coronation ceremony.


It used to be customary for a general pardon for criminals to be proclaimed during the service and read out by the Lord Chancellor.

Royalty – Coronation of George V – London
Inside Westminster Abbey during the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911 (PA)

Court of Claims

Under a 650-year-old tradition, anyone whose ancestor played a role in a previous coronation can apply for a part in the May 6 ceremony.

The Cabinet Office set up a special Coronation Claims Office to look into the ancient ritual of the hereditary right, with a deadline of just four weeks to apply.

Thirteen successful applicants have been announced so far including the Earl of Erroll, who will bear a silver baton as Lord High Constable of Scotland, and the Earl of Loudoun, who lives in Australia and applied to carry the Golden Spurs like his ancestors.

The first recorded use of the Court of Claims was in 1377, when John of Gaunt, the uncle to a 10-year old Richard II, decided who would carry out which task during the boy-king’s coronation.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.