Reading the West Frankish Coronation Liturgy, pt. 1: Hincmar’s Ordo for Louis the Stammerer (877)

[n.b.: the numbering follows the edition. Headings 1-9 are the version found in the Annals of Saint-Bertin, which has been translated by Janet Nelson; the text translated here is a separate one found in a manuscript from Liège.]

10. The bishops’ petition
“We ask you to grant to us, that you will conserve for each of us and the churches committed to us (in accordance with the first chapter which your father Emperor Charles very recently announced at Quierzy would be conserved by him and by you, with the assent of his faithful and yours, and the legates of the apostolic see, as read by Gozlin) canonical privilege and due law and justice, and provide defence, as a king ought rightly to provide in his realm to each bishop and the church committed to him.”

11. The king’s promise.
“I promise and grant to you, that I will conserve for each of you and the churches committed to you (in accordance with the first chapter which my father Emperor Charles very recently announced at Quierzy would be conserved by him and by me, with the assent of his faithful and Ours, and the legates of the apostolic see, as read by Gozlin) canonical privilege and due law and justice, and provide defence as far as I can, with the Lord’s help, as a king ought rightly to provide in his realm to each bishop and the church committed to him.”

12. The blessings made over King Louis.
13. “O God, Who takes care of the people by thy virtue and rules them with love, give to this man, thy servant N., the spirit of wisdom, with the guidance of instruction, so that he, wholeheartedly devoted to thee, might always remain worthy in guiding the realm; and so that during his reign the security of the church might be steered with thy defence, and Christian devotion might endure in tranquillity. Through the Lord.”

14. The infusion of sacred oil.
“O eternal God Almighty, creator and governor of Heaven and Earth, maker and manager of angels and men, king of kings and lord of lords, thou Who caused thy servant Abraham to triumph over his foes, gave many-fold victories unto Moses and Joshua, who were set above thy people; and elevated thy humble child David to the peak of the realm, and freed him from the mouth of the lion and the claw of the beast and Goliath, and from the wicked sword of Saul, and all his enemies, and enriched Solomon with the ineffable gift of wisdom and peace, hear our humble prayers we beseech thee, and adorn this man, your servant, with the virtues with which thou adornest thine aforesaid faithful and the blessing of many-fold honour, and place him sublimely in control of the realm, and anointed him with the oil of thy Holy Spirit’s grace, with which thou hast anointed priests, kings, prophets and martyrs, who conquered kingdoms through faith and did works of justice and received promises. Let its most holy unction flow upon his head, and descend within him, and enter into his innermost heart; let him be by thy grace made worthy by the promises which the victorious kings received, so that he might happily reign in the present age and reach their company in the Kingdom of Heaven. Through our lord Jesus Christ, thy son, who was anointed with the oil of joy before his fellows and vanquished the powers of the air with the virtue of the Cross, who destroyed Hell and overcame the Devil’s kingdom, and rose victorious to Heaven, in whose hand all victory, glory, and power consist, and who lives and reigns with thee, God in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.”

15. The coronation.
“May the Lord crown thee with a crown of glory and justice, with honour and works of fortitude, that through the office of our blessing, with correct faith and the many-fold fruit of good works, you might reach a crown of the realm everlasting, by the largess of Him Whose realm and empire endures forever and ever, amen.”

16. The handing-over of the sceptre.
“Take this sceptre, sign of royal power, to wit, the rightful rod of the realm, the rod of the virtue with which thou mayest rule thee thyself and the holy Church; that is, defend with royal virtue the Christian people committed to thee by God from the unrighteous, correct the corrupt, direct the righteous that they might hold to the right path by thy aid, so that you might go from a worldly kingdom to the Kingdom Eternal, by aid of Him Whose realm and empire endures without end, forever and ever. Amen.”

17. Blessings.
“May the Lord God Almighty, who said to his servant Moses, ‘Speak unto thy brother Aaron, and say to his sons, “On this wise ye shall bless my people”, and I will bless them’, bless thee and keep thee. Amen.”
18. “May He shine His face upon thee, and have mercy upon thee. Amen.”
19. “May He turn His face to thee, and gave thee peace. Amen”
20. “May He reach out the hand of His blessing, and pour upon thee the gift of his propitiation, and envelop thee with the happy wall of His watchful protection, by the interceding merits of Saint Mary and all the saints. Amen.”
21. “May He forgive thee the evils which thou hast done, and bestow upon thee the grace and mercy for which thou hast humbly besought Him: and may He free thee from all adversity, and from all the plots of enemies visible and invisible. Amen.”
22. “May He multiply the abundance of His blessing upon thee, and confirm in thee the hope of a Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.”
23. “May He correct thy acts, amend thy life, arrange thy customs, and lead thee to an inheritance of heavenly Paradise. Amen.”
24. “May thou be filled with such intention as might please Him in perpetuity. Amen.”
25. “May He place His good angels always and everywhere to proceed, accompany, and follow thee, for thy protection; and may He liberate thee by His power from sin and sword, and from the crisis of all perils. Amen.”
26. “May He convert thine enemies to the benignity of peace and charity, and make those hateful to thee pleasing and friendly, and may He visit confusion upon those who persevere in hatred and criticism of thee; may an eternal sanctification flourish upon thee. Amen.”
27. “May the Lord always make thee victorious and triumphant over enemies visible and invisible, and fill up thy heart with fear and love of His holy name, and make thee to persevere in right faith and good works, and, having granted peace in thy days, lead thee to a kingdom everlasting with the crown of victory. Amen.”
28. “And may He who has wished to establish thee as king over the people bestow happiness in the present age and a consortship in eternal happiness. Amen.”
29. “May He cause thee to happily govern the clergy and people, whom He has wished by His generosity to place under thy rule, by His dispensation and thy administration through long-lasting time; for which reason, obeying divine commands, being free from all adversity, abounding in good works, serving thy ministry with faithful love, may they be fruitful in the tranquillity of peace in the present age, and merit to become with thee consorts of the heavenly citizens. Amen.”

A thirteenth-century depiction of Louis the Stammerer’s coronation (source)

As we’ll see later on, this ordo later became extremely influential. Some of it is based on the ordo Hincmar wrote in 869 for Louis the Stammerer’s father, Charles the Bald’s, inauguration as king of Lotharingia. (Jackson argues that at least some of these formulae came from a ceremony for Charles’ father Louis the Pious in 835, but I’m not sure what I think about that.) That said, one of the most influential parts of this ordo, the bishops’ petitio and the king’s promissio, were innovations in 877, and the reason for their presence is, I think, fairly particular to the time. Look, I like defending certain kings with a bad reputation as much as anyone, but Louis does seem to have spent his time up until 877 managing to convince most of his nobility – and certainly his father – than he was untrustworthy and incompetent. Hence, when Charles went to Italy for the second time just before his death in 877, he issued a capitulary at Quierzy intended to ensure that Louis would exercise as little real power as possible during his absence [edit: and Charles has kindly given a link to his English translation of this in the comments]. The specific clause being referenced in this promissio, which Hincmar actually gives in his annals, is a fairly generic one about the importance of protecting the Church. But that they reference this specific text suggests something more menacing. Louis’ accession had been opposed by a clique of the most powerful magnates in the kingdom, and the reference to Quierzy in the promissio, I think, indicates a veiled threat: ‘we don’t really trust you’. [Alternatively, it’s occurred to me, it could be the opposite. Hincmar wasn’t one of this opposition, and the clause in question is the Carolingian equivalent of Mom and apple pie; so I’d maybe be more likely to say that Hincmar was picking out the bit of Quierzy that everyone could rally around…]

In terms of a broader view of kingship, the formula for handing over the sceptre (no. 16) illustrates a very traditional view of royal ministerium, wherein the king must defend the Christian people and defend the erring. On the other hand, the most important part of the text for future coronations was the anointing formula at no. 14 (God Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth…). Its importance will largely come out in comparison with the texts to follow, but here I just want to point out that the reference to the oil of the Holy Spirit anointing ‘priests, kings and prophets’ is taken from prayers to bless the oil. Putting it here, though, changes the meaning so as to put the roles of the three closer together, moving kings more in a priestly direction. This may well be seen as some of those increasingly-spectacular late-Carolingian claims for royal authority that we’ve talked about on this blog before…

Finally, as a note to contemporary relevance, it’s worth noting that no. 13 above (God who takes care of the people etc…) was used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Hincmar’s words live on! Tune in on Friday for the next ordo I’ll be discussing, that used for the coronation (one of the coronations) of King Odo in 888.

6 thoughts on “Reading the West Frankish Coronation Liturgy, pt. 1: Hincmar’s Ordo for Louis the Stammerer (877)

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