Humanities and Arts

1651 The Last Coronation in Scotland — An Anomaly?

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The last Scottish coronation occurred at Scone in 1651. Charles II’s Scottish coronation has either been completely forgotten or become the subject of distorted interpretations. It has long been suggested that this coronation was a hastily arranged affair, lacking sacredness without an anointing and involving little pomp, and thus minimal cost — almost humiliating, according to one modern view. Furthermore, historians have argued that Charles both resented this ceremony and could barely have found anything joyful in it. Yet Clarendon commented that it ‘passed with great solemnity and magnificence, all men making show of joy, and being united to serve his majesty’. How can one reconcile these positions? Why has this coronation been so neglected? In many respects, it was superseded by immediate events (Charles II’s disastrous military campaign and exile) and then overshadowed at the Restoration (and by the 1661 Westminster Abbey coronation). Nevertheless, 1651 remains of tremendous significance because it was paradoxically both usual and unusual and carried implications for the other kingdoms of the British Isles and their religious systems, not just for Scotland. With the addition of financial archival material unused by previous scholars, this article adopts a fresh approach that challenges the received historiography: by seriously addressing the question of disparity, it identifies what really was anomalous and what, in fact, was far from untypical or surprising.