The anointing oils used in King Charles’ coronation are not only steeped in history and significance, but they also hold great symbolism. Anointing oils have a long and rich history that dates back to ancient times when they were used in various religious and spiritual ceremonies. In Christianity, anointing oils have been a vital part of sacraments such as baptism, confirmation, and the anointing of the sick. Beyond religious use, anointing oils have been incorporated into the coronation of monarchs and other significant ceremonies. The act of anointing with oil holds significant power and symbolism, representing the bestowing of divine authority and grace. It serves as a tangible sign of the anointed person’s unique role and responsibility, demonstrating their dedication to a higher purpose. Anointing oil known as the Holy Oil that will be used this weekend for King Charles’ coronation will also be used for the anointing of the Queen Consort.
The anointing is the most sacred part of the coronation ceremony, and takes place before the investiture and crowning. The Archbishop pours holy oil from the Ampulla (or vessel) into the spoon, and anoints the King on the hands, breast and head.
The decision about the choice of specific oils used for this weekend’s coronation of King Charles ultimately will rest with the King and the Church of England. One of the most common anointing oils used in Christian ceremonies for centuries is known as chrism, which is a mixture of olive oil and balsam. The balsam gives the oil a sweet and spicy fragrance, which is often described as warm and comforting. This oil is made by blending olive oil and balsam, which represents the unity of the Old and New Testaments in Christianity.
The chrism oil used to anoint King Charles has been consecrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was consecrated by the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Dr Hosam Naoum, and the Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, during a special ceremony. This joint consecration represents a historic ecumenical moment in the history of British coronations, its aim is to unite Christian denominations. This aligns symbolically with King Charles, who is a well-known vocal supporter of interfaith dialogue across different faiths and religious beliefs. The oil was created using olives harvested from two groves on the Mount of Olives, at the Monastery of Mary Magdalene and the Monastery of the Ascension. The former is the burial place of the King’s grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece.
For the coronation ceremony, additional perfumed oil ingredients have also been selected and included in the chrism oil. These include sesame, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, neroli, benzoin and orange blossom. Some of the more traditional combinations of historical anointing oils used in Christian coronations would once have included ingredients such as musk, civet, and ambergris, which are derived from the secretions of animals (the civet cat and sperm whale). Given the ethical concerns surrounding these animal products, it is not surprising that King Charles has chosen not to include such ingredients in his anointing oil. Instead, he has opted for a recipe that includes fragrances derived from natural plant sources. By choosing a recipe that does not include animal products, he is sending a message about the importance of ethical and sustainable practices, and demonstrating his commitment to promoting a more compassionate and environmentally conscious approach to governance.
King Charles’s choice of anointing oil will be an important part of his coronation ceremony, as it will reflect his personal commitment to serving the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The selection of anointing oil for King Charles’s coronation is therefore a meaningful and significant decision and will set the tone of his reign as King.