Friday, January 18, 2013

A godly Ruler's Inauguration: The Coronation of Edward VI

Edward VI (1537-1553), son of Henry VIII, was crowned king of England and Ireland in 1547 at the tender age of nine. Despite his youthfulness, and the brevity of his reign (he died prematurely in 1553 from an illness), Edward the VI was one of the most godly kings in history. He helped the cause of the Protestant Reformation, and enforced biblical civil law.  

Edward VI's coronation took place on February 28, 1547. During the coronation, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (who would become a martyr during the reign of Bloody Mary) delivered a powerful address—the kind that should be given to all qualified civil rulers. Of Cranmer's charge to Edward, one writer says: 
[T]he most remarkable circumstance connected with the coronation, was the address of archbishop Cranmer to the youthful monarch. The prelate therein gave the following charge, which the king did not forget, as his subsequent conduct shows.[1]
Cranmer's charge includes a repudiation of the Roman Catholic Church's authority over the crown; a discussion of the significance of coronation rites; the king's duties, which include emulating the godly King Josiah of Judah in banishing idolatry from the land; and a blessing on the king's reign. 

Archbishop Cranmer's charge to Edward VI:

"Most dread and royal sovereign; the promises your highness hath made here, at your coronation, to forsake the devil and all his works, are not to be taken in the bishop of Rome's sense; when you commit any thing distasteful to that see, to hit your majesty in the teeth, as pope Paul the third, late bishop of Rome, sent to your royal father, saying, 'Didst thou not promise, at our permission of thy coronation, to forsake the devil and all his works, and dost thou run to heresy? For the breach of this thy promise, knowest thou not, that it is in our power to dispose of thy sword and sceptre to whom we please?' We, your majesty's clergy, do humbly conceive, that this promise reacheth not at your highness's sword, spiritual or temporal, or in the least at your highness swaying the sceptre of this your dominion, as you and your predecessors have had them from God. Neither could your ancestors lawfully resign up their crowns to the bishop of Rome or his legates, according to their ancient oaths then taken upon that ceremony.

Edward VI
"The bishops of Canterbury, for the most part, have crowned your predecessors, and anointed them kings of this land; yet it was not in their power to receive or reject them; neither did it give them authority to prescribe them conditions to take or leave their crowns, although the bishops of Rome would encroach upon your predecessors, by their act and oil, that in the end they might possess those bishops with an interest to dispose of their crowns at their pleasure. But the wiser sort will look to their claws and clip them.

"The solemn rites of coronation have their ends and utility; yet neither direct force or necessity: they are good admonitions to put kings in mind of their duty to God, but no increasement of their dignity; for they are God's anointed; not in respect of the oil which the bishop useth, but in consideration of their power, which is ordained; of the sword, which is authorized; of their persons, which are elected of God, and endued with the gifts of his Spirit, for the better ruling and guiding of his people.

"The oil, if added, is but a ceremony: if it be wanting, that king is yet a perfect monarch notwithstanding, and God's anointed, as well as if he was inoiled. Now for the person or bishop that doth anoint a king, it is proper to be done by the chiefest. But if they cannot, or will not, any bishop may perform this ceremony.

"To condition with monarchs upon these ceremonies, the bishop of Rome (or other bishops owning his supremacy) hath no authority; but he may faithfully declare what God requires at the hands of kings and rulers, that is, religion and virtue. Therefore, not from the bishop of Rome, but as a messenger from my Saviour Jesus Christ, I shall most humbly admonish your royal majesty, what things your highness is to perform.

Archbishop Cranmer
"Your majesty is God's vicegerent, and Christ's vicar within your own dominions, and to see, with your predecessor Josiah, God truly worshipped, and idolatry destroyed; the tyranny of the bishops of Rome banished from your subjects, and images removed. These acts are signs of a second Josiah, who reformed the church of God in his days. You are to reward virtue, to revenge sin, to justify the innocent, to relieve the poor, to procure peace, to repress violence, and to execute justice throughout your realms. For precedents on those kings who performed not these things, the old law shows how the Lord revenged his quarrel; and on those kings who fulfilled these things, he poured forth his blessings in abundance. For example, it is written of Josiah, in the book of the Kings, thus: 'Like unto him there was no king, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.' This was to that prince a perpetual fame of dignity, to remain to the end of days.

"Being bound by my function to lay these things before your royal highness; the one, as a reward if you fulfil; the other, as a judgment from God if you neglect them; yet I openly declare, before the living God, and before these nobles of the land, that I have no commission to denounce your majesty deprived, if your highness miss in part, or in whole, of these performances: much less to draw up indentures between God and your majesty; or to say you forfeit your crown, with a clause for the bishop of Rome, as have been done by your majesty's predecessors, king John and his son Henry of this land. The Almighty God of his mercy let the light of his countenance shine upon your majesty, grant you a prosperous and happy reign, defend you, and save you; and let your subjects say, Amen.

"God Save The King."[2]

Edward VI on the Bible as the Sole Legitimate Source of Law

During the coronation, Edward VI, upon being brought three swords representing his three kingdoms, said that one sword was missing: the Bible.[3] He added the following, showing his understanding that the Bible alone is a ruler's source of law:
That book is the sword of the Spirit, and to be preferred before these swords. That ought in all right to govern us, who use them for the people's safety by God's appointment. Without that sword we are nothing, we can do nothing, we have no power. From that we are what we are this day. From that we receive whatsoever it is that we at present do assume. 
He that rules without it, is not to be called God's minister, or a king. Under that we ought to live, to fight, to govern the people, and to perform all our affairs.[4]

May God grant us with more rulers like Edward VI.

[1] Unknown author, Writings of Edward the Sixth, William Hugh, Queen Catherine Parr, Anne Askew, Lady Jane Grey, Hamilton, and Balnaves: Volume 3: of British reformers (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1836), 4.
[2] Cited in Ibid., 4-6.
[3] Ibid., 6.
[4] Cited in Ibid.

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