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A coronation is a ceremony in which a monarch is crowned.
Historically, in many kingdoms, the coronation was a highly religious ceremony in which anointing with holy oil, followed by ratification as the proper occupant of the throne, were important parts. This is still the case in Britain, one of the few nations that continue formal coronations to this day, and was true for the historical monarchies of France, and many other former Kingdoms and Empires.
Coronations were often centuries-old ceremonies with a great many formal and solemn traditions. Usually the climax of the coronation ceremony is the monarch's recital of an oath, followed by a religious leader placing a crown on the monarch's head. Some monarchs have crowned themselves: this was the custom of the Shahs in Iran, the Tsars of Russia and self-proclaimed monarchs like the two Bonaparte Emperors of France.
The crown is not the only item bestowed on a sovereign at his or her coronation. Usually there is an orb and sceptre and depending on the country other items from the crown jewels, all highly charged with historic, religious, and territorial symbolism.
The ceremony usually takes place in the premier Cathedral or most holy basilica of a country. In the United Kingdom, the coronation ceremony takes place in Westminster Abbey, with the monarch seated on the ancient St. Edward's Chair. The French monarchs were crowned at Notre-Dame de Reims. A coronation ceremony is generally religious because from the earliest times it was believed that monarchs were chosen by God, in accordance with the Divine Right of Kings, hence the crown was bestowed by God himself. While this belief is now not generally held, many sovereigns are still proclaimed as Monarch 'By Grace of God'. Before 1917 many Russian peasants, unofficially, prayed to God and the Tsar; while in Japan the Emperor was believed to be a God until 1945. Hence the concept of monarch, coronation and God are inexorably linked
A monarch does not have to undergo the ceremony of coronation to ascend a throne and execute the duties of the office. King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, for example, did not reign long enough for a coronation ceremony to be planned before he abdicated, yet he was unquestionably the King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India during his brief reign. This is because in Great Britain, the law stipulates that the moment one monarch dies, the new monarch assumes the throne.
The British King is usually proclaimed King within hours of the death of his predecessor. This occurs in an outdoor ceremony at Whitehall. In France the new monarch ascended the throne when the coffin of the previous monarch descended into the vault at Saint Denis Basilica, and the Duke of Uzes proclaimed 'Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi'.
From 1305 to 1963 the Popes were crowned with the triple Papal Tiara in a coronation ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Following the decision of the last crowned Pope Paul VI to lay the Papal tiara on the high altar of the basilica in a symbol of humility, the last two popes have declined to wear it, and have thus had an ceremony of inauguration rather than coronation, as the placing of a crown or coronet of some description upon the head is a requisite of a coronation ceremony. While John Paul I and John Paul II opted for a simpler installation ceremony instead of a coronation, a future pope could in theory opt for the coronation ceremony.
Many European monarchies have dispensed with the ceremony of coronation altogether. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands had a oath-taking and induction ceremony rather than a coronation, and in Sweden, no king has been crowned since Oscar II in 1873. In Spain, although the crown is present and evident at the ceremony it is never actually placed on the monarch's head. Today's coronations of constitutional monarchs are more akin to political inaugurations.
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