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Mind your language

Enthronisation

23 March 2013

9:00 AM

23 March 2013

9:00 AM

They were worrying in Canterbury about a clash between the inauguration of the Pope and the enthronisation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was a near miss.

You might think the word enthronisation sounds like something that George Bush had coined. Yet it has been in use longer than enthronement, which is not known until 1685. Two centuries earlier, Malory was writing of intronyscacyon in the Morte d’Arthur. In the succeeding centuries the word was applied to Archbishops of Canterbury, to the King, the Great Sophi of Persia, the Pope, the Ark of the Covenant and to Satan. Enthronisation is not just a word from distant centuries. ‘The enthronisation of Dr Randall Davidson as Archbishop of Canterbury will take place on February the 12,’ ran a short newspaper report in 1903. The term did not seem out of place.


The Illustrated London News had carried engravings of the enthronization of Archbishop John Bird Somner in 1848, and in 1862, engravings were sold of the enthronisation of his successor Charles Longley in Canterbury Cathedral. It wasn’t just Canterbury. The Evangelical journal The Inquirer complained of the prayers bestowing on Bishop William Howley power to forgive sins at his enthronisation as Bishop of London in 1813.

At the coronation of George V in 1911, between the crowning and the homage came the Inthronization, as the rubric spelt it in the official order of service. A spelling with i and s was preferred for the Coronation of our own Queen in 1953: ‘Then shall the Queen go to her throne and be lifted up into it by the Archbishops and Bishops, and other Peers of the Kingdom; and being inthronised, or placed therein… the Nobles who carried the other Regalia shall stand round about the steps of the throne.’

The occurrence of inthronised in poetry indicates that it was pronounced with the stress on the first or the second syllable. A hymn for Whitsunday by Bishop Ken, not much, if ever, sung today ends: ‘An heav’nly Mind can never miss,/ To sit like Jesus enthroniz’d in Bliss.’ May Archbishop Welby’s mind remain heavenly, then.


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