It has clearly been a matter of great importance to King Charles that the Chief Rabbi can attend his Coronation even though it was going to be on Shabbat. Extensive arrangements have been provided for the Chief Rabbi to accommodate his Shabbat needs. He and Valerie will spend Friday night at St James’ Palace as King Charles’ guests so that he can walk to the Coronation.

Perhaps of even greater significance is that the core of the Coronation, the Anointing Ceremony, can be traced back directly to the Hebrew Bible.

When the late Queen was crowned in 1953, the anointing was hidden from the television cameras to preserve the mystery surrounding it. There had been speculation that Charles would want to be more open but it has now been confirmed that again, the anointing will be private. The solemnity of the moment was captured by Shakespeare when he wrote:

“Not all the water in the rough rude sea

Can wash the balm off from an anointed king.”   (Richard II, Act III, Scene ii).

During the anointing, the Archbishop will intone a prayer which includes the phrase:

“Be your head anointed with holy oil, as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed. And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet”

The reference is to I Kings 1:39, which says:

“Then Tzadok the Priest took the horn of oil from the Tent and anointed Solomon. They sounded the shofar and all the people cried, Long live King Solomon!”

Previously, the prophet Samuel had anointed David as king by pouring oil on his head (I Samuel, 16:13). Prior to that Samuel had anointed Saul as king (I Samuel 10:1).

And even earlier, the very first person to be anointed was Aaron when he was appointed High Priest by Moses. A few weeks’ ago we read:

“…You shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head and anoint him.” (Shemot 29:5-7)

Why is pouring oil on the head so significant that it is used on all these momentous occasions?

Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) explains that oil on the head is seen as a symbol of the weighty responsibility of office. The pouring of oil is seen as symbolic of future blessings. In the words of the second verse of the National Anthem, “Thy choicest gifts in store / On him be pleased to pour.”  In addition, oil is not quickly absorbed into the skin and so its glowing presence symbolises the blessing of length of years.

May King Charles enjoy abundant blessings. May his reign be wise. May his reign be long.