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Divine object: Anointing Charles I

Our first iconic object is an ampulla, a little container reputed to have held anointing oil used at Charles I's Scottish coronation in 1633.
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This golden ampulla was used in the coronation of Charles I at Holyrood in 1633. Charles I was born in Scotland. He was the son of James VI. He was the first monarch to unite the crowns of Scotland and England.
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The ampulla, you can see, is a sort of pear-shaped ampulla with two horns at the top. The anointing of kings is something that came from the Old Testament where it was described as anointing with the horn of oil. And we’re not sure whether or not this shape of the nozzles at the top is meant to deliberately echo that. But the anointing of kings with oil was an important thing for the Stuart dynasty. They believed that they had the divine right to rule and that they had been appointed by God, and therefore were only accountable to God. During the coronation, Charles I was invested with the honours of Scotland, which is a sword, a sceptre, and a crown.
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There was a great procession from the castle down to Holyrood Palace and he had a canopy covering him with red velvet and a blue cloth was spread out in the courtyard of Holyrood Palace. We know that Sir James Balfour– he was the Lord Lyon at the time– he carried the ampulla during the coronation. In the coronation ceremony itself, the Archbishop of Brechen preached a sermon which was about the anointing of King Solomon by Zadok the priest. And the choir that were present also sang an anthem about that. The idea of the divine right to rule was important for Charles I’s son and grandson, James VII and James VIII of Scotland.
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Although they went into exile– and James VIII spent most of his life in exile– they both believed that they were divinely appointed to rule the throne of Great Britain.
Now that we have met the Stuarts and been introduced to the concept of material culture, let’s look at our first iconic object.
What is it?
In this short film, Assistant Curator Adrienne Hynes examines this ampulla said to have contained anointing oil used at the Scottish coronation of Charles I in 1633.
Why is it important?
The Stuarts exercised their power through absolute monarchy which they justified through their faith in the divine right of kings.
They believed they were only accountable to God.
We will see how this led to conflict with church and state.
While you watch the film consider what this tells us about how Stuart kings understood their right to rule as being divinely ordained.
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