The Coronation is the occasion for much splendid pageantry: it would be an empty show without that profound significance which is so dramatically displayed in the Coronation Service. There the Church of England People, which was the Ecclesia Anglicana before there was a nation, acting for all the peoples of Kingdom and Commonwealth, consecrates Queen Elizabeth, by prayer and sacrament in the name of God, to her lifelong service. The main features go back to the beginnings of our history. But the essential meaning shines out clearly and is perhaps enhanced by the archaisms. The heart of it is a compact of loyalty between Queen and People and the consecration of the Queen with her people to true service.
In the Recognition Queen Elizabeth is accepted by her people. In the Oath she swears to govern her peoples according to their respective laws and customs, and to preserve true religion. Then the heads of the two Churches of England and Scotland present the Holy Bible to the Queen wherein is "the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes." So the foundations are laid.
The Service of Holy Communion begins. After the Creed comes the Anointing with holy oil, a sacrament going back to the times of David and Solomon, by which Queen Elizabeth is consecrated to be God's "anointed servant." Only then can she receive the "emblems of Majesty." Every word of the service is significant, and the meaning of the Sword and Robe and Ring, of Sceptre and Rod, is shown by the accompanying words. The giving of Armills or "bracelets of sincerity and wisdom" is a revival of a use dropped in Stuart times. To their meaning as "tokens of God's protection" is added a new meaning as symbols of the "bond which unites" Queen Elizabeth and People, since the new Armills are a present from the Commonwealth.
The Anointing is the spiritual climax, the Crowning is the spectacular climax of the Investing, after which follows the Homage. Then come the quiet depths of the Communion Service, when Queen Elizabeth and her husband (for whom a special prayer is provided) receive sacrament.
So the great Service moves, a noble drama of religious and national emotions. But at its heart is a deep simplicity. The young Queen Elizabeth dedicates herself to the service of her peoples: God consecrates her to it: she goes out clothed in the divine grace and in robes of royalty. She has asked us to pray for her. Her peoples must dedicate themselves with her to seek the righteousness which makes a nation at unity in itself and a servant of the Peace of God.
An extract from the Official Programme of the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II