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The coronation of our monarchs presents a wide field of meditation to an intelligent eye. It is an epitome of the genius of the monarchy, and a miniature exhibition of the leading events of our annals.
Connected, in point of fact, with the first establishment of Christianity in this island, it also perpetuates some of the earliest British notions of public liberty; and while it confirms the hereditary claims of each succeeding prince, it is introduced by a recognition of some of the most ancient rights of the people.
“ Mighty states, characterless, are grated
To dusty nothing,”
says that great dramatist who has so largely alluded to English coronations in his historical plays. These ceremonies exhibit the character of each constituent portion of the political body from age to age; and are chiefly valuable, perhaps, as preserving a chain of national identity, unbroken by conquest, or by civil war; by changing dynasties, or the most important revolutions of the empire: on the other hand, they present to us a vast variety of character and events. They are associated with the gloom,“ the dim religious light” of Anglo-Saxon history,
with the stormy character of the Conquest and the Norman domination; they bring before us the lofty Plantagenet, the proud Tudor, and the tyrannical but unfortunate House of Stuart, in all the pomp, and strife, and vanity of their respective pretensions.
But the general reader will require a clue to this symbolical kind of instruction: a companion to his recollections of such an exhibition, which, without destroying the vividness and pleasure of the pageantry, shall connect its objects with the march of history, the advance of civilization, and the final settlement of our laws and liberties. “ To converse with historians,” says an accomplished writer, “is always to keep good company ;” while, “ to carry back the mind
in uniting and to make it old,” is the one great difficulty which Lord Bacon points out in the study of history. Every effort, therefore, to smooth this difficult path, and to introduce the rising generation to such company, will be properly appreciated by the anxious and intelligent parent; and such is the design of this little volume. It is the especial business of the historian, certainly, to instruct; but the more he can keep alive our interest without flattering either our passions or vices, the more effectually will he accomplish his great object, and swell the train of the votaries of truth.