Orémus Press Highlights Hungarian Coronation

Orémus Press, a monthly newspaper for traditional Catholic families based in Oklahoma, has featured details of the Hungarian Coronation, as it relates to Blessed Karl, for their December 2017 cover story.

Coronation Fit For a (Catholic) King: Hungarian Coronations Gave Monarchs a Mandate for Authentic Catholic Christian Leadership and Emperor Karl Took It as a Personal Quest

By Jeremy A. Ingle, Orémus Press Editor


As we enter Advent — this time of preparation for arrival of the King of Kings, the child Jesus — it seems appropriate to examine how He bestows legitimate authority upon His earthly servants, mortal king and leaders. For our purpose, we look at the case of the December 30, 1916 Hungarian Coronation of now Blessed Emperor Karl (of Austria-Hungary). 

By What Authority?

How many films or stories have we seen in which a fairy-tale king performs a marriage ceremony for someone in the capacity of his Royal Authority?

In more than a few unfortunate cases, the king declares something along the line of, “By the power vested in me by...well...me, I now declare you man and wife.”

That’s the problem with secular tales: They work very hard to remove God from the picture.

Historically speaking, the vast majority of monarchs throughout Christian Europe (upon which these fairy tales are based), were Catholic kings and queens. Though not all were stellar in living or ruling as a Catholic should (some were downright evil scoundrels) they almost certainly all invoked the name of God whenever they saw the advantage to do so, since they were, indeed, granted their crown and authority through a Bishop, who received his apostolic authority from Christ.

It’s a legitimate chain of command and authority that, tragically, has nearly been obliterated worldwide.

For better or worse, all these Catholic Christian monarchs did receive their authority from God. It was to the advantage of themselves and their kingdom to use this authority for good.

The best Catholic monarchs took their oaths so seriously that they valued the lives of their people over their own. They truly were willing to lay down their life for their brother.

Successor to the Throne

Blessed Emperor Karl VI of Hungary (also known as Karl I of Austria) and his wife Servant of God Empress Zita became the last monarchs of the Kingdom of Hungary at their official coronation there, December 30, 1916.

The Royal Couple had ascended to the throne of Austria  in November following the death of Emperor Franz Joseph, but a coronation ceremony was not required.

Hungary was another story, for, by tradition, if the ceremony is not carried out precisely, the kingdom is considered “orphaned.”

Karl came from a long line of Catholic monarchs, as the Habsburg-dominated kingdom stretched back to the 11th Century. Of course, not all those who sat on the throne were shining examples of authentic Catholicism and Christian charity.

Karl, on the other hand, took his Holy Faith and duty seriously, even from childhood. He would later be considered a Martyr for Peace, because of his unwavering determination to conduct HIS Reign according to Catholic Teaching.

On December 30, 1916, Karl and Zita traveled to Budapest, Hungary to receive their crowns in official capacity from the Archbishop.

As you follow the ritual we present here, consider how strikingly different it is from the installation of secular Presidents.

Imagine a U.S. or other national president, taking his oath of office, surrounded by bishops and Archbishops,  while wearing a cross-topped crown covered with images of the saints. He is wrapped in a mantle also covered with saints, apostles, martyrs, and Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother. The leader-electcarries a large cross in his hand and makes a public oath to rule according to authentic Catholic Teaching. Just imagine.

The 1916 ceremony was rushed, due both to the ongoing war (WWI) and the constitutional requirement for the Hungarian monarch to approve the state budget prior to the end of the calendar year. Karl’s coronation was filmed however, and thus remains the only coronation of an Hungarian monarch ever documented in this way. Those interested can find samples of this footage can be found through an internet search.

The video clip below shows the Coronation Parade of December 30, 1916, with Emperor Karl riding on horseback.

The Coronation

The Hungarian coronation ritual closely follows the Roman ritual for the consecration and coronation of kings found in the Roman Pontifical. In fact, for the coronation of King Francis Joseph and Queen Elisabeth, the Roman Pontifical of Clement VII was used rather than the traditional Hungarian ritual.

The Ritual

According to ancient custom just before the coronation proper the Archbishop of Esztergom handed the Holy Crown to the Count Palatine (Nádor) who lifted it up and showed it to the people and asked if they accept the elect as their king.

The people responded, “Agreed, so be it, long live the king!”

A bishop then presented the king to the Archbishop requesting him in the name of the Church to proceed with his coronation.

The Archbishop asked the king three questions:

Archbishop: Do you agree to protect the holy faith?

King: I will.

Archbishop: Do you agree to protect the holy Church?

King: I will.

Archbishop: Do you agree to protect the kingdom?

King: I will.

The king then took the oath, “I, N., grant and promise in the sight of God and of the angels,” etc.

The Archbishop then said the prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, Creator of all things, Commander of angels, King of kings and Lord of lords, who caused your faithful servant Abraham to triumph over his enemies, gave many victories to Moses and Joshua, the leaders of your people, exalted your humble servant David to the eminence of kingship, enriched Solomon with the ineffable gifts of wisdom and peace. Hear our humble prayers and multiply your blessings upon your servant, whom in prayerful devotion we consecrate our king; that he, being strengthened with the faith of Abraham, endowed with the meekness of Moses, armed with the courage of Joshua, exalted with the humility of David and distinguished with the wisdom of Solomon, may please you in all things and always walk without offense in the way of justice. May he nourish and teach, defend and instruct your Church and people and as a powerful king administer a vigorous regimen against all visible and invisible powers and, with your aid, restore their souls to the concord of true faith and peace; that, supported by the ready obedience and glorified by the due love of these, his people, he may by your mercy ascend to the position of his forefathers and, defended by the helmet of your protection, covered with your invincible shield and completely clothed with heavenly armour, he may in total victoriously triumph and by his [power] intimidate the unfaithful and bring peace to those who fight for you, through our Lord, who by the vigor of his Cross has destroyed Hell, overcame the Devil, ascended into heaven, in whom subsists all power, kingship and victory, who is the glory of the humble and the life and salvation of his people, he who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

The king then prostrated himself before the altar as the Litany of the Saints was sung.

After this the Archbishop anointed the king on his right forearm and between his shoulders as he said the prayer:

God, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was anointed by his Father with the oil of gladness above his fellows, through this present sacred anointing pour over your head the blessing of the Spirit Paraclete to penetrate into your innermost heart that you may receive invisible grace and that having justly governed a temporal kingdom, you may reign with him eternally, he who alone is without sin, the King of king, living and glorified with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then the Mass for the day was begun with the Archbishop saying after the Collect for the day, the additional prayer, “God who reigns over all,” etc. 

After the Gradual and Alleluia the king was invested with the Hungarian regalia. 

Hungarian Regalia - The Crown and Sword of King St. Stephen, the Scepter, and Orb are housed in the Hungarian Parliament Building.

Hungarian Regalia - The Crown and Sword of King St. Stephen, the Scepter, and Orb are housed in the Hungarian Parliament Building.

The Sword of St. Stephen

The king was first invested and girded with the Sword of St. Stephen with the formula:

Accept this sword through the hands of bishops, who unworthy, yet consecrated by the authority of the holy apostles, impart it to you by divine ordinance for the defense of the faith of the holy Church and remember the words of the psalmist, who prophesied, saying, “Gird yourself with your sword upon your thigh, O most mighty one, that by it you may exercise equity, powerfully destroying the growth of iniquity and protect the holy Church of God and his faithful people. Pursue false Christians, no less than the unfaithful, help and defend widows and orphans, restore those things which have fallen into decay and maintain those things thus restored, avenge injustice and confirm good dispositions, that doing this, you may be glorious in the triumph of justice and may reign forever with the Savior of the world, whose image you bear, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, forever and ever. Amen.

The king then brandished the sword three times.

The Holy Crown of St. Stephen

The king was then crowned with the Holy Crown as the Archbishop said the formula “Accept this royal crown,” etc.

The Scepter

Next the king was given the Scepter with the formula:

Accept the Rod of virtue and equity. Learn to respect the pious and to intimidate the proud; guide the straying; lend a hand to the fallen; repress the proud and raise the humble, that our Lord Jesus Christ may open to you the door, he who said of himself, “I am the Door, whoever enters by me, by me shall be saved,” and let he who is the Key of David and the Scepter of the House of Israel, be your helper, he who opens and no one may shut, who shuts and no one may open; who brings the captive out of prison, where he sits in darkness and the shadow of death, that in all things you may imitate him, of whom the Prophet David said, “Your seat, O God, endures forever; a rod of righteousness is the rod of your kingdom. You love justice and hate iniquity, therefore, God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows,” Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The Orb and Enthronement

Then the Orb was placed into his left hand without any formula and the king was enthroned with the formula:

Be steadfast and hold fast to that place of which you have become heir by succession from your forefathers, now delegated to you by the authority of Almighty God and transmitted to you by us and all the bishops and servants of God and when you see the clergy draw near to the holy altar, remember to give them appropriate honor that the Mediator between God and humanity may confirm you in this royal position as the mediator between clergy and laity and that you may be able to reign with Jesus Christ, our Lord, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

According to some accounts the Te deum was then sung followed by the responsory:

Let your hand be strengthened and your right hand be exalted. Let justice and judgment be the foundations of your throne and mercy and truth go before your face. Alleluia. Ps. Have mercy on me,... Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Let your hand be strengthened,...

The Archbishop then said either the prayer, “God who made Moses victorious” or the prayer “Inerrant God.”

The people then greeted the king with the words, “Life, health, happiness, victory!” after which the Mass proceeded to its conclusion.

Outside the Church

The most impressive part was when the sovereign
in full regalia rode up an artificial hill constructed out of the soil of all parts of the kingdom on horseback.

On top of the hill, the sovereign would point to the all four corners with the royal sword and swear to protect the kingdom and all its subjects.

After that, the nobles and the subjects would hail their new sovereigns with cries of ‘hurray’ three times and paying homage.

After the ceremony, the royal couple would proceed with great fanfare to the royal castle to receive the homage.


Details of the Coronation Ritual in the preceding article were borrowed from the Wikipedia entry.

Karl Austria