When John II of France died in April 1364, his eldest son, Charles, acceded to the throne. The coronation of Charles V was arranged quickly but stood out for the ceremony, beginning of traditions and the ornate Book of Hours that was produced to mark the event. The coronation itself took place in Reims. French Kings had been traditionally crowned there since the 11th century. Reims was the site of the Legend of the Holy Ampulla. This was the story of a vial of oil being found by an earlier Archbishop of Reims, which was said to have been sent by heaven. The verification of that legend by the Pope in the early 12th century led to Reims becoming the regular site of French coronations.
Coronation of Charles V at Reims Cathedral
Charles’ coronation was full of the splendour associated with such events. But he also introduced the ceremony of waking the king. This became a symbolic act of marking a new dawn for France. At the time, this was an important message to make. France had suffered great losses at Poitiers just eight years earlier, and the ransom payments to England for the release of King John II had been high, amounting to 3 million crowns, more than double the annual revenue of the French crown. Charles V needed to show that there was hope on the battlefield and that the economic burden of the ransom and Black Death was behind France.
His coronation book is also significant. It details the ceremony itself, listing the nobles who were there, along with describing the various elements of the service in Reims Cathedral. From this, the importance and use of French symbols are clear. The Oriflamme is referenced within the ceremony, with the King making vows to it. It outlines how the Bishop of Remi symbolically presents the Holy Ampoulla to the Archbishop of Reims.
These are supplemented with artwork that illustrates the events of the day. Additionally, it includes copies of the oaths made by the King and has addendums of oaths made by the king’s nephew, Charles of Navarre, from the late 1370s.
Content Related to Coronations
Coronation of Charles V of France: Image Credits
Images from the Coronation book of Charles V of France. British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B VIII/2
The Coronation of Charles V and Joan of Bourbon in Reims in 1364, Froissart’s Chronicles, via Gallerix.