Middle English coronacion, from Anglo-French, from coroner to crown
- the act or occasion of crowning; also : accession to the highest office
A coronation is a ceremony marking the investiture of a monarch or their consort with regal power, specifically involving the placement of a crown upon his or her head, and the presentation of other items of regalia. This rite may also include the taking of a special vow, acts of homage by the new ruler's subjects, and/or performance of other ritual deeds of special significance to a given nation. Coronations were once a vital ritual in many of the world's monarchies, but this changed over time due to a variety of socio-political and religious factors. While most monarchies have dispensed with formal coronation rites, preferring simpler enthronement, investiture, or benediction rites, coronations are still held in the United Kingdom, Tonga and several Asian countries. In common usage, "coronation" often simply refers to the official investiture or enthronement of the monarch, whether an actual crown is bestowed or not.
In addition to the investing of the monarch with a diadem and other symbols of state, coronations often involve anointing with holy oil, or chrism as it is often called. Wherever a ruler is anointed in this way, as in Great Britain and Tonga, this ritual takes on an overtly religious significance, following examples found in the Bible. Some other lands use bathing or cleansing rites, the drinking of a sacred beverage, or other religious practices to achieve a comparable effect. Such acts symbolise the granting of divine favour to the monarch within the relevant spiritual-religious paradigm of the country.
In the past, concepts of royalty, coronation and deity were often inexorably linked. In some ancient cultures, rulers were considered to be divine or partially divine: the Egyptian Pharaoh was believed to be the son of Ra, the sun god, while in Japan the Emperor was believed to be a descendant of Amaterasu, the sun goddess. Rome promulgated the practice of emperor worship; in Medieval Europe, monarchs claimed to have a divine right to rule. Coronations were once a direct visual expression of these alleged connections, but recent centuries have seen the lessening of such beliefs due to increasing secularization and democratization. Thus coronations (or their religious elements, at least) have often been discarded altogether, or altered to reflect the constitutional nature of the states in which they are held. However, some monarchies still choose to retain an overtly religious dimension to their accession rituals. Others have adopted simpler "enthronement or "inauguration" ceremonies, or even no ceremony at all.