David Latchman

Celebrating the Crown: Anglo-Jewry’s Past Royal Commemorations

The upcoming coronation of King Charles lll has encouraged me to delve into my collection and examine the fascinating Anglo-Jewish pamphlets and publications, some centuries old, produced to celebrate royal events in the past.

In a past post, I described some of the Synagogue Orders of Service for Royal Occasions that I have in my collection. The earliest dates from 1787 celebrating George lll’s survival from an assassination attempt. My collection also features memorial services for every monarch from George lll onwards.

It is somewhat surprising therefore that the earliest Anglo-Jewish Orders of Service for coronations date only from 1902, marking the coronation of Edward Vll. The Ashkenazi community made up for this late entry however by issuing two different versions, one for the day of the coronation itself and one for the following Saturday, for those London Synagogues who were worried about the traffic on Coronation Day. In the end, neither of the synagogue services were held on the given day as the King developed appendicitis and the coronation had to be postponed. When it was finally held, the Ashkenazim simply reused the original version without changing the date whilst the Sephardi community issued a correctly dated version (illustrated).

The 1902 pamphlet of prayers issued by Sephardi community in Britain with the correct date to mark the coronation of Edward Vll, which was delayed

The Sephardim were less successful at the coronation of George V in 1911. As many readers will know, Hebrew publications are often dated with an appropriate biblical verse. Specific letters are highlighted, often by making them larger, adding up the numerical value of these letters provides the date. Unfortunately, having chosen an appropriate verse, the Sephardim failed to highlight any letters in the initially printed version (illustrated), resulting in it having to be hastily reprinted again.

“A Voice of Thanks and Blessing”, the Sephardi community’s booklet to celebrate the coronation of George V in 1911; the pamphlet fails to highlight the appropriate letters in the verse used for the date

Perhaps because of the illness of Hermann Adler, who passed away a month after the coronation, the Chief Rabbis Office issued only one Ashkenazi Order of Service in 1911. Chief Rabbi Hertz made up for this, however, by issuing several different ones for the coronation of George Vl in 1937. Synagogues had the choice of holding a service on the Wednesday of the coronation itself, the preceding Saturday, or the preceding Sunday. As this was the only Coronation held during the British Mandate in Palestine, services were also held in synagogues in Jerusalem (illustrated).

Programme for the Celebratory Prayer” for the coronation of George Vl in 1937 for services held in the Yeshurun Synagogue in Jerusalem together with “the Chief Rabbis of the Land of Israel”

By the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, services were held in Jewish communities across the UK and the Commonwealth. I have a number of these Orders of Service of which perhaps the most interesting is that from Birmingham. It is certainly the first Anglo-Jewish Order of Service to have a photo of the Queen (or any other woman?) on its cover (illustrated).

Birmingham Hebrew Congregations’ Order of Service for the coronation of the now late Queen Elizabeth II in late May 1953

As Jewish communities across the country and commonwealth commemorate our new King’s coronation, we are continuing this legacy of celebrating royal occasions, recognising this “government of kindness”.

About the Author
Professor David Latchman, CBE, is a leading UK academic, author, and philanthropist, and currently holds the position of Vice-Chancellor of Birkbeck University of London, having led the university since 2003. Latchman holds First-class Honours in Natural Sciences, a MA, and a PhD, and has completed a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at Imperial College London. He also has a DSc (higher doctorate) from the University of London.