The Bruce Family and coronations through the ages (Part Two): anointing a Danish princess

On Sunday 17th May 1590, a Danish princess was crowned as the newly wedded wife of King James VI at Holyrood Abbey. It was the last time a queen would be crowned in Scotland. Her coronation ceremony was arranged and conducted by the Rev. Robert Bruce, the Minister of St. Giles. Although James and Anne were married the previous November in Oslo, her journey had been delayed by bad weather. She arrived at Leith on 1st May and had just over a fortnight to become familiar with Scottish court life.

Anne of Denmark, c.1595 (1574-1619). (Painter unknown)

Rev. Robert Bruce (1554 – 1631)

Although a distinguished minister of the Church of Scotland, Robert Bruce –  who would serve as Moderator on two occasions  – studied humanities under the supervision of the King’s tutor George Buchanan at the University of St. Andrews. Later he travelled to the continent to study law, at Paris and Louvain.  On 31st August 1581 he had a profound religious experience and decided to enter the church instead, later taking up the position of Minister of St Giles in 1587.

Bruce’s natural authority made him indispensable to the King. In 1589 he appointed him as a Privy Councillor, conferring on him the effective role of regent for six months while he pursued his nuptials in Norway and Denmark, confessing in a letter home that Rev. Robert was “worth a quarter of his kingdom”.

Ruins of Holyrood Abbey – scene of Queen Anne’s coronation in 1590 (Louis Daguerre 1824)

Anne’s coronation at Holyrood as a Scottish queen, was the first (and last) to be held under the auspices of the Church of Scotland. Although a renowned Presbyterian preacher  – whose Sermons on the Sacrament delivered in 1589 are still in print – Bruce ensured that time-honoured traditions were retained as a central part of the ceremony such as anointment with holy oil which required the Queen’s  “breast and arm to be exposed”, although he incurred the displeasure of the more doctrinaire Presbyterian reformers.

Geneva Bible printed in 1561 lying in front of the fireplace in the dining room at Broomhall House which was repurposed from the 1590 marriage bed of James VI and Anne of Denmark.

In the library of Broomhall House may be found a 1561 copy of the Geneva Bible which belonged to Rev. Robert Bruce, which he used as Minister of St Giles. Coincidentally, in the dining room, the carved oak mantlepiece is formed from sections of Queen Anne’s marriage bed which presumably also arrived at Leith on 1st May 1590.

Read ‘The Bruce Family and coronations through the ages’ Part One here and Part Three here.