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PART III THE FRENCH MONARCHY

There was also a peculiar Christian sacredness attaching to French kingship. The French king did not have the title of Emperor, but he did have a very significant title, that of Rex Christianissimus, the Most Christian King. This was related to the peculiarly sacred character of the anointing of the kings of France with the holy oil at their coronation.2 According to legend, the coronation oil had been brought down from heaven in a phial - the 'sainte ampoule' - at the baptism of Clovis. Charlemagne was not anointed when he was made emperor, for he had already been anointed as King of the Franks. Though it was not admitted that the royal anointing endowed the French king with priestly functions (he could not celebrate Mass) yet it gave a peculiar sanctity to French royalty. The English kings also had a peculiarly sacred anointing tradition, perhaps related in its origins to the French one, and this is one of the many significant parallels between French and English monarchy.