26 APRIL 2003, Page 22

Mind your language

A curious piece of information came the other day from my friend Patrick Williams, the chef and flute-player, accompanying a very English set of photographs of the people of Canterbury observing preparations for the Enthronement of Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop. Mr Williams told me that he'd seen a programme dated 1862 for an 'Enthronization' in the cathedral.

Well, I thought, perhaps that was for the American market, although transatlantic tourists must have been rare then. The event must have been the enthronement of Archbishop Longley. The ceremony had been revived by his predecessor Archbishop Sumner in 1848. Before that the last archbishop enthroned in person was Wake in 1716.

I was staggered on looking up enthronization in the Oxford English Dictionary that, far from being a neologism, it had been in use since the beginning of the 16th century. The verb enthronize was used by John Gower in the Confessio Arnantis, which circulated in manuscript (printing not having been invented) from 1393. He uses it of an emperor and of a pope. It was borrowed from Latin intronizare or inthronizare via Old French.

In English the form was often irahronization (following the French and Latin), although the prefix to the Greek word that gave rise to them all was en-. It was the form inthronized that was still in use when the Rubric was published for the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838.

William Benham, writing in 1879, refers to the 'enthronization' of Archbishop Tait in 1868. In that year Benham had been with Tait's predecessor, Longley, at his deathbed. Benham (1831-1910) had an extraordinary life; beginning as the son of a village postmaster, he went on to translate the Imitatio Christi and to make himself indispensable as private secretary to Longley in his years of ill health, and then to Tait. Both archbishops lived at Addington Park, Croydon, in Surrey, then a pleasant country alternative to Lambeth, or even to Canterbury.

Anyway, after Tait, enthronement creeps in. It is the way that the biographers of E.W. Benson and Frederick Temple refer to their inaugurations at Canterbury in 1883 and 1896. Benson was more worried about the ceremony of confirmation of his appointment, which took place in Bow church, when objections were invited. Benson's principle was not merely `to silence those who make doctrinal objections on purely legal points, but to explain to them how stupid they are'. Just so.