The British Monarchy, Religion and the Coronation
by Catherine Pepinster
During the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, the Christian Church will take centre stage once again, as the established religion in England. But why does the Church have such prominence in state affairs, and should it keep this privileged position in 21st Century, multi-faith Britain?
In 1953, millions across the world watched the first televised coronation of a British monarch. What they witnessed was a deeply religious, medieval Christian ritual. Elizabeth II’s reign was profoundly shaped by her faith, expressed not only in her coronation vows but also in her 70 years as Queen, from her role as supreme governor of the Church of England, to her annual Christmas broadcasts, her encounters with Popes, Islam and the other religions. Like her late husband, Prince Philip, the Queen’s faith was described as her ‘strength and stay’ amid the turmoil of a nation becoming increasingly secular at the same time as her subjects became increasingly more varied in their religious beliefs.
During Queen Elizabeth’s coronation she was anointed by the Archbishop for her role in serving the country as Queen. But what part will Christianity play in the reign of King Charles III, who as Prince of Wales once said he’d prefer to be defender of faith? Plans for the coronation are now in full swing and speculation is mounting as to whether this is the moment to jettison an ancient rite and reinvent the Coronation to appeal to multicultural Britain, or whether our nation ought to embrace tradition and reassert its Christian heritage in the new Carolean age.
Defenders Of The Faith explores the powerful connection between religion and the British monarchy from its earliest times, through to the Reformation, the Civil War, and the reconfigured wholesome family monarchy of Victoria and her successors, down to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II — and into the future when the new Defender of the Faith is crowned.