What the Queen Said At Her Coronation

There has been much debate about what the Queen said and meant during the week, also plenty of speculation over who actually wrote her words, however curiosity was niggling me over something else and it is only this morning with Kelvin’s blogging nudging me again that I have finally dealt with it.

In Westminster Abbey on the 2nd June 1953 Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, but not before she took the Oath – now I have in my possession ‘The Form and Order of her Majesty’s Coronation’ so I dug it out and read it again, in particular the bit which is often quoted but also the Oath.

The bit which people often talk of and which Prince Charles has referred to in the past is a prayer spoken by the Archbishop when the Ring is placed on the fourth finger of the right hand of the new monarch:

Receive the Ring of kingly dignity, and the seal of Catholic Faith: and as you are this day consecrated to be our Head and Prince, so may you continue steadfastly as the Defender of Christ’s Religion; that being rich in faith and blessed in all good works, you may reign with him who is the King of Kings, to whom be the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

This is a Christian prayer and quite clearly is praying that the monarch will continue to defend Christianity.  As a prayer it is a hope, a wish, a religious desire, but I would venture to say that there is nothing binding either the current Queen or even Prince Charles when/should he become the monarch in these words.

The point when the Monarch is handed the Sword is another time when a prayer is said which could also be thought of as being under the above concept:

Receive this kingly Sword, brought now from the Altar of God, and delivered to you by the hands of us the Bishops and servants of God, though unworthy.  With this Sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that ar gone to decay, maintain th things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order: that doing these things you may be glorious in all virtue; and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christin this life, that you may reign for ever with him in the life which is to come.  Amen.

I would argue that the mention of the Church in this passage includes all Churches, even the Roman Catholic Church. However the bit that is possibly most relevant to the current debate is at the end of the oath which is taken right at the beginning of the service, when the Archbishop asks:

Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel?  Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?  Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?  And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

The Queen then replies:

All this I promise to do.

The rubic then states:

Then the Queen arising out of her Chair, supported as before, the Sword of State being carried before her, shall go to the Altar, and make her solemn Oath in the sight of all the people to observe the premisses: laying her right hand upon the Holy Gospel in the great Bible (which was before carried in the procession and is now brought from the Altar by the Archbishop, and tendered to her as she kneels upon the steps), and saying these words:

The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep.  So help me God.

The first part of that asks – Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel?  I would venture to say that this is a personal oath, a question being directed to the monarch themselves to respond to concerning their own faith.  So no problem with that bit then, the Queen is well-known for being a devout Anglican.

The second part asks – Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?  This part is dependant on the monarch’s power and the law of the land.  However even if these two fall by the wayside there is nothing in this part that says the Protestant Reformed Religion should be the only religion in the land, only that a monarch should promise to maintain it.

It is the final two parts that come in to play and are probably why, as Kelvin pointed out, the speech didn’t make much sense in Scotland.  Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?  And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

The Queen by oath has sworn to prohibit violation to secure from destruction, infringement, or desecration, the Church of England and what it stands for, as long as it is within the law of the land.

At another point in the Coronation service the Dean of Westminster delivers the Armills to the Archbishop who places them on the Queen’s wrists with these words:

Receive the Bracelets of sincerity and wisdom, both for tokens of the Lord’s protection embracing you on every side; and also for symbols and pledges of that bond which unites you with your Peoples …

The Queen’s Peoples, the people that she is bound to; are people of various faiths and of none; people of the Church of England and of other Christian denominations; people who want to tear down all faiths, and those who want the world to see that only their faith is the right one.  The Queen is bound to them all, even those who would rather not have a monarch at all.  The Queen in what she said defended her own faith and kept to her coronation oath, but not at the expense of the different faiths that some of her People hold, a delicate balancing act indeed, here is the full text of what she actually said:

Prince Philip and I are delighted to be with you today to pay tribute to the particular mission of Christianity and the general value of faith in this country.
This gathering is a reminder of how much we owe the nine major religious traditions represented here. They are sources of a rich cultural heritage and have given rise to beautiful sacred objects and holy texts, as we have seen today.
Yet these traditions are also contemporary families of faith. Our religions provide critical guidance for the way we live our lives, and for the way in which we treat each other. Many of the values and ideas we take for granted in this and other countries originate in the ancient wisdom of our traditions. Even the concept of a Jubilee is rooted in the Bible.
Here at Lambeth Palace we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life. The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.
It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents. But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely. Woven into the fabric of this country, the Church has helped to build a better society – more and more in active co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths.
This occasion is thus an opportunity to reflect on the importance of faith in creating and sustaining communities all over the United Kingdom. Faith plays a key role in the identity of many millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves.
Your Grace, the presence of your fellow distinguished religious leaders and the objects on display demonstrate how each of these traditions has contributed distinctively to the history and development of the United Kingdom. Prince Philip and I wish to send our good wishes, through you, to each of your communities, in the hope that – with the assurance of the protection of our established Church – you will continue to flourish and display strength and vision in your relations with each other and the rest of society.

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