Lost in transmission – on not romanticising the Coronation

In a guest post, Jonathan Chaplin, an Anglican, Fellow of Wesley House, Cambridge, and author of “Beyond Establishment: Resetting Church-State Relations in England” (SCM 2022), offers a sceptical personal view of the Church of England’s role in the Coronation.

Moving a motion in a Westminster Hall debate on ‘Christianity in Society’ on 30 March 2023, Nick Fletcher MP declared:

‘At the Coronation, His Majesty the King will be anointed in the name of God as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, as well as Head of State. St Edward’s crown, which will be placed on his head, contains a cross and orb symbolising the King and our world under the authority of God’.

He speculated that ‘Many people who do not have a personal faith in Christ still value this history and the benefits it has given us’.[1]

Defenders of Establishment will be approaching the Coronation with similar sentiments in mind. They will be looking to the Church of England to step forward, with its customary dignity and solemnity, to preside over a unique moment of national identity-formation, rich with historic, civic and spiritual meaning.[2]

The fact that it is the sole surviving religious coronation (indeed the only coronation) in Europe, and is not even needed to confirm accession, would for them likely be a mark of pride rather than a reason to interrogate the ceremony’s contemporary legitimacy.

For the more theologically informed defenders among them, the Coronation will be an occasion not only when the nation celebrates the ceremonial consecration of their new monarch and the Church prays divine grace upon him, but also when it confesses (as I do) that political authority is not a mere human creation but is entrusted to a nation by a transcendent source to which it and its leaders are accountable. For such defenders, it will amount to a public proclamation of the truth that the British head of state, and by implication the governments that act in the monarch’s name, remain bound by a national covenant of service to Jesus Christ.

Specifically, that will mean, for example, governments accepting the duty expressed in the 1953 Coronation Oath in which the monarch pledged to ‘cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all [her] judgements’. One is tempted to ask how British governments since 1953 have performed on that score as compared to comparable nations without a sacral coronation (or established church) – but leave that aside.

Church leaders who defend the Coronation seem to assume that this highly particular and obviously controversial theological meaning is still effectively communicable today, even in our pervasively secularised and religiously plural nation;[3] otherwise, why would they continue to defend the Church’s role in it?

Thus Malcolm Brown, Director of Public Affairs for the Church of England, in a special issue of Ecclesiastical Law Journal in 2019, argues that the Coronation is ‘not just a bit of invented pomp’ but a ‘solemn religious rite in which the Church of England, in its priestly role representing God who was incarnate on earth in Christ, confers upon the monarch her temporal and spiritual authority’.[4]

Similarly, Adrian Hastings asserts that Establishment generally, with the Coronation at its heart, has the effect of ‘symbolically limiting the sovereign of the secular state by publicly recognising the principle of “God’s servant first”.[5]

Brown also sounds the ominous warning that without a symbolic recognition of divine authority, the foundation of political order is vulnerable: ‘the source of ultimate authority will remain problematic unless we build in some concept of God. If power is conferred by a human authority, it can become manipulated or taken away by human authority’.

I would also defend a version of that claim. But Brown then concludes, problematically, that this means that we need an Established Church ‘bound into the structures of the State – not subservient to them, but cognizant of its role at the apex of the symbolism of authority, but at the base of the pyramid of power’.[6]

Surely we must question whether presiding over the sacral coronation of a political ruler has ever been theologically defensible for a church called to model the example of Jesus Christ, ‘who though he was rich, yet for your sakes he become poor’ (2 Cor. 8: 9 NRSV).[7] Even though it exercises minimal political power, the Church of England’s enjoyment of a uniquely privileged constitutional role at the symbolic ‘apex’ of authority hardly sits well with that ‘kenotic’ abandonment of status.

But whatever we make of this theological justification of a sacral coronation, here I want to press the question of whether such a justification stands any chance of being received by the overwhelming majority of the nation on whose behalf the event takes place.

Almost all of us who see the coronation will watch it on television (or some other live-streaming platform), or on one of the thirty big screen sites to be set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. (Luckily, it will be over before Liverpool plays Brentford in a crucial premier league tie later in the day.)

The cameras will not lie. We will be treated to the usual spectacular wide-angle vistas of the procession from Buckingham Palace, and of the glorious interior of Westminster Abbey where we will be reminded in hushed tones that coronations have taken place on this site for almost a thousand years.

And we will be fascinated by close-up shots of the complex liturgical choreography of the event, called by the former Dean, Wesley Carr, ‘the intimate ritual’.[8] This will include the eucharist, and may well include the “unction” – the anointing with holy oil – which in 1953 was shielded from the cameras because of its sacred character.

But in assessing the prospects for a reception of the coronation’s theological meaning, it is essential to acknowledge that for the vast majority who know nothing of the complex theological symbolism of this choreography, the meaning of the event will be largely mediated by mainstream television anchors and their invited guests.

Such guests, no doubt distinguished examples of the great and the good, will opine enthusiastically and expansively on the historical, cultural and aesthetic dimensions of the event. But I think we can confidently predict that the event’s decisive theological meaning – the subordination of political authority to the authority of Jesus Christ, and the accountability of holders of the former to that of the latter – will get no airing at all.

Nothing in the training or experience of even the most seasoned media professionals, not even religious affairs correspondents, equips them to interpret such a claim, or to elicit it from any guests who might happen to grasp it.[9]

What is more, everything in the professional socialization and codes of impartiality of public broadcasters will discourage them from giving the slightest endorsement of the idea that such a controversial and uniquely Christian assertion is integral to the nation’s constitution. Indeed, out of what they take to be necessary deference to the nation’s deep pluralism of religion or belief, they will in fact need to conceal that theological meaning, for fear of offending one or other section of the new non-Christian British majority (and I do not blame them for so doing).

And, of course, the great majority of the nation’s viewers will in any case approach the event quietly persuaded that political authority is conferred by the people, not by Jesus Christ – if they are prompted to reflect on the question at all.

What the Church thinks is the coronation’s core meaning might, perhaps, be picked up by a handful of its own members, if they happen to hear sermons on the event, read articles in diocesan or parish newsletters, or stumble upon the special book of coronation prayers issued by the Church at the start of Lent.

That meaning might, perhaps, fleetingly touch the surface of the nation’s consciousness in the odd clips of archbishops’ or bishops’ interviews, in a ‘Thought for the Day’, or perhaps in a minute or two of the Today programme (more likely the more niche Sunday programme).

But for the overwhelming majority of the nation, the event’s theological meaning will be entirely lost in transmission. For the Church to imagine otherwise is to be in the grip of a profound delusion.[10] If so, for it to continue to participate in it is to sustain a charade – which one online dictionary defines as ‘an absurd pretence intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance’.

It is time for the Church of England to abandon its persisting romanticisation of the coronation, and more broadly, of its supposed pre-eminence at the “apex” of the constitution. Let this be the last sacral coronation. Let the Church now commend a civil investiture as the theological and politically preferable option – better for nation and Church, because finally honest about the actual beliefs and loyalties of both.

Such an occasion could still be rich with profound moral and civic meaning, the content emerging from an expert commission of constitutional lawyers, philosophers and civic and religious leaders, enriched, or perhaps challenged, by the findings of people’s assemblies from the four nations of the UK. It could be held, perhaps, in the historically resonant setting of Westminster Hall, presided over by the President of the Supreme Court or the Speaker of the House of Commons.[11]

The Church of England, or a coalition of Churches, could then offer a voluntary service of blessing and commissioning of their own, on their terms, for any new monarch who wanted one. The media would certainly want to cover that, but should be allowed to do so on the condition that the Churches would decide who would interpret the event to the nation.

The Church of England may have only a decade or so to rethink its role in this problematic and anachronistic event before the state comes knocking on its door expecting it to preside quiescently over the next one.

Jonathan Chaplin

[1] Christianity in Society HC Deb vol 730 cc363-380WH. It is at least true that some non-Anglican Christians value it: for a Roman Catholic endorsement, coupled with a plea to abandon the requirement that the monarch be Protestant, see Catherine Pepinster, The British Monarchy, Religion and the Next Coronation (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2022).

[2] On the history and choreography of coronations, see David Torrance, The Coronation: History and Ceremonial, House of Commons Library Research Briefing (6 December 2022); Bob Morris, The Coronation of Charles III (The Constitution Unit, UCL, October 2022). For a supportive theological account, see Wesley Carr, ‘This Intimate Ritual: The Coronation Service’,  Political Theology 4.1 (2002), 1-14.

[3] Not surprisingly, the National Secular Society doubts this (’NSS calls for a more secular and inclusive coronation’, NSS website, 3 November 2022).

[4] ‘Establishment: Some Theological Considerations’, Ecclesiastical Law Journal 21 (2019), 338.

[5] ‘The Case for Retaining Establishment’, in Tariq Modood, ed., Church, State and Religious Minorities (London: Policy Studies Institute, 1997), 45.

[6] ‘Establishment’, 339. Yet more elevated metaphors are offered by Ian Bradley in his fulsome defence of a sacral monarchy (God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Heart of the Monarchy (London: Continuum, 2012)).

[7] See Jonathan Chaplin, ‘Should the Church of England be Disestablished?’Law and Religion UK (8 June 2022), and more fully in Beyond Establishment: Resetting Church-State Relations in England (London: SCM Press, 2022).

[8] Carr, ‘This Intimate Ritual’.

[9] The one possible exception might be Northern Ireland, where anchors, and some of their invited guests, did display such skills during the events surrounding the death of the Queen. Anchoring BBC coverage in GB, however, the otherwise wonderful Kirsty Young, for example, was wholly mute on theological questions during those events. This is to assign no personal blame, for in being so she was only representative of the profession generally.

[10] It was perhaps plausible in 1953 for the Archbishop of Canterbury to express the hope ‘that the traditional Rite could still be given meaning to the secularized millions of Britain and beyond’ (quoted in Morris, ‘The Coronation of Charles III’, 28). In 2023, that hope seems threadbare.

[11] This goes beyond the proposal, canvassed in Bob Morris, The Coronation of Charles III, of a civil event in Westminster Hall following a religious coronation.

Cite this article as: Jonathan Chaplin, “Lost in transmission – on not romanticising the Coronation” in Law & Religion UK, 4 April 2023 <https://lawandreligionuk.com/2023/04/04/lost-in-transmission-on-not-romanticising-the-coronation/>.

18 thoughts on “Lost in transmission – on not romanticising the Coronation

  1. This is a very interesting contribution, but I must admit I, a non-Christian, am somewhat bemused by being told by an Anglican how non-Christians feel about the coronation and its intense religiosity. In fact, I agree with Mr Fletcher MP that, while ‘I still value this history and the benefits it has given us’, the benefits being that the coronation and its survival is inextricable from the democratic and constitutional monarchy which evolved in this country to create a liberal and tolerant state. The religious ritual performs and enacts the seriousness of the cornerstone of the system: the heavy weight on the shoulders of the monarch, chosen by an arbitrary accident of birth, and required to bear the task of embodying the democratic state, in future and tradition alike. Dr Chaplin mocks the oath to maintain ‘law, justice, and mercy’; yet, can anyone doubt that in every decision of Her Majesty’s reign, the Queen took those words seriously? That, of course, is what matters. One thinks, for example, when the Queen allowed Fiji to become a republic rather than cooperate with the monarchist coup plotters. That is what the oath demands. Does anyone doubt it will impress a similar seriousness on the King?

    My own background is Judaism, and I will note the Chief Rabbi, who will ordinarily not enter a church, will be present (on Shabbat too) at the coronation. This is because the Torah commands that Jews c’vod hamalchut —honour the King and monarchy. Upon seeing a non-Jewish King, Jews are commanded to recite (in Hebrew) ‘Blessed art thou, the Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has given His glory to flesh and blood’. The reflected glory of kingship, and the benefits of the system of constitutional monarchy throughout the Commonwealth Realms, do not depend on if one believes that the Holy Ghost truly blessed the Chrism in Jerusalem, nor in if the Protestant Religion really is the one true faith.

    With respect, I think Dr Chaplin is underestimating we of the non-Christian population. We are perfectly capable of understanding and interpreting symbolism, and the rituals of the Church of England are not a threat or menace to our beliefs. The last Coronation ushered in the most open and tolerant era for minority faiths and non-believers in British history. We can hope that His Majesty’s coronation, with a Hindu PM, a Muslim Scottish FM, and the representatives of every faith present, may be the start of a yet more diverse and tolerant era.

    • Thank you for this very thoughtful reply. I do appreciate the fact that you discern within the Christian coronation an important constitutional meaning which has played its part in the evolution of our liberal democratic political order. Your comments on Jewish insights into political rule are very interesting. May I offer a few thoughts in reply.
      First, I do not in any sense wish to tell non-Christians what they think. I am simply describing what I think is the state of affairs with regard to the vast majority of citizens. Perhaps I am wrong and that significant numbers of citizens see what you see; I would like to proved wrong! But I think you (and most other readers of this blog) will be somewhat exceptional among UK citizens in recognizing the significance of the religious elements in the constitution. I still think that for the vast majority (whether religious or not) there would be little understanding of this; and I say that without any intention to blame. But the formal investiture of a head of state is intended to be a moment with which the great majority of citizens is able to identify. Most, however, will miss what is its deepest meaning, and thus I think we should design an investiture which the majority can indeed own for themselves. Many other European states, including monarchies, seem to have succeeded in doing this. The result may from the religious point of view may seem to send a somewhat ‘thinner’ civic message than a sacral coronation but it is at least one that far more can identify with and affirm, and that can surely only be a good thing for loyalty and patriotism. It could still be suitably solemn and deeply moral, even though I think it should not be explicitly religious. My point is also that the Church should not be complicit in an event which the vast majority of those for whom it is intended will not be able to enter into.
      Second, I was not at all ‘mocking’ the oath to maintain law, justice and mercy. On the contrary, something like that (indeed a fuller version with more detailed requirements) should be at the heart of any oath of office of any political leader; I wish MPs, ministers and all office-holders would be required to swear such an oath, and be held better accountable for breaching it. I was pointing out that the actual record of UK governments was no better than those of states that have no coronation or religious establishment. I was not at that point talking about the monarch personally; I fully accept that the Queen has typically been exemplary in discharging her own duties, although of course she can only act on the advice of and within the permission of ministers (as in the case of Fiji, for example). If a coronation only shapes the behaviour of the monarch personally, it has woefully failed. And I cannot see that successive UK government’s record of lawfulness, justice and mercy (since 1953, but also much earlier) is any better than other comparable states; and in several respects they are worse. If so, what difference has a religious coronation actually made? You claim that ‘The last Coronation ushered in the most open and tolerant era for minority faiths and non-believers in British history’. I myself very much doubt that had much to do with the 1953 coronation (or earlier ones), but was rather the continuation of developments beginning much earlier (eg Catholic emancipation in the 1830s). Indeed in the decades after 1953, class, race and ethnic prejudice continued to be widespread, until social attitudes and new legislation began to change from the 1960s onwards. So I am not persuaded that the notable moral improvements in British society since then are the result of either the coronation or of establishment more generally.
      So I think we value many of the same things (tolerance, hospitality, diversity, justice, mercy etc), but perhaps we disagree about the significance of a religious coronation and church establishment in promoting them.
      Thank you again for your reply.

    • You write about ‘the democratic and constitutional monarchy which evolved in this country to create a liberal and tolerant state.’
      That is not exactly what happened – is it?
      It took a civil war and regicide to rid the country of Charles I and further bloodshed to expel his younger son James from the English throne.
      The evolution of the monarchy was forced upon the monarchy by liberal and democratic forces in this country – not the other way round.
      A far simpler solution to the problem of monarchy is to abolish it.

  2. I find the conclusion of this article somewhat odd. The article does not denigrate a Christian understanding of Monarchy, indeed in the beginning it espouses the positivity of this understand. I would here recommend Ian Bradley’s work God Save the King as a particularly useful summary of the subject on the sacred nature of monarchy.

    However, the article’s thesis seems to be that the problem is not in the fundamental understanding of the sacral nature of kingship, but that people will not comprehend it – the “Lost in translation” of the article’s title. This is then asserted to be “romanticisation”.

    I agree that one cannot be naïve about the levels of understanding on the significance and symbolism of the coronation, even within Christian communities, let alone in the wider nation. We are working from a very different base level of understanding than we were in 1953.

    However, it seems to be fallacious therefore to argue that this is romanticising the coronation; if the basis of understanding of sacral rite is justifiable, surely the answer is to deal with the problem of the transmission, rather than to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and settle for a civil ceremony in which the church plays a part almost as if this is the “best we can expect”.

    If the Christian church, and particularly the Church of England. believes in this sacral nature of monarchy as a valid form, which I sincerely hope it does , otherwise one asks what does the Church of England think it is doing in this coronation, then surely it is duty bound to make every endeavour to explain that understanding of monarchy.

    I would suggest that the Church of England needs to take seriously the words of the Declaration of Assent “…which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.” The gospel does have things to say on governance: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.(St Matt 22.21); I do not believe that the temporal and spiritual are necessarily mutually exclusive.

    The book of Daily Prayers for the Coronation is to be welcomed. It will admittedly, in the main part, only reach members of the Christian community, or those with an interest in the monarchy and the coronation. However, it is a start. In my own local situation, I have decided to offer a talk on “The Coronation: its history and symbolism”. It is being held in the parish church of which I am a churchwarden, but the invitation has gone out to the whole village, via social media, and other interested local parties. I am surprised, but delighted, that a local pagan has indicated that she will attend. She may be there for the history; she may also be there for the coffee beforehand or the soup lunch afterwards. However, the talk affords the opportunity at least to explain something of the meaning of the coronation within a Christian context, even if that thesis is rejected. It is surely incumbent on everyone in the church, from the episcopal bench downwards to engage in the themes of the coronation and to explain and discuss the issues that arise from that understanding.

    I am reminded once again of the late Queen’s words in 2012 on the sometimes-misunderstood nature of establishment: “Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions…the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely.” That rôle of the established church is best exemplified in a right understanding of the nature of the Supreme Governorship and Defender of the Faith in the person of the monarch, who has been set aside for this duty in a sacral Coronation. As Archbishop Fisher wrote in 1953 “The Coronation is the occasion for much splendid pageantry: it would be an empty show without that profound significance which is so dramatically displayed in the Coronation Service”. That significance, I would argue, needs to be explained and explored, not merely given up as a lost cause. “Lost in transmission: How can we engage with people?” would be a more positive article.

    • Thank you for this thoughtful reply. I’m delighted to hear you are giving a talk on the coronation in your parish and I hope it goes well. There may be other such events around the country, and other efforts by national church leaders to convey the central point about the coronation. I wish them all well, but I think it is unlikely they will collectively touch most citizens. My concern is that the investiture of a head of state should be something that the vast majority of citizens can, in principle, identity with and affirm, but I think that however hard people at different levels try to convey its central theological meaning (as opposed to it being simply one element of our tradition), most will miss this. I would be glad to be proved wrong after 6 May! And so I question whether the Church should continue to defend its own role in such an investiture, when the meaning it attached to it will be so opaque to most who witness it. As it happens, I do reject the very idea of a sacral coronation or sacral kingship, on theological grounds (I spell those out in the book cited at the top of the piece). As a Christian, I do affirm that political authority is a delegation from divine authority and that rulers are accountable to God, but I don’t think this theological claim should be formally, officially endorsed in a constitution. So I also reject the idea of a established church. That is the background to my argument, although there wasn’t space to spell all that out here.

  3. It seems odd to me that a prominent Anglican would recommend that the Church of England should seek to be relieved of its responsibility to exercise Christian ministry (in this case, at the highest level of authority, to a King at his coronation), because the people do not ‘get it’. It is part of the Anglican church’s core function to bring a message which is not properly understood (the gospel) to the people of the nation, most of whom, in 2023, do not ‘get it’, the other core function being to support the faithful, who, by definition, do get it. If this argument is applied to the Church’s wider ministry, the Church may as well pack up and go home. The visible role of the Church in the coronation ceremony will indeed likely generate the question “Why are these people involved?” in people’s minds, enabling many of us, lay and ordained, to explain the vital spiritual context of the event which has been so well set out by the author in his article.

    • Thank you. I think I’d want to say that there is a categorical difference between the primary mission of the church to proclaim the gospel (to all and sundry, whether or not they receive it), and the church playing a formal constitutional role in the investiture of a head of state and thus acting as a ‘national church’. This is not simply just another form of ‘ministry’. It assumes the legitimacy of an established church with the constitutional privileges that go with that (privileges which I argue are in tension with the very heart of the gospel message); of the idea of a ‘Christian nation’; and of the idea that a state is entitled to confess a faith. I think all those assumptions are theologically problematic (as I argue in the book cited). So there’s no implication at all that withdrawing from this (or any other) element of establishment means that the church should pack up and go home. On the contrary, laying aside these formal constitutional privileges (and burdens) would free the church to bear witness to the gospel more authentically and without the distracting constraints and expectations that inevitably come with performing the role of ‘national church’.

  4. I agree with commenters who judge that the better approach is to explain the ceremony and the underlying meanings with reference to God and the people. The Church should anticipate the question ‘What mean ye by this service?’ and be ready to give a comprehensive answer. This, after all, was anticipated in regards to the passover with its ceremonies and rituals, where new generations would arise who had no direct experience of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt:

    Exodus 12:24-27 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.

    • Thank you. In addition to earlier replies, I think I’d only add that the passover or other rituals engaged in by biblical Israel were obligations laid on a covenanted people that was also effectively a territorial political nation; every member of that covenanted nation was obliged to fulfil them. In the New Testament era, there is a fundamental separation of the former from the latter, so that (in Christian terms) the people of God today are no longer tied in any special way to such nations, and nations (more technically, their political authorities) may not oblige citizens to engage in any religious duties. The church, of course, as a voluntary fellowship, may and should engage in such rituals of ‘memory’ (notably the eucharist). That’s why I find the very ideas of a ‘Christian nation’, or ‘national church’, theologically objectionable.

      • That’s as may be, but it doesn’t really address my point.

        When the perceived relevance of a particular ritual or ceremony becomes hazy with time you can either do nothing, letting it wither on the vine and become apparently more irrelevant; or you can abolish it or restructure it ‘for the modern man’; or you can explain and celebrate its significance.

        My example from the OT was not to enter into the matter of the similarities and differences between Israel as a theocratic nation and Britain today. It was to show that when a new generation arises that does not understand what is being done then the collective memory can be ‘refreshed’ by explaining it.

        When you say “the great majority of the nation’s viewers will in any case approach the event quietly persuaded that political authority is conferred by the people, not by Jesus Christ” you might be right in that observation, but the persuasion is deplorable, and it is wrong. The very words of Christ, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above”, will surely be heard by many this week.

        Accordingly, it belongs to the church to teach this truth to every generation. When people say ‘what mean ye by this service?’ then that is an opportunity to teach the truth. There’s not the same opportunity if the service with its deep imagery is abolished.

  5. I can only reiterate the thoughtful criticisms made of this article in the comments above. It demonstrates a lamentable failure of imagination, a lack of missionary ambition, and a patronising attitude towards others. There are various shades and degrees of understanding of complex ritual actions. The author would do well to recall the arguments made in ‘The Meaning of the Coronation’ by Edward Shils and Michael Young, a famous article written soon after the previous coronation, to see how a left-wing academic and secular Jewish sociologist can write with appreciation and profound understanding of the Christian message embodied by the Coronation. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1953.tb00953.x

    • I think I have addressed these points in my previous replies, thought no doubt not to your satisfaction. I am aware of that article. But I think its authors may already have been engaging in a degree of idealisation in 1953, and certainly would be in 2023. And their claim is about the role of the event in the expression and consolidation of national identity and values, not its success in conveying what the Church’s own defenders of the coronation typically claim is its core theological meaning – the subordination of political authority to divine authority and the accountability of governments to higher norms of justice (which are likely to critique aspects of that identity and those values, not simply reaffirm them). At least today, that specific meaning, I claim, is very likely to get ‘lost in transmission’ for most UK citizens. I would love to be proved wrong on 6 May and its aftermath.

  6. Pingback: Opinion – 5 April 2023 | Thinking Anglicans

  7. A timely and helpful post. I’m glad somebody with Anglicanism is thinking about the Coronation ceremony- as noted, the remaining one in Europe. Even if the theology could be explained, it’s likely that many Christians in the UK would also be uncomfortable with the implications.

  8. ‘we will be fascinated by close-up shots of the complex liturgical choreography of the event ……. This will include the eucharist …..’

    I wonder – as far as I can discern, the contextualising of the coronation within the eucharist has not actually been confirmed. A list of the elements of the service, published on the Times website today, and looking as though it is quoting from somewhere official (though no acknowledgement is given,) makes no reference to the eucharist.

    If there is to be no eucharist then the sacramental element of the service becomes concentrated in the anointing alone. As the eucharist would presumably be an Anglican one (I have read elsewhere – also assuming that the whole ceremony will take place within the eucharist – and that it will still be 1662!) to remove it would remove from the ceremony a specific sacramental grounding in the established church.

    Maybe reducing the event to exclude the eucharist is part of the plan to keep the event shorter than 1953 (the Times today says it will be one and a half hours) but it is also possible that the elements of a coronation can be better presented and explained to a country (and world) less acquainted with the familiar service of the eucharist, which might now be seen as a distraction from the ‘essentials’ of this rare and exotic event.

  9. This isn’t meant to be as irreverent as it may sound. A friend just asked me what I thought of Camilla being ‘Queen’ instead of ‘Queen Consort’. My reply was that I don’t mind what they call her, so long as it isn’t ‘hey, you’.

    My faith’s pretty simple. All of us are equals before the only throne that really matters, and I understand that our King’s grandfather said that himself.

    My church is aiming to open its doors on May 6th so the community can come and share the joy, and the richness of the celebration on our overhead screen, no matter what faith they may or may not have. As a means of outreach and relating to the people around us it’s a good chance. Let’s make the best of it.

    • You’re right:
      And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
      ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
      And he replied:
      ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’
      So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

      Spoken by George VI in his Christmas 1939 broadcast to the Empire these words struck a chord with a country facing the uncertainty of war. Courtesy of a web search that found it here

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