Antidisestablishmentarianism is recognised for being one of the longest non-technical words in the Oxford New English Dictionary; it is in fact a double negative. Many will be aware of the term, not for its constitutional significance but for its infamous appearance in “Blackadder”.
” I will return before you can say ‘antidisestablishmentarianism…”
“Black Adder the Third” Dish and Dishonesty (TV episode 1987)
The term is defined simply as arguments from those whom oppose the disestablishment of the established religion of a particular country. In the United Kingdom the Church of England is the officially established religious organisation of England and Wales. Since the passing of the Act of Settlement of 1701, every reigning Monarch is declared, upon accession, the full style and honour of the title of Supreme Governor of The Church of England. The fact that the British Monarch, as Head of State, automatically becomes the titular leader of the Church of England merges the State with the Church and thus establishes the Church of England as the Supreme Faith.
According to a major report on the Monarchy by The Fabian Society, the Queen should be stripped of her title as Supreme Governor of the Church of England so that the royal family are more in touch with the “ethical diversity of 21st Century Britain”. The actual title of Supreme Governor was formed in 1559 by Queen Elizabeth the First, whom decided that she could not call herself “Supreme Head” (as her father [King Henry VIII] had done) as this is the biblical title of Christ and one coined by the catholic Pope of Rome. It was thus decided that the Monarch would act as Supreme Governor. The Fabian Society claimed that the Queen should appear as a diverse monarch in order to secure the monarchy for the future.
This however, has caused much controversy. Her Majesty is a deeply Christian woman and this has never impacted upon her popularity around the world – why should it? It would evidently cause a Constitutional nightmare if the Queen was to lose such a title. Critics of the report find it hard to see how the Monarch could separate herself from the Church, when considering that the Church is the only authority that may enthrone and thus crown a monarch. There are many examples of the relationship between the Church and the State. This can be seen in the make-up of The British Parliament. Bishops of The Church of England sit and vote in the House of Lords as Lord Spirituals. At the start of each session, Bishops will read Anglican prayers and then proceed in participating in the work of the Upper Chamber. According to the Church of England’s website; “Bishops provide an important independent voice and spiritual insight to the work of the Upper House and, while they make no claims to direct representation, they seek to be a voice for all people of faith” here we are able to see that the Church has the ability, office and power to influence any bill passed through parliament and so they should, considering the long history of The Church, the Crown and Parliament. If the Queen was no longer Defender of The Faith, then the composition of the Lords and indeed the very workings of Parliament would need to be reformed. In Britain while our history evidentially proves that we are not anti-reform it does show that we are anti-radical reform.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is known to be a keen moderniser of the monarchy and has already spoken about being named as the “defender of faiths” rather than the “Defender of the Faith” – Christianity. Some question if this is ethical considering the nature of the title.
“Fidei defensor” or “Defender of the Faith” has been one of the subordinate titles of the British monarchs since it was granted on in 1521, by Pope Leo X to King Henry VIII. Following King Henry’s decision to break with Rome in 1530 the Pope excommunicated Henry as a heretic and an attacker of the Faith and thus the King lost the title. The Parliament of England however, in 1544, conferred the title “Defender of the Faith” on King Henry VIII and his successors, now the defenders of the Anglican faith, of which they remain the Supreme Governors holding more authority than the Archbishop of Canterbury as Primate of the Church.
If Prince Charles, upon succession did wish to become “defender of faiths” rather than the “Defender of the Faith” then this would require the Parliament of the day as well as the Commonwealth to agree to a change in the titles and styles of the Monarch. Considering the fuss created by the Crown Succession Act, 2013 where the debate over male succession is still ongoing in places such as Queensland and Canada it is highly unlikely that a universal change could be achieved.
While I am not claiming that the Monarchy should be relics of the 12th Century, I would like to see the Monarchy remain as traditional as possible in these times of change for history has seen the Monarchy as a point of continuity.
In Her Majesty’s capacity as Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II is styled, “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”.
If the God was removed from the centre of Monarchy, then where would Monarchy source its power and rights? While there is a growing secular movement and a rise in different religions in the United Kingdom, the presence of the Queen provides almost a spiritual continuity to both people of the faith, the faithless and people of other faiths. Without this spiritual continuity I would fear that Britain would not be what it is today.
The monarchy has served the British people and to some extent the world, very well. When looking at the word’s republics there is no real advantage in changing the religious posts held by the Monarch. Indeed J. F. Kennedy’s Catholic Faith did not alter the respect for the Presidency of the United States of America.
It is of my opinion that if the Church wants the Queen as its head then who are the Fabian Society to tell it what to do? Our United Kingdom has stood firm, surviving the test of time and this is due to our Monarchy. It is time for anyone who questions the role, influence and power held by the Monarch to stand down, get out their pencil and start worrying about economy and less about the fabric of what makes Britain Great.
A million well-wishers gathering despite the rain to celebrate 60 glorious years of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II echoes the sentiment that we (the people) are proud and grateful for the service of a Queen and of her Institution.
Despite some thinking that the Monarchy is religionist, anti-Catholic and generally too conventional in light of the speed of the times, the Royal Family represent value for money, and make Britain the envy of the world and thus their conventions, traditions and religion should be left to stand the test of time…
Do you think that Her Majesty should maintain the leadership of The Church of England?