GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

This is the digital version of an article which was published in the British Church Newspaper on Monday 6th June 2022 (authored by AP McIntyre and edited by Anthony Bennett, Co-Editor of the publication). For a distinctively evangelical and Protestant outlook on national and international affairs why not subscribe to this newspaper, published fortnightly? For further information with details as to how you can become a subscriber click on the button below.

At the State Opening of Parliament on 10th May 2022, we were reminded not only of the frailty of our ageing monarch, as the Prince of Wales read the Queen’s Speech for the first time, but of the centrality and perpetuity of the Crown in the British Constitution. With the throne removed, and the Imperial State Crown at the right hand of Prince Charles, Parliament and the nation were reminded that he was acting not on behalf of his mother, but for the Crown.

At her Coronation ceremony in 1953, our Queen responded in the affirmative to three pivotal questions: “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?”, and “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?”

The Most Precious Thing

The Coronation Bible Number Two (Royal Collection Trust), Number One was presented to Her Majesty and retained by Lambeth Palace. While there were 25 Coronation Bibles produced only One and Two were specially bound.

The new Queen, kneeling on the altar steps, laid her right hand on the Bible, saying: “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.” After kissing the Bible, she signed the oath. In 1953, for the first time, the Bible was presented to her jointly by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who told her: “Our gracious Queen: to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords…Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.”


A CHANGE IS COMING

http://www.royal.uk

This is a most remarkable year in the history of our nation. As we commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we thank God for her faithfulness, consistency, morality and spirituality, in counselling, as Head of State, no fewer than fourteen Prime Ministers. But while we sing with pride, passion and prayerfulness, “Long to reign over us”, we are painfully aware that a change is coming, when the royal household will enter territory uncharted for at least 70 years.


The presence of the Crown, not the Monarch, at the State Opening, was a very tangible illustration that, while the personality and character of the individual plays a vital role, the institution itself is greater and bigger than mere mortals. Our monarchs have varied from exceptional Queens to mediocre – and even deeply immoral – Kings. Yet the institution has remained, like a mighty rock, providing certainty, in a landscape dominated by political intrigue and infighting.

In a world shaped by revolutionary struggles, republican ideals and written constitutions, the British Crown appears to be a strange anachronism, with its hereditary principle and family privileges. While the unelected Monarch remains as Head of State, the legislature, which acts on her behalf, is the ‘mother of all Parliaments’ and her nation is the model upon which virtually every democracy has been created.


NO GOVERNMENT WITHOUT THE CROWN

http://www.royal.uk

Ironically, republics across the world, which have thrown off the trappings of monarchy, are curious to the point of envy of the British system. The Crown remains at the apex because it embodies the Constitution. When the Monarch is crowned, that person ceases to be merely an individual, or member of a royal household, but – as in the case of our Queen – holds a position which is at the heart of our legislative and governmental system. Britain cannot be governed without the Crown.

The British Constitution is not written in one single document, like many other democratic systems across the world, such as the United States. Our Constitution has evolved over time, a mixture of legalisation, convention and tradition. While it is open to interpretation, it is extremely nimble and adaptable and, most crucially, cannot imprison the legislature.

In countries with written constitutions, unelected judges can strike down laws passed by the elected legislature and therefore bind the government. In Britain, our Constitution critically deems Parliament to be supreme, which was one of the arguments in favour of the UK exiting the European Union.


ACCOUNTABLE

http://www.royal.uk

What ties this unwritten Constitution together, though, is the Crown. People may wonder how accountability works within the British system. The Prime Minister and his government are the Ministers of the Crown. The Queen holds them accountable on behalf of her people, through a review of daily state papers and weekly interviews with the Prime Minister. Every day, red boxes with state papers arrive with the Monarch.

The opposition is officially ‘Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’; the highest courts are Crown Courts, and our armed forces owe their allegiance to the Monarch.


The Crown has persisted and evolved in a most unpolitical and unpartisan fashion throughout the turbulent years in European history, when monarchy after monarchy fell across the continent. Where France, our nearest neighbour, has been plagued by often violent upheavals, our nation has been blessed with relative stability, enabling it to rise from being a third-rate European power in the 17th Century to become one of the most influential forces for good in world history.

Our democracy; our belief in civil liberty; the principles of English Common Law; our judicial system; the 1688 Bill of Rights, and our Civil Service structure have all been a template for nations the world over. What is it therefore, about our Crown and Constitution, which has provided our nation with such stability and influence over many centuries?


DUTY TO GOD

I would argue strongly that the principles of Christianity within the Constitution – which the Crown embodies – lie at the heart of the great British success story. This is something we should be grateful for and prize as a treasure more valuable than the jewels which adorn the Imperial State Crown. I believe the Queen understands the value of her office, as no other Monarch in history has done, and we must pray that her successors will follow her Christian example.

It is often remarked that Queen Elizabeth II is a lady consumed with duty. Her sense of duty was no doubt fashioned by her father, King George VI, who was rather surprisingly elevated to the throne after her uncle, King Edward VIII, failed to put his nation first. There is no doubt that her principal duty is to God and to the vows she took in His presence during the Coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, 2nd June 1953.


DEEPLY SPIRITUAL

Isle of Iona by https://unsplash.com/@william_gibson


It in is this Coronation Ceremony that we see the deep influence of Christianity upon the British Constitution. The Coronation is neither a secular nor a political affair. It is deeply spiritual, little changed in over 1,000 years, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The origins of the ceremony find their roots in early Christian Britain, as exemplified by the Stone of Scone, kept in Scotland, but transported to London for the Coronation. This was employed by Columba, the early Irish Christian missionary to Scotland, who crowned Aidan as King of Dalraida upon this very stone in 608 AD.
While there is much pomp and ceremony in the British Coronation, harking back to medieval times, what should interest us particularly is the spiritual dimension. The Monarch acknowledges a duty to God on behalf of every government which legislates during his or her reign. This is a tangible reminder that a nation must be governed according to God’s holy laws – or judgement will fall.


The questions asked of our Queen in 1953, and her answers, bind the Commons and Lords as well as the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. They also, crucially, in a constitutional sense, guarantee our freedoms to worship God according to our conscience. One cannot simply argue that the Queen is a mere figurehead and these vows are just pageantry. As Head of State, the Monarch takes these vows on behalf of her governments who are appointed by the Crown, following the will of the people expressed at the ballot box.”


IMMORAL

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Tragically, as a consequence of the immoral legislation passed by successive Parliaments, to which our Queen has been forced to assent, these vows have been broken several times. There are other important Coronation symbols which highlight the Christian ethos at the heart of our Constitution. The Monarch is preceded by three swords, representing temporal justice, spiritual justice and mercy. She was anointed by holy oil, representing the spiritual discernment that she needs for her work. The Monarch’s Orb, surmounted by a cross, represented the rule of Christ over the world; that there is a greater King to which every ruler is subject.


DIAMOND

When presented with the Royal Sceptre, which incidentally contains the largest diamond the world, the Cullinan Diamond, the Archbishop says: “Receive the rod of Equity and Mercy. Be so merciful that you be not too remiss; so execute justice that you forget not mercy. Punish the wicked, protect and cherish the just, and lead your people in the way wherein they should go.” While these symbols don’t reflect the spiritual state of our nation, we must not underestimate their value, because, from a Christian perspective, they form part of what it means to be British.


ATTACKED

With the passing of time, another Coronation draws ever closer. It should be of the greatest concern if this ancient ceremony is tampered with in order to accommodate the growing secularism and pluralism of our society. Prince Charles suggested he might want to be considered as a ‘Defender of Faith’, not the Defender of the Faith. Such changes would make the departure from Christianity constitutionally official, and re-define our national identity.


We live in days of tremendous change when the foundations are being attacked with vigour. We thank God for our Christian past that has given us so many blessings, which are unappreciated by many. We are grateful for Her Majesty’s 70 years of incredible duty to her people and to our God. We look forward with apprehension, praying for an awakening of righteousness, but comforted by the knowledge that our Saviour is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, whose purposes for His Church will not be thwarted, whatever men may do.

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