(CNSNews.com) – Britain’s King Charles III was formally proclaimed king and “Defender of The Faith” in a weekend ceremony, and in his first speech affirmed his “particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England,” even as he pledged to serve the citizens of Britain and its realms, “whatever may be your background or beliefs.”
In a ceremony accompanied by centuries-old pageantry in London’s St. James Palace, an official known as the Garter King of Arms proclaimed that:
"… the Prince Charles Philip Arthur George is now, by the death of our late sovereign of happy memory, become our only lawful and rightful liege lord Charles the Third, by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of his other realms and territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of The Faith, to whom we do acknowledge all faith and obedience with humble affection; beseeching God by whom kings and queens do reign to bless His Majesty with long and happy years to reign over us."
A longstanding advocate of interfaith dialogue, Charles as heir to the throne sparked debate when he suggested that “Defender of Faith” would be a more inclusive and all-embracing title, although in an interview seven years ago he sought to lay the controversy to rest. “The Faith” refers to the Church of England, the country’s state or established church.
In his first public speech as monarch, King Charles recognized that, when his mother became Queen Elizabeth II seven decades ago, Britain and the world were “still living by the conventions of earlier times. In the course of the last seventy years we have seen our society become one of many cultures and many faiths.”
“The institutions of the state have changed in turn,” he said, but through the changes and challenges, “our values have remained, and must remain, constant.”
“The role and the duties of monarchy also remain, as does the sovereign’s particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England – the church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted.”
He pledged himself to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of his nation “throughout the remaining time God grants me.”
“And wherever you may live in the United Kingdom, or in the realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavor to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life.”
The chief executive officer of Britain’s National Secular Society, Stephen Evans, called the comments a “welcome nod to inclusivity” from the new king.
“Yet upon Coronation he will swear to uphold the privileges and doctrine of the Church of England,” he tweeted, referring to the formal coronation ceremony, which is not likely to take place for many months to come.
“That's hardly appropriate for a Head of State in a diverse and increasingly irreligious 21st century U.K.”
Evans said in an email the NSS would continue to campaign for disestablishment – the removal of the Church of England’s status as England’s established church – and for the reform of the monarchy to divest it of its religious role.
“It is our view that the position of the head of state should not be reserved for members of one particular faith,” he said. “It is unacceptable that only a protestant Christian can be head of state – particularly in one of the least religious and most religiously diverse countries in the world.”
Evans said the NSS believed that the monarch should no longer be required to be “in communion” with the Church of England or to be the church’s “supreme governor.”
“And the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ should not be retained.”
Changing royal titles would require parliament to amend the Royal Titles Act, legislation enacted in 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
The most recent legislative reform relating to the monarchy was the 2013 Succession to the Crown Act, which threw out a provision disqualifying from the line of succession someone who has married a Roman Catholic.
The 2013 legislation also ended the system of male primogeniture – under which a younger son could displace an elder daughter in the line of succession. (The change meant that Prince William’s daughter, Charlotte, is now third in line to the throne, after her father and her older brother, George.)
Meanwhile, the coffin carrying Queen Elizabeth’s body arrived in Edinburgh where it will remain for 24 hours before being flown to London on Tuesday.
The funeral for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch will be held in Westminster Abbey next Monday. The White House confirmed on Sunday that President Biden and the First Lady will travel to London at the weekend and attend the funeral.
As Heir to Throne, Charles Said He Would Rather Be ‘Defender of Faith’ vs. ‘Defender of The Faith’ (Sept. 9, 2022)