Britain’s King Charles III and Camilla, the queen consort, leave after a Service of Prayer and Reflection for the life of Queen Elizabeth II, at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, Wales, Sept. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)
As we come to terms with what the British monarchy will look like in the post-Elizabethan era (can we recycle that term to speak of recent history?), I was interested in this article posted in Religion News Service on 21 September about the new king’s title Defender of the Faith and how King Charles may be interpreting it.
The term Defensor Fidei was first given to Henry VIII in 1521 by the Pope, when Henry was trying to curry favour with the papacy through a ghost-written tract he had put his name to, denouncing Martin Luther. As we know, Henry was quite willing later on to jettison Rome’s favour to gain his divorce from his first wife, Catherine. Readers who want to know more, and are looking for good fiction, are encouraged to read the late and lamented Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall.
The title remained, and while the late Queen and her son have both maintained their membership in the Church of England and their Christian faith, there have been signs that the new King has envisioned the Crown being a guarantor of religions. As Prince of Wales, he controversially said that he thought the monarch should be “Defender of the Faiths”, and while he recanted that statement, the RNS article notes that there were many different faith/religious leaders present at funeral services for Queen Elizabeth.
An expansive view of religious freedom is probably the only course open to a constitutional monarch with a fragile authority over an increasingly pluralistic and secular nation. It is, however, the view that the late Queen took, as the RNS article notes: