Watching the Coronation with your children? Andy Peck gives you some background to help you explain what’s going on
You may be looking forward to the Coronation and intending to watch it on TV. Maybe your children will be joining you, for one of those all too rare moments when the whole family watch the same thing on TV. There will be plenty of talking points and you may want to know something about what’s going on and some of the questions that may be asked.
You will want to couch the information in an age appropriate way, but here’s a quick explainer for you to be one step ahead of your family.
Is Charles becoming king?
Charles officially became king the moment Elizabeth II died. This is because in the UK, as with many other monarchies around the world, the role of monarch is passed from one generation to another. The next in line to the throne will be Prince William. So he doesn’t become king, but he will be crowned as king.
How is the monarchy connected to the Church of England?
This country has been ‘Christian’ from the sixth century with most Christians belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, led by the Pope in Rome. Alfred the Great (971-899) ensured that the laws of the land were based around the Ten Commandments and wanted the nation to have the God of the Bible at its centre.
The Church of England is the ‘official established church in England’ and has been for nearly 500 years, from the time of Henry VIII. This means of course Church of England buildings that were built before the beginning of the Church of England in Britain would have worshipped God using the services approved by the Catholic church.
The monarch is ‘connected’ to the Church of England because it was a king effectively founded it. Henry VIII fell out with the Pope over whether he could have a divorce and marry someone else and so in 1532 Henry declared that England would split from the Catholic Church. This was a political move rather than a religious one, but in time the Church of England would adopt the protestant faith that had led to other Christians in Europe splitting from Rome in 1517 when Martin Luther had challenged the pope. It was known as the Protestant faith. (Protestant, from the word ‘protest’ against things it believed were wrong.)
In practice Christians still believed many of the same things they had believed when they were part of the Catholic church, but in time the Church of England would embrace the protestant faith more clearly.
So if a child asks: ‘why is King Charles III crowned in church?’ you might say something like. In the United Kingdom, Christianity is our Faith and all kings and queens are crowned by the leaders of the church who want to pray that God will be with him in his important work. It’s handy to know the background, but you probably don’t want to go there!
What does it mean for the king to be the ‘defender of the faith’?
There is a clear history answer. This title was originally given to Henry VIII by the pope, before they fell out. But when Henry split from Rome he restated that role and monarchs including Charles take a special oath to maintain “the settlement of the Church of England and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established”. He also undertook a separate oath at his Accession to uphold the security of the Church of Scotland.
At her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II delivered a speech explaining the concept of her as ‘defender of the Faith’ in a multi-faith society where she said that the idea of an Established Church is occasionally misunderstood. She believed it didn’t mean to defend Christianity to the exclusion of other religions. Rather the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.
That’s a lot for a child to grasp. You might say that King Charles and all who support him, and particularly leaders in the church have a job to make sure that we are freely able to attend church, and that people of other faiths can attend their places of worsip in freedom too. Sadly, in some parts of the world, nations try and bully other people into just following their faith, whatever that may be.
Does that mean the monarch has to be a Christian?
There have been monarchs who were from a different denomonation, Kings George I,II,III were Lutheran, but this is unusual and this Royal Family have all been baptised into the Church of England, and the Queen was clear in her faith, and happy to share it. But whether any particular monarch is actual Christian is between them and God. They certainly vow to rule ‘as a Christian’ rather than any other religion, and by all accounts Charles III is happy to continue in his mother’s ways.
What happens at the coronation?
The elements of the coronation have been essentially the same for a thousand years. It is a religious ceremony where the king is crowned. The ceremony will include the anointing of the king. Even though this is a public service, it is understood that the anointing will take place in relative secret, as with Queen Elizabeth II. TV cameras will not show this moment when the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, will dip two fingers into the holy oil and anoint Charles on the hands, breast and head. This oil comes from Jerusalem, the place where Jesus was crucified.
The Archbishop will pray that God would ‘anoint’ Charles like he anointed king Solomon in the Old Testament (1 Kings 1) by Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet
At that moment the choir will sing a hymn which includes words about this anointing.
If your children like football they may be interested that the Champions’ League theme music for TV coverage was adapted from the music from Handle’s Messiah that is played here! You might like to see the video of this part of the ceremony from the last coronation
After this happens will Charles III will have the ’St Edwards crown placed on his head, and the Camilla The Queen Consort will receive the Queen Mary’s crown.
What power will Charles have as king?
The United Kingdom has what is known as a ‘constitutional monarchy’. The Government is technically ‘His Majesty’s Government’. But the real power to make changes to laws and to spend money on projects comes from elected ministers who form a government. They tell the monarch what they wish to do and give him the speech outlining this, which he reads at the beginning of every session of Parliament.
When it comes to the Church, although he is ‘head of the Church of England’, and he and the Parliament approve the bishops appointed to lead the church, they don’t have any true say in who does what, or what the church believes. This is left to the General Synod which is made up of bishops, clergy (local church leaders) and lay people (non-ordained Christians), totalling 478.
Whether your children will have interest in this, it is handy to know that being ‘head of the church’ does not affect how we worship God in the churches we are part of, whether Church of England, another denomnation of church stream.
Nevertheless, the king has enormous influence in the UK and worldwide. It is good that we ask God to indeed anoint him with all he will need to fulfil God’s purposes.