(WGHP) — The population of Great Britain is less than one percent of the world, yet the ceremony in London on May 6 captured a great majority of the world’s attention, including here in “the colonies.”
“As Americans, I think we’re fascinated by…this ritual, this tradition, pomp and circumstance since we don’t have that,” said Amanda Wrenn Allen, an assistant professor of history at High Point University, focusing on British History and English Reformation Theology.
Professor Allen was in England for the coronation.
“The monarch serves as a really good separate entity from the divisive politics that they have going on…while the country might be upset with what’s going on with different politicians and the back-and-forth, especially now in modern British politics, they can still come together cultural, unifying symbol of the monarchy,” Professor Allen said.
In her teaching, she gets into the question of whether the monarchy has outlived its usefulness.
“This is a question I get a lot with my students,” Professor Allen said. “This head of state who gets paid a substantial amount of money by the government but doesn’t actually have true, political authority or legislative power. That does seem to be opposite of sort of this modern move with democratic structure…if you look at it from that more cultural patriotic side, I do think that’s where…there is something about tradition and just sort of defining who we are.”
Professor Rosemary Haskell is quite sure of the situation.
“It costs money, but I think it’s worth what we’re paying for,” said Professor Haskell of the monarchy. She was born in Durham, England, teaches English at Elon University and understands King Charles’ desire to get moving on his agenda.
“He’s waited a long, long time, and it’s just hard to imagine what that must be like living a life where your role in life has to be delayed until your mother dies. It’s just hard to imagine what that must be like,” Professor Haskell said.
Here’s a quick primer on how we got here: throughout history, most monarchs believed in the divine right of kings, which is the thought that they are chosen by God, are all powerful and above any civilian government.
That began to change with the signing of the Magna Carta by King John and about 40 English barons that limited what the barons considered arbitrary rules and the taking of their property.
But it really took off with The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the subsequent English Bill of Rights of 1689.
The Glorious Revolution was, to a degree, the culmination of the English Civil War in which various English factions deposed King James II and invited his nephew William of Orange (king of The Netherlands) and James II’s daughter Mary to become the new monarchs in 1688.
The following year, Parliament passed the English Bill of Rights, which is a precursor to the American Bill of Rights.
“The 1688 Glorious Revolution and the subsequent 1689 Bill of Rights with William and Mary absolutely is where the king and queen agreed ‘from this point forward, we are equal to Parliament, and we are not above the law’ and so ‘…effectively ending any claim of absolute monarchy,” Professor Allen said.
When Prince Albert died in 1861, his wife Queen Victoria largely quit working as monarch, Professor Allen said, and her prime minister Benjamin Disraeli slowly moved the monarchy into a largely ceremonial, head of state position where it has been ever since.
Now it’s Charles’ turn. For people in Professor Haskell’s generation, he may not be Queen Elizabeth II, but they still respect him.
“In a way, I admire him greatly,” Professor Haskell said. “He has shown that in some ways, he’s a very deep and broad thinker. He has a reputation for…having been an environmentalist and a thinker about the environment as a very young man years before most people were thinking about it. Years before 9/11, years before the world woke up to the fact that the Islamic world was a group of people, a number of countries that the West needed to take notice of, he was aware of that. He was talking about how we needed to engage with Islam.”
The one place the monarch still reigns supreme is over the Church of England. In fact, that’s what the coronation is for. It’s a decidedly religious ceremony, making Charles the head of the Church of England.
“One of the things that Charles has said…is that he realizes that most people either don’t have a faith or if they do, it’s not the Anglican Church of England faith,” said Professor Haskell about the part of the coronation that makes Charles the defender of the faith.
He would rather say, Professor Haskell contends, that he’s the defender of the faiths or faith in general.
“He’s not going to be able to say that. He will be crowned as defender of the faith which means the Anglican church,” Professor Haskell said. “But I think he has been able to signal that he appreciates the spiritual dimension of life whether it’s associated with a particular church or not.”
See more about the coronation and monarch in this edition of The Buckley Report.