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Archbishop Welby intimates multi-faith Coronation but denies ‘tensions’ with the King

by Premier Journalist

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the coming coronation ceremony for the King will be "deeply representative" of the nation, indicating that other faiths will have a part to play in the ancient Christian rite.

In comments addressing the lack of a published order of service, Rt Revd Justin Welby denied there is a stand-off with the monarch over the involvement of non-Christian faith leaders.

“None whatsoever. No tension. Absolutely not”, he said about widely reported difficulties.

Adding a reference to the late Queen Elizabeth’s own coronation 70 years ago, the Archbishop added: “What there is, is a deep sense of both of celebrating our tradition but also reflecting the fact that we’re infinitely more diverse than we were in 1953. This is not 1953.”

But with little more than two weeks to go before the coronation on 6 May, the order of service to be used in Westminster Abbey has not been made public. Under canon law, no other faiths can be involved in the reading of Christian prayers during the service.

According to Lambeth Palace, Canon Adrian Daffern was commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to be the principal author. However, Canon Daffern has declined to comment.

Details of the traditional elements of the rite appear on the Abbey’s website. It explains that the main part of the coronation service can be traced back to the crowning of King Edgar at Bath in A.D. 973, though significant parts are much older than that. The service has remained largely unchanged in over 1000 years since then.

The Abbey says the Anglican service includes a procession, the making of oaths or promises by the King, the acclamation of the people, the anointing with oil and an investiture with regalia, together with the celebration of the eucharist.

The guide by Westminster Abbey adds:

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has the duty of preparing the order of service and to him alone belongs the right of officiating at it and of crowning the Sovereign and the Queen Consort”.

“The Dean of Westminster, as successor to the medieval abbots of Westminster, has the right to instruct the Sovereign in all matters relating to the ceremony”, it continues, “and to assist the Archbishop at the anointing.”

Tensions about what may or may not happen at the King’s coronation have arisen due to remarks 30 years ago that Charles hoped to be 'Defender of Faith', not simply 'Defender of the Faith' – a title that all English sovereigns since Henry VIII have held as head of the Church of England.

Clarity is emerging however over the Coronation Oath, which an assessment by the House of Commons Library says will not be changing.

Historian David Torrance writing for the Library indicates that following his oath, the King will also take the statutory Accession Declaration Oath. This confirms that the monarch is “a faithful Protestant”, as a Catholic is prohibited by law from taking the throne.


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