Ten things to know about the next Accession and Coronation

robert.hazell.350x350com.google.Chrome.j5urj9Last month Robert Hazell and Bob Morris published two reports about the next Accession and Coronation, which were discussed in a previous blog. Along the way they gathered a lot of extra information, which has now been published on the Monarchy pages of the Constitution Unit website. The following represents a selection of the most frequently asked questions.

1. Will Prince Charles become King Charles III?

Not necessarily. He is free to choose his own regnal title. King Edward VII chose Edward as his regnal title, although hitherto he had been known by his first name of Albert. King Edward VIII also chose Edward as his regnal title, although he was known to his family and friends as David. Prince Charles’s Christian names are Charles Philip Arthur George. Instead of becoming King Charles he might choose to become King George VII, or King Philip, or King Arthur, although Clarence House has denied this in the past.

2. Will the Duchess of Cornwall become Queen Camilla?

Under common law the spouse of a King automatically becomes Queen. But there are two possible reasons why Camilla, who is currently the Duchess of Cornwall, might not assume the title. The first is the argument voiced by the Daily Mirror and Mail Online, that Camilla cannot become Queen because her 2005 civil marriage to Prince Charles was not valid. The argument runs as follows: because the Marriage Acts from 1753 have explicitly excepted royal marriages from their provisions, the only valid marriage which a member of the royal family could contract in England was a religious marriage in the Church of England. The Lord Chancellor in 2005 defended the validity of the Prince’s civil marriage, as did the Registrar General. But if Camilla became Queen, it might provoke further legal challenges. Continue reading

Planning for the next Accession and Coronation

 

robert.hazell.350x350com.google.Chrome.j5urj9Robert Hazell and Bob Morris have been examining the accession and coronation oaths the Queen’s successor will have to take once her reign comes to an end. Their research on the subject has led to two reports, both of which were published today. In this blogpost, they discuss their conclusions and call for both oaths to be rewritten to reflect a country that has changed significantly since they were last used.

The Constitution Unit has published two reports that look forward to the accession and coronation of the next monarch. This might be thought premature. But because so much has to be decided quickly, within 24 hours of the Queen’s death, it is important to spend time now considering the issues that will arise, before they have to be dealt with in the rush of a new reign. There will be no shortage of critics ready to snipe at the new monarch and their government if anything goes wrong; the more things can be thought through in advance, the better.

Our first report – Swearing in the new King: the Accession Declaration and Coronation Oathsis the product of a study conducted jointly by both of us. The report’s main findings and conclusions are:

  • On accession the new sovereign has to make three statutory oaths: the Scottish oath, to uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland; the Accession Declaration oath, to be a true and faithful Protestant; and the coronation oath, which includes promising to uphold the rights and privileges of the Church of England.
  • These oaths date originally from 1688-1707, when Catholic Europe was seen as an existential threat. In our more secular and pluralist society, the oaths need to be revised and updated; or dropped altogether.
  • Because the oaths are statutory, any significant revision would require fresh legislation; as would their repeal. To be in time for the next accession, legislation would need to be passed during the present reign.
  • Legislation could adapt each oath to its context. In a radical reformulation, the Scottish oath could become an oath about the Union; the Accession Declaration, traditionally made before parliament, could become an oath to uphold the constitution and our laws; and the coronation oath, in a ceremony watched by millions, could be an oath made to the people.
  • Our report offers three different reformulations of each oath, depending on how radical the government wishes to be. It may not be easy to reach consensus with the established churches, other faith groups, and civil society; ultimately the government has to decide.
  • If there is not the political will to legislate, the government should consider preparing a statement to give to parliament on accession explaining the historical reasons for the oaths, and how they are to be understood in modern times; with an accompanying briefing for the media.

Continue reading

The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: how will it impact the monarchy?

 

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On Saturday, the world turned on their televisions to watch the marriage ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Bob Morris offers his views on what the marriage could mean for the monarchy. This is the first in a small series of blogs about some constitutional aspects of the Monarchy.  The next is to be published on Wednesday 23 May and will complement two Unit reports on the coronation and accession oaths taken by British monarchs. 

‘A family on the throne … brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life… A princely marriage is the brilliant edition of a universal fact, and as such, it rivets mankind.’ [Bagehot, 1867]

Everyone will wish the couple well in their life together. Their wedding will have been watched by millions and enhanced the sense of continuity that the British monarchy can convey to an increasingly diverse population. Abroad it will equally delight and intrigue – how is it that a modern state can still indulge such celebrations? Continue reading

‘Living with Difference’: The Butler-Sloss Commission’s report reflects the interests of its members rather than the public interest

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The Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life published its report, ‘Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good’, on 7 December. Bob Morris discusses the report, arguing that its recommendations reflect the nature of the Commission’s membership rather than an open-minded commitment to the interests of public life and policy.

The issue

Britain is experiencing considerable change in its religious landscape. Two quite different phenomena are taking place simultaneously: on the one hand, about half the population is prepared to say that it belongs to no religion, and on the other hand recent decades have seen the growth of the number of non-Christian religions present in what was formerly an almost wholly Christian country. In other words, Britain is experiencing both secularisation and pluralisation at the same time. As a result the question arises of how the country should adjust to the new situation. . In such discussions, religious bodies have displayed anxieties particularly about the place of religion in a more secularised ‘public sphere’.

What follows explains the nature of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life set up by the Woolf Institute to look at the issues, summarises its main recommendations, records some initial public reactions, and tries to assess – primarily from a constitutional point of view – what it might all be taken to mean.

Continue reading

SUCCESSION TO THE CROWN BILL

7th March 2013

LORDS COMMITTEE STAGE 28 FEBRUARY 2013

The power of the well-phrased question

Bob Morris

There is nothing in Parliamentary debate quite like the well-phrased question for cutting to the heart of things. An issue is encapsulated and the minister has to respond. Unlike podium assemblies where speakers may hector without interruption, the UK Parliament can suddenly be made alive by a pithy intrusion.

Under examination was the clause that would abolish the rule dating from 1689 that no-one married to a Catholic may succeed to the throne. Discussion turned to an amendment (subsequently withdrawn) which would have permitted the sovereign to be a Catholic but made arrangements during the reign for the Supreme Governorship to be shouldered by an Anglican qualified under the Regency Acts. As noted previously – including by the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee (PCRSC) in December 2011 (HC 1615) – removal of the Catholic marriage disqualification leaves intact the absolute ban on Catholics and anyone else not in communion with the Church of England from succeeding. The latter would, of course, disqualify Catholics (and most non-Anglicans) from succeeding even if the explicit ban on Catholics were removed.

Lord Forsyth (a Scottish episcopalian, former cabinet minister and Scottish Secretary) asked what was it that the government were trying to achieve with the provision:

‘Are they trying to end discrimination against Roman Catholics or are they just trying to enable the heir to the Throne to marry a Roman Catholic?’ (Hansard, Lords, 28 February 2013, col. 1230)

He added that he would be horrified if it were the latter. Whilst it was a good thing that people who wanted to marry should be able to do so, he had thought that the provision ‘was part of a wider agenda of ending discrimination against Catholics. We need to understand why the Bill has not provided for that…’ Lord Stevenson then intervened to point out that the amendments tabled on the point went ‘to the heart of whether the present Anglican establishment in England can or even should remain in its present form’ and suggested that it was time for further Parliamentary consideration in some appropriate committee. This suggestion gained some support though not from the minister who sheltered behind the fiction that such matters were for Parliament alone itself to decide.

None of this will stop the Bill. Parliament knows when it is being bounced and in any case the things in the Bill are not in themselves bad things that should be stopped. On the other hand, what their Lordships pointed out was that, in the words of a PCRSC witness, ‘one cannot half open a can of worms, because all the worms will come out’.

Has the time come for Parliament to take a closer look? We shall see. What is certain is that the Forsyth question will not go away.

SUCCESSION TO THE CROWN BILL – THE RELIGIOUS TESTS

Bob Morris

As the bill goes to the Lords, it might be useful to reflect further on the detail of what was said in the Commons debates on 22 and 28 January about the place of religious tests in our constitution.

Of the three tests, two – ineligibility of Catholic believers and those married to Catholics – are directed explicitly at Catholics and one – the requirement to be ‘in communion with’ the Church of England – excludes Catholics and all others unable to satisfy the requirement. The bill would abolish only the second of the three tests.

The proceedings on 28 January were dominated by the attempt of Jacob Rees-Mogg to remove the remaining tests:
‘As the discrimination on the grounds of sex is no longer necessary, or can no longer be argued for logically, nor can exclusions on the grounds of religion.’ [Hansard, Commons, 29 January 2013, col. 697]

Stressing that he was not opposed to church establishment per se, he proposed a device which, he claimed, would permit a Catholic to succeed without challenging the sovereign’s current roles in respect of the Church of England. The device turned on using the Regency Acts to identify a Protestant who could assume the sovereign’s duties much as Catholic and other non-Anglican cabinet ministers relinquish any Anglican related duties to Anglican colleagues during their term of office. Whilst the device was technically inadequate and imperfect, it gave MPs an opportunity to reflect on the fact that the bill fell short of dealing with the other remaining disqualifications affecting Catholics and others.

Understandably, this discussion – as on 22 January in a very thin House – was dominated by Catholics. Interestingly, they appear to have felt obliged simultaneously to object to the disqualifications and declare something like reverence for Anglicanism – the latter position slipping slightly only once (col. 708) when the alleged elasticity of Anglican’s demands on adherents was naughtily raised. Loyalty to the monarchy was also stressed, as if that were nowadays still in question for Catholics. Jacob Rees-Mogg pressed the matter to a division and lost by three to one.

What may be made from all this? As a proportion of those voting on a probably lightly whipped occasion, the supporters of the amendment (not all Catholics and not joined by the Opposition front bench) constituted just over nine per cent but still nearly six per cent of the whole House. Only rarely in the two days was the point being circled and not expressed voiced explicitly, that is whether the headship of the state needs any longer to be yoked to a particular religious denomination. An SNP Catholic, Angus MacNeil, said of the bill:

‘It is only a halfway house – a real dog’s breakfast of broken biscuits. It deals with succession and partially with freedom of religion, but it leaves the question of full freedom of religion untouched.’ [Hansard, Commons, 22 January 2013, col. 226]

Another MP, Nia Griffith, thought that there was a further downside in persisting with the religious tests:

‘…if someone is expected to take on the role of monarch, we are putting them in a situation in which they will have to pay lip service to a faith, possibly one in which they do not believe, making a mockery of those who have a true faith.’ [Hansard, Commons, 22 January 2013, col. 237]

The government was, of course, not having any of this. To be fair, the bill was after all a strictly limited exercise pre-agreed with no fewer than fifteen Commonwealth countries. The minister, Chloe Smith, in what appears to have been a carefully pre-scripted formula, was adamant:

‘…let me state again that the Government are absolutely committed to the Church of England as the established Church, with the sovereign as its Supreme Governor. We consider that the relationship between Church and state in England is an important part of the constitutional framework. It has evolved over centuries and the Government have no intention of legislating to disestablish the Church of England. It is important to state that. The Government’s view is that allowing a person of the Roman Catholic faith to accede to the throne would clearly be incompatible with the requirement for the sovereign to be in communion with the Church of England.’
[Hansard, Commons, 28 January 2013, col. 721]

She said this in reply to the senior government backbencher, Nicholas Soames, who asked the minister whether she agreed that what Rees-Mogg had with his interventions ‘just shown is that what has been completely settled and without question can now be open to challenge? Does she believe that this is a sensible way to proceed when overturning 1,000 years of British history?’. (col. 721)

Has the genie been now let out of the bottle? No doubt the government will get its way in the Lords, but it will be interesting to see what the current range of opinion now is there. How many, for example, will be with Gerald Howarth –
• ‘I believe that the established Church and the Crown are indissolubly linked.’ [Hansard, Commons, 22 January 2013, cols 252-3.]

how many with Chris Bryant –
• ‘I do not want to disestablish the Church of England, but I think it could be established in a different way.’ (col. 233)

and how many again with Nia Griffith –
• ‘The clause is a missed opportunity. It misses the opportunity to decouple the role of monarch from a specific role in the Church of England.’ (col. 237)

WOMEN BISHOPS: SHOULD PARLIAMENT INTERVENE?

On 21 November 2012 the Church of England Synod rejected a draft Measure for the introduction of women bishops by a narrow majority of six votes in one of the Synod’s three ‘houses’, that of the laity.  Sufficient two thirds majorities were attained in each of the other two houses – bishops and clergy. Forty-two of the forty-four Anglican dioceses had previously supported the change.

The amended draft contained a compromise arrangement, linked with a putative ‘code of practice’, that would have permitted congregations opposed to women bishops on theological grounds to retain male only episcopal oversight. The opponents – from both the ‘catholic’ and evangelical groups – felt that the compromise did not go far enough to recognise their views. Ordinarily, Synod’s standing orders would prevent a failed draft Measure’s reconsideration until the next newly elected Synod – in this case in 2015. There is, however, an exceptional procedure which could bring the issue back for redetermination.

The latest available – 2011 – statistics show that ordained men amount to seventy per cent of the total of nearly 11,000 diocesan licensed clergy. But, although women constitute only one fifth of full-time clergy, they amount to just over half of both part-time stipendiary and self-supporting clergy.  Out of 111 archdeacons, 17 (15%) and of 36 cathedral deans 4 (11%) are women. All 44 diocesan and all 61 suffragan bishops are, of course, men.

The issues 

(a) For the Church

Having in the past been, if anything, in the vanguard on divorce and homosexual law reform in England, the Church continues to find difficulty in agreeing on issues of gender and human sexuality. These difficulties are not confined to disputes in England: they exist in the wider Anglican community too and now appear to be so irreconcilable as to threaten schism. Addressing these differences will be one of the primary tasks of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as they were for his predecessor, Rowan Williams.

The decision to ordain women priests in 1992 carried the implication that at some point episcopal orders would also be made available to them. Granted the strong reservations held by a minority in the Church, agreement to proceed could be reached only as the result of compromise – as had been the case in 1992 when, essentially, female ordination was secured on a basis of conferring a clerical status inferior to that of men. At that time, Parliament – through the Ecclesiastical Committee – was concerned that the minority should be reconciled. The question for the Church now could be whether any compromise satisfactory to the opponents of women bishops could be regarded as compatible with having women bishops at all.

(b) For Parliament

Parliament retains the ability to legislate for the Church. Since 1919, on the other hand, it has in practice ceded the legislative initiative to the Church itself. Above all, even if Parliament did decide to legislate directly, it is difficult to believe that it would be prepared to do so without the consent of the Church. If that consent were forthcoming, then there would, of course, be no reason why the Church should not take the initiative itself. Only if Parliament decided to proceed without the Church’s consent would there be a case for its intervening. But if it did so, it would intervene in the interests presumably of the majority party and negative any possibility of holding all the parties together. Contemplating such a sequence is to remind why Parliament conceded the right of legislative initiative to the Church in the first place.

The Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 was the last time Parliament legislated  for the Church when the latter was divided on an issue. The outcome was not a happy one. Five priests underwent terms of custody, and the bishops in the end vetoed all attempted proceedings rendering the Act a dead letter.

Evidence of the House of Commons’ present mood can be found here –

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01p2px8/The_Week_in_Parliament_23_11_2012/

In the BBC studio discussion, Ben Bradshaw, a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, judged that the mood of Parliament is very different from that of 1992 when it could be argued that it was more concerned to protect the position of the objectors to female ordination than the status of female orders. Whilst that may well be so, it is also the case that Parliament has now in the Equality Act 2010 passed legislation which exempts priestly orders from the non-discrimination rules otherwise applicable. Requiring women bishops would amount to trenching on the religious freedom that the Act’s provisions were meant to protect.

Mr Field’s Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill, which received its first reading on 22 November (and is due to receive its second on 18 January 2013), will presumably attempt to remove a protection permitted under the EU Directives the 2010 Act was designed to implement. If singling out the Church of England for the repeal alone, the Bill will itself be discriminatory: if the repeal is general, then it will be opposed by every other Christian denomination and all other religions as well. It seems unlikely that the bill will, or could ever have been likely to, obtain essential government support. In so far as that is the case, the bill looks more like a gesture of the moment than a credible and viable solution. This was similarly the object and fate of the Bishops (Consecration of Women) Bill, introduced by Andy Reed on 21 March 2006 (Hansard, Commons, cols 170-4) which made no further progress.

(c) For the Ecclesiastical Committee

Any draft Measure from the Synod will have to come through this Committee, and it will be a test of its judgement whether what it feels able to approve is acceptable to Parliament at large. The Committee is not a Parliamentary joint committee but in fact a statutory joint committee with equal Lords and Commons membership in a total of 30. It will no doubt weigh carefully whether it can in the event certify under the 1919 ‘Enabling’ Act ‘as to the [Measure’s] expediency thereof, especially in relation to the constitutional rights of all [Her] Majesty’s  subjects’. What it approves could be voted down in Parliament and that may temper any Committee enthusiasm to wave through a compromise in flagrant and indefensible default of gender equality. What may be an acceptable price of compromise in the Church may not be automatically acceptable outside so far as the rights of all Her Majesty’s subjects are concerned.

(d) For the government

There is unlikely to be any Ministerial enthusiasm for intervening. Parliamentary legislation would in practice have to be via a government sponsored bill. No government would want to start intervening in the affairs of a religious body. If it was seen to do so in this case, it would be invited to intervene in other controversies such as theological and property disputes not only in respect of the Church of England but also in the case of other religious denominations, Christian and non-Christian. Parliament last ventured into this territory very gingerly with the Church of Scotland Act 1921 which paved the way for the reconciliation of a major schism that had occurred in 1843. Ministers were careful in 1921 to ensure that the Act merely recognised a compromise reached by the parties rather than forcing one.

Is ‘disestablishment’ the answer?

In a situation where religious belief has greatly declined and, where it remains, is much pluralised, church establishment is a hangover from the confessional state – abandoned finally for most purposes in 1828-9 – where everyone in the UK outside Scotland had to be a member of the Church of England or suffer civic penalties. Church and state functioned together, inseparably. But the abandonment of the confessional state was not accompanied by severing that Church’s ties with the state. The disestablishments in Ireland in 1871 and in Wales in 1920 did not affect the position of what was left for England alone.

The key political and constitutional problem is that, although the Church of England now behaves largely as if it is a voluntary society, it remains nonetheless part of the state. The Queen as head of state is ‘Supreme Governor’ of the Church, must be in communion with it, holds the title ‘Fidei Defensor’, and – nominally – appoints its senior clergy. The Archbishop crowns and anoints the new sovereign, and the Church conducts important public ceremonies and rituals effectively in relation to the UK as a whole. The Church’s courts remain courts of the land, although they lost their public law jurisdictions in the 1850s. Twenty-six bishops continue to sit in the House of Lords – each nowadays since the Prime Minister withdrew his involvement in 2007 actually appointed by a private, unaccountable committee of the Church itself.

These are high matters and could be addressed again by Parliament. However, whatever the degree of change made, none could procure the appointment of female bishops unless Parliament legislated directly to that end. In other words, disestablishment could not by itself resolve the particular question of female bishops. On the other hand, what disestablishment could do would be – a very different matter – to permit the state and Parliament to wash its hands of Church of England affairs altogether.

Conclusion

Since nothing so far suggests that Parliament contemplates such a rupture, it follows that the Church must be allowed to deal with the present crisis itself. Whether in doing so it strengthens the case for a radical review of remaining  church/state ties is another question.

Written by Bob Morris, formerly Home Office Under Secretary responsible for Constitutional Affairs. Leader of the Unit’s work on Church and State and also expert on FoI.