The Reformation brought a reorientation of the monarch’s spiritual role. The title FIDEI DEFENSO, or Defender o the Faith, which appears abbeviated as FID DEF on the 2 pound coin and simply as ED on other coins of the realm ws granted to Henry VIII by Pope Leo X in 1521 in recognition of the king’s defence of the seven traditional sacraments of the catholic church in a theological pamphlet which appeared under his name but had effectively been ghost-written for him by his chancellor, Tkhomas more. Fourteen years later More went to the saffold for refusing to recognize Henry VIII as head of the english church. It is highly ironic that this title given by a pope to the king who later made the breach with Rome should have continued to be used by all monarchs until the present day with the defense of Protestantism. The monarch’s governorship over the Church of England was a key lpart of the Reformation settlement, first established in an act of Parliament in 1534. The first English Prayer Book of 1549 started a tradition that continues to this day by including a prayer for the sovereign and for senior members of the Royal Family to be said in parish churches every Sunday. Stuart monarchs took a particularly high view of the divine aspect and religious responsibilities of monarchy. James I had set out in his writings the theory of the divine right of monarchy with which the Stuart dynasty that he inaugurated was to be especially associated. In his treatise THE TREW LAW OF FREE MONARCHIES (1598) he noted that “kings are called Gods by the prophetical David because they sit upon God his throne in the earth and have the count of their administration to give him.” Charles I was frequently compared to Christ following his execution in 1649. For royalists like those in the crowd outside the Banqueting Hall, who pressed forward to soak their handkerchiefs in royal blood, he died a martyr to the Christian faith and to the Church of England in particular. The widespread cult that grew up around him in death ws given a powerful stimulus by the publication on the day of his burial of the EIKON BASILIKE: ”The Portraiture of His Sacred Majesty in His Solitudes and Sufferings,” a manual of prayers, supposedly written by the king. Its frontispiece depicted Charles kneeling and grasping a crown of thorns, his eyes fixed on a heavenly crown and his earthly crown lying discarded at his feet. The doctrine of divine right disappeared with the Glorious Revolution in 1689,, but the monarchy retained an importnt spiritual role. The strong Christian convictions of the Hanoverians and Queen Victoria established a new paradigm of the pious, church-going royal family that continued through the 20h century. (Edward VIII did not fit in and thus the basis for pressure for his abdication.) It was championed by the constitutional historical Walter Bagehot who famously wrote: “Above all things our royalty is to be reverenced and if you begin to poke about it you cannot reverence it. Its mystery is its life. We must not let in the daylight upon the magic.”
The Charles II’s royal commission initiating the 1662 BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
For me, one of the most significant contributions of Queen Elizabeth II at this the time of her Diamond Jubilee is the Queen’s ability to retain the “language and traditions” of monarchy while bringing the sovereign’s role clearly into the modern world. We put FID.DEF. on our two pound coins while we imply that this “God” for which the Queen is “defender” applies in the “God” of many religious groups that now populate the realm. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge married last year in Westminster Abbey as did the Queen many years before, but the streets are lined with people of all faiths and all nationalities. Somehow, that “mystery” seems to work even today as the Queen visits mosques, Jewish centers, etc., and receives the leaders of all religious institutions to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s London residence for a Diamond Jubilee Reception. So smoothly done. Wow! As my grandfather used to say: PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT.
Well done, your Majesty. God Save the Queen.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918