King Charles III still doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. I’m getting used to it as I pray for him by name every Sunday. But I’m taking a while to get used to it, as I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Elizabeth II in September. Her death was a shock. That’s one of the reasons why we have a delay between the accession of a new monarch and their coronation.
This month, the time has come for the coronation. In our Sunday morning services on 7th May, we shall be praying for the new king and queen, and praying for our nation, and singing the National Anthem. It is an important time. We want Charles’ leadership to be as good as it can be. We want our nation to pull together.
Part of pulling together is to publicly acknowledge the leader and the system of government. Our constitutional monarchy is the envy of many in the world. We have a king and a royal family who provide continuity and non-partisan leadership for our nation, particularly for those who put their lives on the line or are required to stick their necks out in trying times. The military, the police, the judiciary, elected MPs, government officials, C of E clergy, are among those required to take an oath. And as somebody who has said the oath publicly on several occasions, I am glad to be saying it to King Charles rather than to the likely alternatives, for example, ‘President Blair’ or ‘President Major’ or ‘President Lumley’. Our constitution is not perfect. Nothing is where humans are involved. But it is a lot better than any alternative of which I have been told.
In 1953, after some dreadful years, there was hope that a new era was dawning, and better times were coming. People were ready to celebrate and the young Elizabeth II was a good focus for the mood of celebration. Today, there is a deal of national pessimism after some difficult years. At present, the national mood is not one of celebration. We recognise that the readiness to celebrate is not as widespread and wholehearted as it was for the coronation of 70 years ago, but we can still gather together and enjoy a weekend which is an important rite of passage for our nation.
Other reasons we may not be quite so ready to celebrate as we were with Queen Elizabeth are, first, Charles’ age and, second, his relatively uninspiring track record. It is easier to get behind the monarch if they are younger (with potential), rather than older (with baggage). Also, we know that he might be king just for a short season. Its harder to invest in a leader who may not last that long.
All the same, for the sake of our nation we do well to join the gatherings for this coronation weekend, and pray: God save the King!
Yours in Christ,