Sure, there’s been a lot in the news lately about Prince Charles taking over more of the Queen’s duties. He’s off this autumn to attend the Commonwealth leaders’ conference in her absence. But no one thinks she’s going to abdicate. That brings back nasty memories of her uncle David, who abdicated in 1936, becoming the duke of Windsor, thus thrusting her woefully unprepared father onto the throne as George VI.
By far the greatest impediment to the Queen chucking it all in and putting up her feet beside the fire is what happened at the coronation 60 years ago. It wasn’t simply a transfer of power, but a religious ceremony in which she swore an oath to God to reign. It was a continuation of the oath she swore on her 21st birthday: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
This excerpt from the coronation order of service is from the royal website:
“The Sovereign undertakes to rule according to law, to exercise justice with mercy—promises symbolised by the four swords in the coronation regalia (the Crown Jewels) —and to maintain the Church of England. The Sovereign is then ‘anointed, blessed and consecrated’ by the Archbishop, whilst the Sovereign is seated in King Edward’s chair (made in 1300, and used by every Sovereign since 1626). After receiving the orb and sceptres, the Archbishop places St Edward’s Crown on the Sovereign’s head. After homage is paid by the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior peers, Holy Communion is celebrated.” The anointing was deemed such a sacred moment that television cameras weren’t allowed to film it.
Then there’s the oath:
The Queen’s Coronation Oath (from the Order of Service for the Coronation)
The Queen having returned to her Chair, (her Majesty having already on Tuesday, the 4th day of November, 1952, in the presence of the two Houses of Parliament, made and signed the Declaration prescribed by Act of Parliament), the Archbishop standing before her shall administer the Coronation Oath, first asking the Queen:
Madam, is your Majesty willing to take the Oath?
And the Queen answering: I am willing.
The Archbishop shall minister these questions; and the Queen, having a book in her hands, shall answer each question severally as follows:
Archbishop: Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?
Queen: I solemnly promise so to do.
Archbishop. Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?
Queen: I will.
Archbishop: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?
As the Telegraph said recently:
“There is affection for her personally; and certainly admiration for her sense of duty.
One reason for the latter is a sense of divine purpose that is often overlooked. The most intimate moment of the Coronation service came when the Archbishop of Canterbury anointed her head, breast and palms with oil. The Queen was dressed at that moment in a simple white linen shift dress, and hidden from the television cameras by a canopy.
“I had tears in my eyes. You couldn’t help but be moved by it,” said Lady Jane Rayne Lacey, who was standing close by. She recalled the service recently on the Radio 4 programme The Reunion. The anointing was a highly significant moment for Elizabeth, a woman of faith. “As Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so be thou anointed, blessed, and consecrated Queen over the Peoples, whom the Lord thy God hath given thee to rule and govern,” said the Archbishop, Dr Geoffrey Fisher.”
The column’s headline summed up the attitude: “Why the Queen will never step aside.”