In just a few days’ time the nation will be rejoicing as we collectively watch, witness & celebrate the coronation of HRH King Charles III at Westminster Abbey. It will no doubt be a grand occasion full of ‘pomp and circumstance’ which is such a feature of British Royal occasions (and broadcast around the world). The mixture of pageantry and religious symbolism will bring the service to life and mark the King as both the head of state and church in one incredibly significant, self-defining moment. Alongside the presentation of the King, the swearing of oaths and anointing, the moment of enthronement will culminate not only in the singing of the choir but by the public cry of ‘God save the King!’ with the congregation joining in a rendition of The National Anthem. However, although most will recognise The National Anthem to be a prayer said on behalf of our King, not many will appreciate that it’s also a prayer for ourselves and the nation we are part of, for although the antiquated language of the second verse may make many of us feel uneasy about the ‘scattering of enemies’ and the ‘frustration of their knavish tricks’, it has to be said that these words uttered in the light of the current war in Ukraine has a European poignancy which we haven’t seen or felt for some time. But it is of course, the third verse with its exhortation that the King might ‘defend our laws and ever give us cause, to sing with heart and voice, God save the King’ which strikes at the heart of our national life. Although we recognise King Charles to be our Sovereign, we also recognise that it is Parliament which guides and directs our daily living and of which the monarch is its figurehead – and yet the King’s soft power both at home and abroad is tremendous.
It’s a common misconception that religion and politics shouldn’t mix, but the coronation demonstrates how both are deeply ingrained in our society, shaping and making us the nation state that we are – and even with the UK becoming an increasingly pluralistic, multicultural society, the truth of this statement will only become more profound, not less.
The Christian will be aware that Jesus told his disciples that the greatest commandment was to “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ ” (Luke 10.27) because loving the first helps to achieve the love of the second. This motivating truth should be reflected in all aspects of our society, whether it be personal or political, whether we be ‘prince’ or ‘pauper’, for as the Bible also reminds us “ ‘what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ ” (Micah 6.8) and this is especially true, I would suggest, if you happen to be King!
So as we come to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III, let us pray not only for him but for our nation and ourselves as we sing The National Anthem.
God save the King!
Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness. Proverbs 16.12