“Defender of the Faiths”?

An interesting detail from this report by Religion News Service, on one of the titles bestowed on the royal monarch:

At her coronation in 1953, Elizabeth swore to “uphold the laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel, maintain the Protestant reformed religion established by law and reserve the settlement of the Church of England.”

Her son and heir apparent, Prince Charles, has said he’s planning a symbolic change if and when he becomes king by taking the title “Defender of Faith” or “Defender of the Faiths” to reflect Britain’s multicultural and multifaith society.

That change would mean Charles would be the first monarch to not be the standard-bearer for Protestantism for the first time since Henry VIII famously broke from Rome to start his own church.

Britons may be on Charles’ side: A recent BBC poll found that 73 percent favor Elizabeth remaining “Supreme Governor,” but about 50 percent would favor Charles’ idea for a title change to Defender of Faith.

The royal title “Fidei defensor,” usually translated “Defender of the Faith,” was bestowed by Pope Leo X on Henry VIII in 1521 in recognition of the king’s defense of Roman Catholic teaching against the Protestant ideas of Martin Luther.

But after Henry VIII broke with Rome and attacked the pope, the title was later revoked. Henry was excommunicated, but the title was bestowed again on Henry’s only son, Edward IV, by Parliament in 1544.

Charles caused considerable controversy in 1994 when he first floated the idea in his attempt to embrace the other religions that have become more visible since his mother came to the throne in 1952.

“The Queen came to the throne at a time when the Church of England was really the only Christian faith in the country,” former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said in a 2006 television interview.

“And there were no Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus around to be in any way evident in the life of the country,” he said. “Now it’s a completely different world. Prince Charles put his finger on it and there’s no way in which the sovereign can be the defender of one faith.”

Read it all.


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