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Civil religion in the UK, Canada, Australia and the Commonwealth

By Norman Bonney,
Manchester University Press, October 2013

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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Coronation Oaths Need Rethink

The coronation oaths, deriving from legislation that is over 300 years old, require a fundamental review and redesign. The oaths, designed when there were great political and religious conflicts between Protestants and Catholics in the seventeenth century, are most inappropriate for the modern era.

Is it necessary, in the more secular and religiously diverse society of the present day, for a new monarch to swear to maintain the true profession of the gospel and maintain the privileged status of the Church of England, when only one in four of the population now regard themselves as Anglicans?

In addition there are doubts about the validity of the monarch swearing to maintain the protestant reformed religion as established by law in the United Kingdom when the offshoots of the Church of England in Ireland and Wales were disestablished in 1869 and 1920 respectively.

An appropriate solution, Norman Bonney argues, is to drop these elements of the oaths and retain the single one to govern the peoples of the UK and the other realms according to their respective laws and customs. This solution retains the essence of the monarch’s duty with respect to government and avoids entanglement in the host of controversial issues that would be posed by retaining the existing formula the next time that it is required.

There is a natural reluctance to talk about these matters during the current reign but the issues are of such significance for the future of the country that they are best resolved by full public and democratic debate in advance of the need for them rather than having rushed and inadequate decisions being made when the more immediate need arises.

The full text is to be found in  ‘Modernising the Monarchy: The Oaths of Office.’ The Political Quarterly 2010, 81, 4, 564 - 570