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Elizabeth, the last 'Defender of the Faith'

John Dayal - UCANews - Tue, Sep 13th 2022

Elizabeth, the last 'Defender of the Faith'

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (third from left) stands with her husband Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (third from right), her son Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (second, left), and his wife Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (left), and her grandson Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (second, right) and his wife Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, as they pose for a photograph ahead of the annual evening reception for members of the Diplomatic Corps at Buckingham Palace, London on Dec. 8, 2016. (Photo: AFP)

The “Queen of England And All Her Realms” dies as a much-loved grandmother, who provided some ephemeral sense of continuity in a rapidly changing world of the 20th Century and the first two decades of the 21st.

Her life reflected the buffeting of her land and her people through a devastating world war, acute depression, rebuilding, and loss of income from the vast commonwealth. In an ironic rebounding tsunami, one among a wave of refugees almost became the last prime minister of her long, very long reign

India-born Rishi Sumak lost to Englishwoman Liz Truss in an election that saw more than its share of racism. Truss, a middle-class Conservative working woman and mother was invited by Queen Elizabeth to be prime minister, the last official act she did in the glare of cameras.

She passed away, on Sept. 8 at 97 at her home in Balmoral Castle. She died within a year of the death of her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, who she was married to for more than seven decades. Her state funeral may also be the last classical display of colonial royal pageantry the world may see

Royalty, beset by scandals ranging from divorces, the mildest of them, and marriage to black women, has seen uncounted marital scandals down the centuries. Trafficking and friendship with international criminals, as one of the heirs was accused of in distant United states.

King Charles III, her eldest son and instant successor after her death, divorced his wife Diana, who was very popular with the British people, to be with a divorcee who was his first love and for a long time the third person in their marriage. Camilla, now his wife, will be called Queen Consort, which could be considered a humiliating concession to the fact that royalists have still not fully accepted her place in the scheme of heraldry and don’t want her to be called Queen.

But even though Elizabeth may not have an age named for her, for students of the history of church and state in the world, her passing marks an important phase in the temporal affairs of religion. One of her numerous titles was Queen, Defender of the Faith. She was the official Head of the Church of England, a denomination formed by her predecessor on the throne, Henry the Eight, who broke away with the Catholic Pope in Rome on something as trivial now as divorce and remarriage.

The Church of England is also called the Anglican Church with its global reach headquartered in Lambeth. It has a large presence in India as part of the Churches of North and South India. Many Catholics will find much that is familiar in its liturgy and ceremonials. In fact, when there was a split in the Anglican Church on the issue of priesthood for the persons of the LGBTQ community, many congregations and clergy joined the Catholic faith. Rome gave special permission or dispensation to married priests who opted to retain their priesthood.

The spiritual head of the Church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury, with another Archbishop in the country. The Archbishop is charged with the high duty of crowning the monarch in an elaborate ceremony.

Charles, the new King of England, is far more ecumenical and had once made it clear that he did not want to be called Defender of the Faith. He is also more familiar with religious leaders of Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism whose adherents are now numerous in the British Isles, and very prominent in business and political circles.

Many have through their donations, both to the Conservatives and the Liberals, bought for themselves seats in the House of Lords. So while Meghan, daughter of black ancestors, maybe a Duchess with her marriage to Prince Harry, a grandson of Elizabeth, there are many Lords and Baronesses who worship in Hindu, Islamic and other traditions, with ancestries in the Caribbean, Africa, Pakistan and India.

Charles is certainly going to make them feel more at home in the plural and inclusive society that his mother certainly helped bring about, if only by default when her government opened up the islands to people from the former colonies.

The continuing decline of faith as measured in church attendance in the white and colored Christian communities is a matter of record and contrasts vividly with the open religiosity amongst adherents of Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam.

For King Charles and the Royalists who have to shift gears to understand the new mindset of the 73-year-old new monarch, these could be trying times. It remains to be seen how Charles will, in the years he has to reign, rebuild the monarchy in his own image, keeping it as a political balancing apparatus, ironically to strengthen the rule of popularly elected governments.

Since the Magna Carta was enforced on a former king centuries ago by his landed warlords, if one may call them that, the United Kingdom within its boundaries has remained far more republican and democratic than other forms of government elsewhere in the world. This included countries such as India that follow rule of law patterned on the Westminster form of British government.

A supreme irony is that as India lurches towards right-wing religious majoritarianism, its once colonial ruler may be coming close to a state which will distance itself away from religion and race.

Caste, alas, remains entrenched in the communities which migrated from South Asia, the Indian subcontinent. The Queen never did understand caste and Charles, despite his deep knowledge of climate change and universal warming, perhaps has not had much clue about the country’s most terrible import from its biggest former colony.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.end your helping hand!

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