The Royal Wedding upholds and reinforces the constitutional position of Monarchy and the inner being of the Church of England
You are permitted to be bored and indifferent while wishing Prince William and Catherine Middleton no ill will. You are permitted merely to be grateful for the bonus bank holiday and an extra lie-in. You are permitted even to feel irritated that this wedding is dominating the national media, packing London with foreign tourists and distracting the world’s attention from weightier matters.
But the majority will delight in this joyous occasion of marriage: not because of the individuals involved – though there is undoubted effusive affection for both, not least because of the global popularity of Princess Diana – but because of what the occasion represents. It is usual for a royal marriage to be a religious or a political affair: it is rarer for it to be a love match, and even rarer for it to represent the coincidence of all three. Tomorrow we will see the splendour of Christian England – there will be no multi-faith nonsense and no politically-correct prayers to ‘Our Parent, who art in heaven’. We even get Parry’s great hymn Jerusalem, which is absurdly banned by many Anglican clergy from wedding services.
The religious significance of this marriage must not be underestimated. Its importance depends upon ceremony, upon belief and upon moral example. It is strange to think that, God willing, in about 20 years this couple will be King William V and Queen Catherine: their marriage simultaneously upholds and reinforces the constitutional position of Monarchy and the inner being of the Church of England. In the agnostic and secular milieu of the political establishment, the Established Church is fortified by the ritual of state occasion and the personalities of the Monarchy – in particular of the present Queen. Their own Christian beliefs are imperfectly authentic, and the recurrent royal rituals - when Church and Monarchy are seen as united together - are still central to the life of the nation. Religious and Royal ritual, when well conducted – and no institution on the planet does it as well as Anglicans at their sober and traditional best – is readily consumed by television. This may be an X-Factor wedding, but the religious strength of the Monarchy beneath the pageantry derives from the great consistency which two thousand years of generations have shown in their unassuming commitment to Christian worship, the practice of Christian marriage, and a very high sense of public duty.
Tomorrow, the Church of England, the Monarchy and the pluralised nation will be bound together by an act of union. It represents moral and religious coherence at the level of the nation’s public persona, which remains Christian and Anglican. For as long as the Monarchy presents that image with sincerity, it will be a bulwark against the political assault upon it. Enoch Powell once observed:
It is possible to have an internally self-governed church in this country, but it will not be the national church, it will not be the Church of England. The Church is the Church of England because of Royal Supremacy, because there is Royal – that is to say, lay – supremacy. It is for that reason that it is the Church of the people and the Church of the nation, and can never be converted into a mere sect or private, self-managing corporation.The Church may have since become largely self-governing, but it remains in some residual sense the Church of the people, and those people clearly wish to retain and express a religious and distinctly Christian quality. William and Catherine are symbolic of spiritual and theological continuity. We should wish them well, and pray for them. They'll need it.