Managing Editor’s Note: With added hyperlinks, articles, scripture, video; and with references to Charles and Elizabeth being King and Queen removed.
By Professor Gloria Moss PhD
The make-or-break constitutional issue.
As the chattering classes focus on Harry and Meghan, a make-or-break issue concerns the coronation oath that Charles takes on 6 May, just two months away.
Although academics at UCL’s constitution unit state that the weight of the oaths lies overwhelmingly in their symbolic significance, a report published in February 2022 by the House of Commons Library (p.5), the oaths and ceremony not only have religious and ceremonial significance, but also constitutional importance by virtue of a legal requirement on the part of the Monarch to swear an oath to govern the peoples of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and the Commonwealth ‘according to their respective laws and customs’. It is the role of the coronation oath in constitutional matters that must be our concern now that the coronation is just six weeks away.
Charles himself stated in 2021 that ‘if you become the sovereign then you play the role in the way that is expected’. So, this note explores the key part played by the Coronation oath in the British constitution; historical forms of the oath including that used by Elizabeth II; and finally steps that should be taken to ensure that Charles’ oath is strictly constitutional.
Modern times but keeping within constitutional bounds a coronation ceremony for the monarchs of Britain can be traced back more than 1,000 years. Central to the ceremony is the ‘unction’, the act of anointing a monarch with holy oil, an act that signals the conferment of God’s grace upon a ruler (1 Sam. 16:13). Today, the United Kingdom is the only European monarchy to retain such a ceremony and one might have expected that God’s grace would be conferred upon those who have upheld God’s Laws (Ezek. 17:19).
However, here we have two people who have, unashamedly, committed adultery and so we are in uncharted waters. What is more, we have an archbishop of Canterbury whose approval of same-sex marriage has lost him the support of 75% of Anglicans around the world, mainly in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Sticking to constitutional rather than religious matters however, the most significant element is the oath in which the monarch swears to govern the peoples of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth according to their respective laws, the only part of the ceremony that according to the report by the House of Commons Library in February 2023 is required by law.
So what should we expect to find in a coronation oath? And what steps might Charles take to offer reassurances regarding the legal aspects given the arguably problematic elements of a religious nature? We will take a look at historic precedents, and then go down the rabbit hole as we confront disturbing anomalies in Elizabeth II’s coronation.
Historic precedents The record is clear. English kings from the tenth century, including William the Conqueror and his successors whether Henry I, Stephen or Henry II, bound themselves by a threefold promise to firstly preserve peace and protect the church; secondly maintain good laws and abolish bad; and thirdly dispense justice to all. Neither Richard I nor John issued coronation charters but the Magna Carta reissued in 1216, was in effect a coronation charter.
If we fast-forward then to 1309 and the Coronation oath of King Edward II, this is the earliest English coronation for which we have an official record. Not only that, but Edward II’s oath largely remained the format for a coronation oath for nearly four hundred years until 1689 when the oath was recast by statute (p.135). Significantly for us and the upcoming coronation of Charles on 6 May, Edward II added a fourth promise to observe the laws and customs of England.
Why is this relevant to us today?
Well, according to the most authoritative jurist of the thirteenth century, Henry de Bracton, ‘the English hold many things by custom which they do no hold by law’ and ‘kings need only to have allowed the custom for it to be granted’.
These words bring the Magna Carta within the orbit of customs and in so doing, assert people’s rights as ‘freemen’ alongside THE RIGHT TO A TRIAL BY JURY, a right specified in article 39 of the Magna Carta. What this important legal document allows is lawful rebellion by 25 barons, a right enshrined in its article 61, one invoked in 2001 AND STILL IN FORCE.
So, the four-hundred-year span in which monarchs swore to observe the ‘laws and customs’ of the realm, there can be no good reason for Charles not to swear to maintain these too.
Closer to home, there are lessons that he can learn from his mother’s coronation. Not least, the need to avoid the disturbing anomalies that – surprising though this may sound – call the legality of her coronation into question.
Anomalies in Elizabeth II’s coronation The young Elizabeth’s coronation was a televisual spectacle, beamed out to an audience of twenty million at a cost today equivalent to around £19 million. She followed Edward II’s tradition and swore to maintain the ‘laws and customs’ of her territories and to cause law and justice to be observed.
However, despite the splendor of the occasion, her signed oath has rarely seen until June 2022 when it was digitized for the first time to mark the Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee (note: Lev. 25:10). As you can see from the image of the oath (below), Elizabeth signs the oath at the top of the document, rather than below it as would be customary in a legal document.
There are good reasons for this practice since a signature below the text of the oath attests to the person’s willingness to abide by those terms. Moreover, a signature below the text prevents new text from being added to that of the original. Other features that you may wish to note include the absence of a date, a royal crest, and witness signatures, all features found in Edward VIII’s abdication oath.
Whilst pondering the anachronisms in the digital version of the Elizabeth’s Coronation Oath uploaded to the National Archives in June 2022, you may wish to note anomalies with other evidence concerning the Elizabeth’s Coronation Oath. Before discussing things, take a good look at the underline beneath the first three letters of Elizabeth’s name; the ribbon below this that starts on the left side of the oath and then comes to an abrupt end at the same point as the line beneath her signature.
Why look at these elements? Well, when I first looked into this in June 2022, most of the footage from the time obscured the view of her signing the document. However, I was able to find footage that showed Elizabeth signing the oath and this shows her adding a long flourish beneath her name.
When I presented my findings at a Questioning History conference in December 2022, the audience was unanimous in perceiving, like myself, a discrepancy between the short line beneath the signature on the digitalized oath and the line extending beneath the length of the signature in the video footage.
That was not the only discrepancy.
For, before June 2022, the only image available of the coronation oath showed a different form of ribbon which starts at a different point than in the digitalized oath.
Here is an image of it (illustration 1) with the digitized image to the right of it (illustration 2):
Note: The Oath reads “I will to the utmost of my power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel”.
Illustration 1 (on left): the version of Elizabeth II’s coronation oath available before June 2022 and Illustration 2 (on right) the digitised version uploaded to the National Archives in June 2022.
The anomalies do not end there. For, if we compare the signature on the Coronation Oath with the signatures subsequently presented as used by Elizabeth, they are significantly different. Take a look, for example, at the underline on the Coronation Oath and note how this comes to an abrupt halt before the lower length of the fourth letter of Elizabeth’s name, the ‘z’.
With an understanding that handwriting is a neuro-muscular activity, hard-wired to someone’s personality, this concern to stop before intersecting the lower length of the ‘z’ can be perceived as a way of avoiding entanglement with the lower length of the ‘z’. We are not saying that this is a conscious thought since the manner in which people write is, in instances where the handwriting is genuine, driven by purely unconscious processes.
If we then look at subsequent signatures by Elizabeth, no such concern is present since the signature underline runs the full length of her name, going right through the lower length of the ‘z’. Here are examples of the signature of Elizabeth after the coronation (see illustrations 3 and 4 below):
If you compare illustrations 3 and 4 with the signature on the Coronation Oath, then, beyond the difference in the underline already mentioned, there are at least three major differences. Firstly, the lower length of the ‘z’ is shorter in the coronation oath than subsequently, and not curvy and left-leaning. Then, the upper lengths (the tops of the letters ‘l’, ‘b’ and ‘t’) are free of the loops present in later signatures.
Finally, the upper lengths in the coronation oath are of irregular height unlike those in the later signatures where the upper lengths are of even height. So indelible part of a person is their handwriting – with people using feet instead of hands producing very similar handwriting – that the difference in handwriting points to major differences (ibid) and shifts in personality. This is very difficult to explain and anyone reading this with a background in court forensics is invited to make contact with the author or UK Column personnel and share their view.
There is also the vexed question of the wooden coronation chair. Since the 13th century, British monarchs have been crowned on a chair containing the Stone of Scone seized in 1296 by England’s King Edward I from Scotland’s Scone Abbey following his victory at the Battle of Dunbar. However, on 25 December 1950, four students, all Scottish nationalists, stole the stone from Westminster Abbey on 25 Dec 1950 and returned it to Scotland in the trunk of a car. One of the four, Ian R. Hamilton, subsequently a Q.C., maintained in three of his books that the stone weighed 4cwt (458lbs.) but that the stone in Westminster Abbey, subsequently moved to Edinburgh Castle in 1996, only weighed 3cwt (336lbs.).
In September 2022, Historic Environment Scotland confirmed that the object described as the Stone of Destiny in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle would be transferred to London for use in Charles III’s coronation. With possible discrepancies in the weight and also the colour of the stone (some say that the original stone was black, not the current pale color) doubts remain that the Stone of Scone was used in the Elizabeth’s coronation—and now about to be used in Charles’—is actually the genuine article.
Achieving transparency There is one further elephant in the room and this concerns Elizabeth’s willingness to add her consent to statutes in 1973 (the European Communities Act) and 2001 (the Treaty of Nice) that passed British powers to Brussels. Some asserted, and still maintain, that this was treasonous and that their period as a monarch ended when she signed the relevant statutes into being.
Given Charles’ support whilst Prince for the World Economic Forum in Davos – the words ‘The Great Reset’ appeared at the head of his gov.uk Prince of Wales website – it is important that he now disavows his allegiance to an unelected body beyond Britain’s shores.
In fact, historical precedent suggests a simple way of doing this. In the seventeenth century, William of Orange was not allowed to take the throne until he agreed to uphold a Declaration of Right designed to protect certain rights and customs in England.
So, he and his wife, Mary, agreed to this with Parliament enacting the Bill of Rights in 1689, restating the terms of the Declaration drawn up by an elected convention of elders. Perhaps, in the interests of transparency and in order to advertise Charles’ primary loyalty to the people of Britain and the Commonwealth, he and all future monarchs could similarly swear a declaration based on the foundation and authority of the 1215 Magna Carta, our Constitution, to govern according to the customs of the land and our Common Law, which will preclude in perpetuity, the head of state from becoming aligned with external influences and powers to the detriment of our own Constitution.
For, though we may be living in 2023, we owe a debt of allegiance to monarchs in the past who set the traditions according to which the British constitutional system was established. Perhaps, In the interests of transparency and clarity, a leaf can be taken out of the book of William and Mary’s Bloodless Revolution.
Professor Gloria Moss Ph.D. FCIPD is the author of over seventy peer review journals and conference papers. She is the author of eight books, many published by Routledge and Palgrave Macmillan.
Source: Veteran’s Today – Coronation Oath: Will King Charles Liberate or Enslave The People?
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