Apparently this is old (1994) news, but I just heard about it (apparently in the same WHI that Zrim is listening to). Prince Charles has expressed a desire, in his eventual coronation, to change one of his ridiculously-many royal titles from “Defender of the Faith,” to “Defender of Faith.”
A little internet archaeology (i.e. Google) turned up a few interesting newspaper articles. The first one I found (from 2006) is short enough to quote entire:
A Church of England bishop has thrown doubt on the Prince of Wales’s intention to be seen as the defender of all faiths, rather than just Christianity.
The Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, said that differences between religions made it impossible to defend all of them.
The Prince first said that he wanted to be known as “Defender of Faith” – as opposed to “Defender of the Faith” – in 1994, when he suggested that the monarch’s traditional title implied that he or she would protect only Christians.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, Dr Nazir-Ali said that such a change would be impossible. “The coronation service is such that whoever takes the oaths actually takes oaths to defend the Christian faith,” he said.
“If, by saying that, he meant that he wanted to uphold the freedom of people of every faith, then I have no quarrel with that. But you can’t defend every faith, because there are very serious differences among them.”
In an interview earlier this week, the bishop – who was born a Muslim – called on fellow Anglicans to reassert Britain’s “Christian character” and resist the trend towards a “multi-faith mish-mash”.
In 2007, the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed similar sentiments:
The archbishop forthrightly rejected any change for Prince Charles in the function adopted by his ancestor Henry VIII as defender of the Christian faith when he becomes titular head of the Church of England.
Finally, a third article details rumors that this whole kerfuffle might be due to a secret conversion to Islam! The most interesting part of this article is an implication that such a conversion would make Charles ineligible to claim the throne:
Whether or not a conversion did take place in Turkey will probably never be known, Charles is unlikely to give up his claim for the British throne by making a full disclosure.
This reminds me of Blair’s conversion to Roman Catholicism, almost the moment he retired. Is it an actual constitutional requirement, or just an unavoidable practicality, that the top English office-holders be members of the Church of England?
As the self-appointed 2K-advisor to HRH (if a two-year work-permit in London doesn’t get you the Prince’s ear, what does?) I would suggest that doesn’t go far enough, and he should drop the whole clause altogether. Certainly I agree with the Right Rev. Dr. Nazir-Ali that one cannot simultaneously be an apologist for (defend) religions that have mutually exclusive truth-claims. And as an adherent to the Christian Faith, I’d prefer the state to keep its bumbling claws out of the picture, and not try to defend what “it” (who?) thinks the Christian Faith is. And I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hold Henry VIII up as any kind of role model for the proper function of the church, or the state’s relation to her.
I can certainly agree with Nazir-Ali when he says “If, by saying that, he meant that he wanted to uphold the freedom of people of every faith, then I have no quarrel with that.” But wouldn’t a better description of that be “Defender of Liberty”?