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Volume 53 Number 13, May 6, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Coronation Day Issue

Significance of the Coronation

The Persona Charles Envisions for Himself; the Fiction He Seeks to Represent

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Significance of the Coronation:
The Persona Charles Envisions for Himself; the Fiction He Seeks to Represent

Coronation of King Charles III:
Charles III and "Soft Power"
Abolishing the Monarchy and Completing the Democratic Revolution

Significance of the Coronation

The Persona Charles Envisions for Himself; the Fiction He Seeks to Represent

Milton Keynes - Photo Getty Images

Today, Saturday, May 6, 2023, the Coronation of King Charles III is taking place at Westminster Abbey. Charles Windsor, Prince of Wales, acceded to the throne on September 8, 2022, upon the death of his mother Elizabeth II. The whole ceremony and process is being presented as something inevitable and pre-determined. However, from the moment of the Queen's death and since he was proclaimed King, Charles has been creating and formulating the fiction of what he now represents. Whilst many view the monarchy as a disgraceful, elitist and arrogant show of wealth and medievalism, and whilst Charles as an individual is a person of immense wealth in his own right, he is now attempting to step into the role of the fictional person of state established at the commencement of the 1650s to deal with the perceived problem of the striving for democracy by the "mob", whether this be under Cromwell's Protectorate or subsequently under a restored monarchy.

As such, King Charles, stepping into the role of the fictional person of state, is said to be merely symbolic, a benign force and to hold no real power. It was said of Queen Elizabeth II that she did her duty, was non-political and was a benign force. Her fiction was that she was everyone's Granny (or Great-Gran) and a unifying force. She represented a link with the past, especially with Britain's history and "glorious victory" during WWII. She was seen as a historical figure who was able to serve her role as the fictitious person of state. However, today, when public authority is being destroyed and the perceived authority of the head of state that people looked up to as the fictitious person of state is also in question, a new monarch representing the old arrangements cannot and will not offer anything new. Indeed, the fiction that Charles is trying to create has already been challenged on many fronts.

The role of the fictional person of state was originally intended as part of the arrangement to have an independent figure or "actor" who stood outside and above the political divides and interests of the people whilst acting as a symbol of the covenant between the state, the people and God. This is Covenant Thesis, solemn and holy. This conception was intended from the outset to put an end to the English Civil Wars. The person who assumes this fictitious role ceases to be a natural person and instead becomes an actor inhabiting that role and all its attendant symbolism. One problem with King Charles is that he does in fact want to be seen as a natural person, a person in his own right, and he has tried to have his influence in a number of ways already. He already has a history of interfering in the legislative decision-making of Parliament and of actively trying to influence the drafting of Bills, and which Bills are acceptable. It can be mentioned that Queen Elizabeth was not averse to this influence herself, though carried out more discreetly.

So the Coronation is a central part of attempting to create that persona of the person of state at the apex, to whom all pay allegiance as subjects, who holds military and spiritual power in their hands. The attempts to impose this acting out of the Covenant with the Almighty, and the broad rejection of such an anachronistic, anti-democratic conception, is what is being played out as the present dynamic of the Coronation of Charles III.

Defender of the Faith

Before he ascended to the throne, Charles has been trying to define and present himself as a moderniser and for diversity. The point is that Charles was attempting to redefine himself as a representative of diversity and, as such, a moderniser, including statements about the environment, bio-diversity and protecting the planet. The fiction of the persona he wishes to present is of a modern monarch championing "modernisation", and an embodiment of so-called modern British values.

For example, as far back as 1994, Charles said that he wanted be the "Defender of all Faiths" as opposed to the Defender of the Faith as embodied in the evangelical Church of England, a title stretching back to King Henry VIII. By 2015, Charles had amended this line saying in an interview, "As I tried to describe, I mind about the inclusion of other people's faiths and their freedom to worship in this country. And it's always seemed to me that, while at the same time being Defender of the Faith, you can also be protector of faiths."

However, the establishment appears to have made it very clear to Charles that his role was to be the Head of the Church of England and, as such, was and could only be Defender of the Faith. Indeed, the Accession Proclamation, made on September 10, 2022, declared: "The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George is now, by the Death of our late Sovereign of Happy Memory, become our only lawful and rightful Liege Lord Charles the Third, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith [our emphasis], to whom we do acknowledge all Faith and Obedience with humble Affection; beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign to bless His Majesty with long and happy Years to reign over us."

Lifting the Veil

The Chrism oil [fragrant oil made from olives] with which The King and The Queen Consort will be anointed, which was consecrated in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in March - Photo Sky News

Another issue surrounding the Coronation has been King Charles' avowed wish to introduce "transparency" into the most sacred part of the ceremony by "Lifting the Veil" at the moment when the monarch is anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He made it known that he wished to allow cameras to film the most sacred part of the ceremony and the part that is supposed to represent the sovereign's anointing before God, thereby creating a sense of awe and mystery in the person of the King. However, after much toing and froing, it was announced on April 13: "The King has now changed his mind about an element of the anointing during his coronation." The Royal News announced that "King Charles III will follow the tradition of the thirty nine monarchs crowned before him at Westminster Abbey and ensure that the most sacred part of the ceremony, the anointing, remains private".

Indeed, the King and the Palace have gone all out to emphasise his Christian credentials and links by sourcing the anointing oil from Israel. The official Royal website says: "The Chrism oil [fragrant oil made from olives] with which The King and The Queen Consort will be anointed, which was consecrated in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in March, will be contained within the Ampulla [the container for the oil], made from gold and cast in the form of an eagle with outspread wings. The oil is poured through an aperture in the beak. The Ampulla was supplied for the coronation of King Charles II in 1661 by the Crown Jeweller, Robert Vyner, and is based on an earlier, smaller vessel, which in turn was based on a fourteenth-century legend in which the Virgin Mary appeared to St Thomas à Becket and presented him with a golden eagle and a vial of oil for anointing future Kings of England."

This echoes the tenor of the Funeral held for Queen Elizabeth II which was an exclusively Christian service and message. Indeed, far from being the Defender of All Faiths and None, while representatives of other faiths were present and acknowledged, the service itself was singularly Christian, and a completely Church of England affair.

In his Christmas Speech, King Charles, standing in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, talked about his Christian faith, of being "so close to where my beloved mother, the late Queen is laid to rest", of her faith in God and his. He talked of the need to "shine a light in the world around" and spoke of his visit to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity where "as the Bible tells us, the light that has come into the world was born".

This new found Christian zeal seems more in line with the state-wide emphasis on charity and volunteerism, intended to divert attention from the destruction of the National Health Service and attacks on the productive forces. It is part of his reinventing himself and the mask that he wears in this new fiction of himself as a devout and Christian leader that he is trying to create. It is a fiction intended to cover up how the rule takes place. And it is important to understand that whilst it is a fiction, it does not means that this rule, this power that King Charles seeks to wield, is simply symbolic and that he has no power.

King Charles is trying to embody everyone by publicly announcing changes that take up popular concerns. But for every change there has been push back saying that he must be "Defender of the Faith" and that he cannot "Lift the Veil" in his anointing ceremony. Rather, he has been brought down to earth by the reality that he is, after all, just another faction vying for power and influence. That Charles interferes in the way he does shows the limits of his power. In trying to carve out an individual role for himself and define a new fiction as the fictional person of state, Charles has managed to expose just how anachronistic he and the role of the monarch really are.

It has been announced that during the Coronation ceremony, everyone watching on television will be invited to join in saying the Coronation oath: "I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God." This will then be followed by a fanfare after which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will declare, "God Save The King" and we, the onlookers then should echo, "God Save King Charles. Long Live King Charles. May The King live forever"! Commentators have been scathing in their criticism of this whole idea. It makes no sense for people to be intoning such servile and backward sentiments privately to their television sets, and it makes even less sense to pray that the King live forever because, as swathes of people have readily pointed out, he can't and he won't.

Anachronistic, Outdated, Outmoded, Obsolete, Moribund, Out of Step with the Times

The King's Commonwealth remains a means to perpetuate neo-colonialism and is an anachronism in the 21st Century

The whole Coronation ceremony has been calculated to emphasise King Charles' historical links with the past, the ancient symbols of inheritance and power, and his divine right to rule and be who he says he is. The Royal website says that "the Coronation Regalia are sacred and secular objects which symbolise the service and responsibilities of the monarch. The Regalia have played a central role in Coronation Services for hundreds of years and, in keeping with tradition, will be used at Westminster Abbey on the 6th May."

What it aptly illustrates is just how King Charles' idea of himself and the fiction that he is desperately trying to establish of himself is so manifestly out of step with the requirements of the times. He inhabits a role that no longer functions in the way it was originally envisaged where under Covenant Thesis, the Sovereign comprises the supreme power and stands at the apex of the system of representation where he or she or they speak on the people's behalf. King Charles is simply exposed as just another faction with a claim to rule. His attempt to reinvent himself and to validate his authority now only serves to distract and to keep the people from power. His Kingship is really a last attempt to resuscitate an outmoded and moribund arrangement. And no one is any mood to accept this fiction because they know who these people are and what persona he is giving himself, which is certainly not a modern personality.

Article Index

Coronation of King Charles III

Charles III and "Soft Power"

Abolish the Monarchy, Derry, north of Ireland

Since becoming King, Charles' very role as sovereign and his symbolic function as representative of the state have also come into question. The UK Constitutional Law Association published an article on March 27 entitled "Ursula von der Leyen's visit to Windsor: Who defines King Charles' constitutional role?". The article reports that "King Charles found himself embroiled in controversy for hosting Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission of the European Union, at Windsor Castle, only hours after the new Brexit deal concerning Northern Ireland was unveiled by von der Leyen and the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak." King Charles' meeting with von der Leyen was seen as his giving public support for the "Windsor Framework", which is itself a highly charged political matter. This was seen as a "notable departure" and deviation from the convention of political neutrality expected of the King, and seemed to illustrate Charles' desire to actively intervene in the politic al life of the country using what has been termed "soft power", defined as "a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of economic or cultural influence".

This term "soft power", a conception much elaborated and established in the time of the government of Tony Blair, was used again in April this year when Charles visited Germany and met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and first lady Elke Büdenbender. Newspapers around the world declared his visit a great success of "British Ceremonial and Soft Power", the term "soft power" seemly used to connote a benign and innocuous influence. However, it hides a more sinister and dangerous political motive.

Back in 2014, the Parliament UK Website commissioned a Select Committee report on "Soft Power and the UK's Influence". In Chapter 4 of this report, entitled "The UK's soft power assets: their role and function", it says: "As our witnesses have made very clear, the days are long gone when this nation's, or any nation's, power could be measured in the size of its military forces, or in traditional patterns of enforcement. New, softer and smarter methods must now be combined with older approaches in order to secure and promote the UK's interests and purposes.'

By having such meetings with world leaders such as von der Leyen and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Charles is seen to be stepping beyond his symbolic role and that of the independent "Actor" maintaining the balance of power in the political arrangements at the Apex of Covenant Thesis. Instead, he can be seen to be serving the "softer and smarter methods" alluded to in the Parliament UK report and seems to be behaving as though he is faction on his own vying for power and influence as a person in his own right. And this is the nub of it. King Charles cannot be both a symbolic actor embodying a fictitious person of state and a political leader in his own right making claims to power and to rule.

"The essence of the Covenant between the Sovereign and the UK government," as the UK Constitutional Law Association article reports, is that "in Britain's constitutional monarchy, there exists a convention that the sovereign maintains strict political neutrality, which is achieved through the principle that the monarch acts on the advice of government ministers when carrying out public functions". Beyond this, the monarch has certain "discretionary powers" under what is termed the royal prerogative. The article goes on to say that "whilst remaining politically impartial, the monarch is entitled to 'advise, encourage and warn ministers" - what is known as the "tripartite convention". This is the fiction of the Fictional Person of State as contradicted by the reality of the factional exercise of "soft power", which indeed goes hand in hand with the "hard power" of military might and aggression.

Article Index

Coronation of King Charles III

Abolishing the Monarchy and Completing the Democratic Revolution

In Britain, the English Civil Wars of the 1640s resulted in the beheading of the monarch, King Charles I, and the abolition of the House of Lords. The period from the lead-up to the execution of the king through to the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, which, from the royal perspective, has been known as the "interregnum", was one of serious and fierce debate centred on how the people can decide how government should function. That period marked the beginning of a democratic revolution that has still to be consummated.

It was at this time that the notion of vesting sovereignty in the people was first raised. Prior to the removal of the monarchy, the Levellers and others put forward popular sovereignty, demanding extended suffrage and regular parliaments. The democratic conception upheld by the Levellers was grounded in their doctrine of natural rights, an early expression of the modern definition of rights as held by all people by virtue of being human. They declared inalienable rights such as freedom of conscience and equality before the law, and significantly, the right to participate in decision-making. On this basis, the Levellers argued neither for monarchic nor parliamentary sovereignty, nor army rule, but that sovereignty should be vested in the people. To the new ruling clique, this threatened their very existence, and so in response they raised the spectre of "the mob" and "anarchy". The issues were openly discussed at the famous Putney Debates of October-November 1647, which were shut d own after less than two weeks by the Army Grandees headed by Cromwell, who feared the consequences of the debates treading on increasingly dangerous ground and undermining their authority. [1]

Words of Colonel Rainsborough - The Putney Debates

Following the beheading of Charles I on January 30, 1649, leading Levellers John Lilburne, Richard Overton, Thomas Prince and William Walwyn were imprisoned in the Tower of London, during which time, in May 1649, they wrote the important pamphlet "An Agreement Of The Free People Of England". This was their last major statement of their demands. The Leveller-supporting Banbury mutineers were defeated and their leaders executed by firing squad at Burford on May 17, and the Levellers' newspaper The Moderateceased publication in September 1649.

Though the Levellers were defeated, their conception reflected the emergence of the people as a political force in their own right, with a claim to the sovereign power. The emergent claim of the people for decision-making power transformed the content of the battle of democracy in a way that has still to be brought to full completion in the present day.

Political theorist Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century held that an indivisible power was necessary to prevent the always-simmering state of civil war from boiling over. His theory, which came to underpin the arrangements found in the constitutional monarchy following the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688, located the supreme power in a fictitious person of state that he called the "Leviathan". A crucial feature of this conception is that the people relinquished their right to speak in their own name. It served to give the new ruling elite the appearance of legitimacy, purporting to represent the collective will, while in reality representing the interests of the new ruling class via its fictitious person of state embodied in the monarch. Under this system, all delegates pledge allegiance to King Charles, the sovereign, rather than the people.

Scarborough, Yorkshire

The British state, constituted in accordance with Hobbesian theory, is governed by police powers: arbitrary discretionary powers held by the executive, judiciary, intelligence services, police, and military. The sovereign has prerogative powers, which are not in any way ceremonial, and exercises them both personally and through the courts, senior civil servants, and other officials whose primary duty it is to perpetuate the sovereign's rule. Hobbes' Leviathan was depicted with a sword in one hand and a bishop's crook in the other, symbolising authority over all issues pertaining to war and peace, crime and punishment, and the values that are supposed to unite the nation, nowadays called "British values" and deliberately conflated with "universal values". The fiction creates a sense of mystery and hides how the government functions, with the sovereign standing above the people, who are said to hold him in awe.

By giving such a fictitious person of state sovereignty, the people are deprived of the ability to make decisions. Yet the fiction is failing. The antiquated institutions built on this model of power widely recognised as obsolete.

The Coronation of Charles III is an attempt to perpetuate the fiction, riddled as it is with contradictions. But it will not wash. However, while these old arrangements and underlying conceptions are failing, the new have yet to come into being. The issue today is an entirely new conception of power. All vestiges of absolutism and the old notion of supreme power have to be replaced by a new human power that does not stand above the people but as a power at the base of society. Rather than accommodating and managing competing interests and warring factions, the individual, collective and society as a whole need to be brought on a par, allowing the harmonisation of their interests. Concretely, this requires new mass democratic forms, new mechanisms of decision making with a mass character, where all members of the polity have equal rights and duties and share the decision-making power as one.

[1] "375th Anniversary of the Putney Debates", Workers' Weekly, November 19, 2022

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