Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 53 Number 14, May 19, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Major Theme of the Coronation

"Serve and Not Be Served"

Photo: I Magara

A major theme of the Coronation of King Charles III was contained in the king's oath, as well as the sermon preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The Archbishop declared: "We are here to crown a King, and we crown a King to serve."

Photo: Getty Images

The sermon said, "The King of Kings ... was anointed not to be served, but to serve." It continued, "He creates the unchangeable law of good authority that with the privilege of power comes the duty to serve." Lest there be any doubt, Justine Welby referred to Charles: "We have seen those priorities in the life of duty lived by our King." So, the Archbishop of Canterbury, pressing on with the insistence that Charles III was defender of the faith and not of faiths, claimed that this guidance came from the King of Kings, and that noblesse oblige, that "with the privilege of power comes the duty to serve", as his sermon puts it. But who does one serve? What is the obligation? The Archbishop answers: "Each of us is called by God to serve. Whatever that looks like in our own lives, each of us can choose God's way today. We can say to the King of Kings, God Himself, as does the King here today, 'give grace that in thy service I may find perfect freedom'." It appears, by a sleight of hand, that the King's obligation is not to use his exalted position, his wealth, his supposed nobility, to benefit those around him, his subjects for example. From his spiritual power comes his secular authority. The point is that the emphasis on this theme in the coronation is meant to counter the affirmation that the people should fight for their rights and interests, and that instead things must be this way, the way they are, the way of the status quo, with all looking up to the authority of the King in this world, with supreme power invested in him, however negated by history this may seem.

It has to be said that King Charles seemed less than enthusiastic in giving commitment to this principle. In this manner he swore to be a faithful Protestant and secure the Protestant succession to the throne, but be a blessing to "all thy children, of every faith and belief". But the kernel of it was: not to be served but to serve. The Accession Declaration Oath (one of a number of oaths which he signs) says: "I Charles do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law." Kneeling before the altar, King Charles says: "God of compassion and mercy whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth." This may have been a relevant declaration when made by Henry VIII in the 16th century, but is now out of time and place..

Photo: S Berry

The point is two-fold. One is that the King should be seen as an example and held in awe and his values upheld, long to reign over us. Second is that the people should "serve" without asking for or demanding any "reward". This line of exhortation goes hand in hand with the actual wrecking and destruction of public authority. The conception of "volunteerism" and "civic patriotism" has been promoted since the time of Tony Blair's "New Labour", taking its lead from the "communitarianism" promoted by George W Bush in the US. It was an important plank of Blair's "Third Way", under which a society of communities and community values must enter into partnership with government by being coerced into "voluntary" work. The year 2006 was even labelled the "Year of the Volunteer". Any action by the people counter to this can then be labelled as "anti-social behaviour". This has resonance in the present where action by public service workers in defence of their rights and the rights of all are held to be violating their responsibility to society. The promotion by David Cameron of the conception of the "Big Society", where public services are run by citizens who allegedly have the public good at heart, was a further development in the conception of "volunteerism". [1]

This theme of volunteerism was carried over onto Bank Holiday Monday, which was declared a Big Help Out day of national volunteering, though far from evident in the life of the country. It had been mooted that the day was at risk for lack of participants. Government research had shown that volunteering is at a historic low. Government statistics had revealed that in 2021-22, 34% of respondents to the Community Life Survey volunteered at least once a month, down from 41% the year before and 44% in 2013-14. The latest figures mark the lowest ever participation recorded by the survey, which has been running for a decade.

It cannot be claimed as it was in the last century that the monarch is the major British political invention that keeps not only the "nation" unified but provides stability and unity to the entire "realms" and "dominions". The peoples are rejecting this outrageous claim, and are affirming that the opposite is the case, that their experience has been one of slavery, domination and oppression. It is therefore significant that these peoples are not only rejecting this domination and claiming reparations, but are demanding and working for the peoples' empowerment and a democratic renewal of the political institutions and governance, a complete renewal based on the sovereignty of the people. The rejection of the system of "constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy" is the essential break with the past that is setting the peoples on the road to independence and being in control of their own affairs, forming a united front with working and oppressed peoples the world over.

The aim of "peace, order and good government" is not going to be served by the crowning of King Charles, since the coronation is, as it is perceived to be, anachronistic, and in contradiction with what the times call for. The challenge which confronts the people is how to end their disempowerment and put themselves in a position of being in control of all affairs which are affecting their lives.

As long as the fictitious person of state in the shape of the monarchy is at the apex of all the political and constitutional arrangements, this challenge faces a serious block. The status quo is not an option, and kingship is, and is seen to be, moribund. What the people are striving for is a fresh and healthy perspective, for which a modern definition of sovereignty is required, centred on empowerment of the people. It is necessary for the progress of society to abolish the monarchy and remove the block to the people's empowerment that the monarchy represents.


[1] For articles in Workers' Daily Internet Edition on "volunteerism", see the following:


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