God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Dimension of Monarchy

By Roberts, Vaughan S. | Anglican Theological Review, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Dimension of Monarchy


Roberts, Vaughan S., Anglican Theological Review


God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Dimension of Monarchy. By Ian C. Bradley. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2002. xxii + 218 pp. £14.95 (cloth); $22.00 (paper).

Most members of the Anglican Communion worship in churches that have never been established in the ecclesial sense of the word. Only the Church of England exists in such a peculiar relationship. The word "peculiar" is carefully chosen because there are other forms of establishment that are individual to particular churches. The nature of establishment for the Presbyterian Church of Scotland is different from the Church of England as is the Vatican's status as a nation, which enables it to have ambassadors in most countries and at the United Nations. Establishment is not a uniform phenomenon and it requires careful study if we are to understand its nature and discover whether it has any value for the future. Although this book is not first and foremost about establishment, it is a helpful contribution to that process and it does conclude with some proposals about how the monarch's relationship with the Church of England should develop.

The author is an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland and reader in practical theology at the University of St. Andrews. He confesses that he is slightly surprised to have written a book on this subject, since he does not perceive himself to be "cast in the mould of the archetypal diehard royalist" (p. vii) and reveals his own youthful republican sympathies. Bradley has always been interested in the nature and function of the monarchy, and this was sharpened by his earlier work on Celtic Christianity which clearly valued the tradition of Christian kingship. His previous book on sacrifice has also fed into this study, and Bradley is acutely aware that the overt religious component to monarchy has been overlooked by most other commentators. In that respect, this book is a very focused project-it is an analysis of the British monarchy-but he begins by looking at the wider biblical picture. The first two chapters explore the nature of monarchy in the Old and New Testaments. The next section proceeds to examine sacred kingship in Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and medieval Britain. Speaking personally, the most interesting element of this historical background is Bradley's handling of Jesus' approach to kingship, but ultimately he fails to explore sufficiently the role that monarchical metaphors played in Jesus' teaching and life. The author maintains a historical perspective in chapter 4 when he turns to the nature of the coronation service and its roots in all parts of the British Isles. In his view coronations traditionally symbolize sacrifice: "The monarch is offered to the people, and to God, and dedicated to a life of selfless service and duty. . . . They express particularly vividly the difficult and unfashionable Christian themes of vocation, discipleship and obedience" (p. 93).

The next chapter is perhaps the most complex as Bradley examines what he calls "The Protestant Project. …

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