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Monday, November 20, 2006
Archbishop of Canterbury rejects Prince Charles' multi-faith coronation proposal

Two views from The Times of India:

The Church of England has asserted that it can't allow a multi-faith coronation ceremony for Prince Charles. The clergy has invoked tradition to justify its refusal.

Charles can argue that it is his right as an individual to demand the presence of non-Christian faiths when he is initiated to the throne. Institutions, especially the spiritual ones, have the tendency to demand that individuals should bow before long-held customs, traditions and beliefs. Time is a frozen entity for them.

In the case of Britain, the tradition of the Archbishop of Canterbury presiding over the ceremony is sanctioned by the peculiar relationship between the British Crown and the Church of England. The king of Britain is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. That's the constitutional framework that the Archbishop has mentioned to caution Charles.

Why should this relationship be viewed outside the flow of time? Charles has suggested a multi-faith coronation to connect with the new Britain which has a significant number of practising Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. A multicultural, multi-faith Britain is a young nation. The coronation of Charles will be a first in its short history. It is welcome that the would-be king recognises the newness of the country he is inheriting from his mother.

He should also be applauded, and supported, for recognising the importance of reinventing traditions to suit the changed times and socio-cultural milieu. After all, the monarchy, even if its role is ceremonial, has to appeal to all sections of the popu-lation. If a multi-faith coronation ceremony can help it, let it be so. In our troubled times, initiatives that accommodate different faiths and cultures are welcome.

History has taught us that monarchies that refuse to read the writ of time are pushed into irrelevance and oblivion. The British monarchy realised it very early, and so survived the transfer of power to the people. It is this sense of history that has helped Charles to recognise the new Britain, and seek its presence at his coronation.

COUNTERVIEW:

Britain's monarch, besides being the ceremonial head of state, is also head of the Church of England, and this royal tradition has been carried on for years. Britain's royalty is the past living on as fairy tale despite the present.

So it's not Charles' call to worry about Britain's candybox monarchy reflecting the changing faith-composition of the increasingly multiracial, multi-religious UK. He should leave such concerns to members of UK's demo-cratically elected administrators. Britain's sovereign is supreme governor of the Church of England, leading through persuasion rather than diktat.

Yet, so long as the monarchy as a hoary and glamorous institution of British heritage and tradition continues to exist, it makes sense for it to retain its core features that are every bit a part of Britain's rich heritage as are its moors and dales, cathedrals and castles, puddings and preserves. For what differentiates Britain's monarchy from others is that it has retained its unique institutional brand value which is also its USP as an eminently entertaining curiosity despite its ceremonial nature. And whatever would Visit Britain, the tourism authority of UK, do if Britain's monarchy the staple of all tourists who flock to this country gives in to cookie-cutter eclecticism, ceasing to defend all that it stands for, though ceremonial?

Prince Charles the individual as champion of organic food, as one who recommends talking to plants, who regularly visits gurdwaras and mosques, who wins over the hearts of Mumbai's dabbawallahs, and who takes pride in Britain embracing people from diverse origins and faiths is a charming and appropriate symbol of the wonderful nature of ideal multicultural societies.

However, as Britain's sovereign-designate, he should avoid imposing his personal identity on to that of the institution he would be expected to represent, as that would mean diluting the very nature of what has come to be Britain's prime entertainment quotient.

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