Monarchy, religion and the state

Civil religion in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the Commonwealth

This book introduces a discussion of a fundamental paradox concerning contemporary society and government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). There is strong evidence of continuing trends towards a more secular and less religious society and pattern of social behaviour. At the same time, religious doctrines, rituals and institutions are central to the legitimacy, stability and continuity of key elements of the constitutional and political system. Outlining the thesis of secularization, the book attempts to account for the failure of secularisation theory. The oaths of the accession and of the coronation of the monarch are the central affirmative symbolic acts which legitimate the system of government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) and the place of the monarchy at the apex of the political system. The book explores some remote and dusty corners of the constitution of the UK that might be of some importance for the operation of the UK political system. The 1953 coronation ad many features of the 1937 coronation on which it was modelled. The religious rituals of the UK Parliament appear to be much more fixed and enduring than those devised in the context of devolution since 1999 to resolve tensions between the religious and political spheres in the 'Celtic' regions. A profound limitation of Anglican multifaithism as a doctrine for uniting the political community is its failure to connect with the large secular population.

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‘This book is recommended to university students and the general reader who would like to grasp the importance of the relationship among the monarchy, religion, and the state in the United Kingdom and the dimension of civil religion in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Further, the dimension of civil religion in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth can be better understood after reading this book. Those who want to broaden their knowledge of British public religion in particular will greatly benefit from this book.'
Robert D. Linder, Kansas State University
Journal of Church and State, (Vol. 58, Num. 1)
January 2016

‘This timely book will appeal to a wide range of students of British and Commonwealth constitutional politics and of religion and the state. It cannot now be very many years before a new monarch is proclaimed and crowned, in a Britain and Commonwealth very different from what they were when the present Queen ascended the throne. Decisions will have to be made about the rituals which will accompany that event. Bonney shows that those decisions - which rituals are retained, which reshaped, which quietly or not so quietly dropped - will say much about who we are and about who we are supposed to be.'
Andrew Connell
Political Studies Review
May 2016

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