Wednesday 12 June 2013

Would giving royal assent to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill place the queen in breach of her coronation oath?

At her coronation in 1953 Queen Elizabeth II was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?’ 

She replied, ‘All this I promise to do’.

The Queen is a committed Christian believer who takes very seriously her duty to maintain ‘the true profession of the Gospel’. But what about her similar duty to 'maintain the Laws of God'?

The Laws of God about marriage are very clear.  Marriage is a lifelong monogamous bond between one man and one woman as established by creation ordinance (Genesis 2:24) and upheld by Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:5 ) and his Apostles (Ephesians 5:31).

Furthermore it points to the complementarity, permanence and fruitfulness of Christ’s own relationship with his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:31-2).

The redefinition of marriage which is the basis of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill runs directly contrary to this.

It is therefore very difficult to see how the Queen can give it her Royal Assent without at the same time violating her Coronation Oath. 

Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, made this very point earlier this month. 

Lord Mackay, former Lord Advocate and Lord Chancellor, at a recent event hosted by the Theos think tank, was also asked just this question - whether, in light of the Church of England’s opposition, signing the Bill might put the Queen in breach of her Coronation Oath. 

Lord Mackay, who opposes same-sex marriage, said that ministers should ensure any legislation was consistent with the Queen’s promise. He said:

‘The Queen under our constitutional arrangements is expected to act in accordance with the advice of her ministers, given ultimately through the Prime Minister. The idea of the Coronation Oath was that it would never be in conflict with that advice and therefore it is the responsibility of the ministers of the Crown to see that whatever advice they give is consistent with the proper construction of the Coronation Oath.’

He added: ‘My hope is that a contradiction between what is advised and what was sworn should never arise.’

But if the Lords pass this bill this exact situation will actually arise. The Prime Minister will be advising the Queen to do something which almost certainly violates her Coronation Oath in the very year she celebrates the 60th anniversary of that coronation.

Even if passed by both Houses of Parliament the Marriage Bill cannot become law without receiving royal assent. So the Queen does have the power to block the bill, even if it is a power she has never yet used with any piece of legislation.

The last time a British Monarch withheld royal assent was over 300 years ago in 1708 – when the last Stuart monarch, Anne, withheld her Assent from a bill ‘for the settling of Militia in Scotland’.

However there have been more recent examples of royal assent being withheld in other European monarchies.

On 2 December 2008 Grand Duke Henri, Luxembourg's monarch and a Roman Catholic, refused to sign a euthanasia bill into law.

As a result the Luxembourg parliament stripped him of his constitutional powers by amending the constitution so that bills would no longer require his approval before passing into law. 

A precedent for Luxembourg's move was set in 1990, when Belgium's King Badouin found himself unable to approve an abortion law.

With the king's approval, the government made him a commoner for several days and passed the law, putting him back on the throne after the legislature had enacted the bill unilaterally.

Were the Queen to refuse to sign the Marriage Bill, it would provoke a similar constitutional crisis and would place the British Parliament in the situation of deciding whether to strip her of her constitutional powers in order to force it through.

Over 2,500 years ago, Queen Esther of Persia, a Jewess, was encouraged by her uncle Mordecai to risk her life by taking a stand of conscience in order to protect her own people.

Their conversation, carried out via messengers, is one of the most famous in the Old Testament:

‘Then (Esther) instructed him to say to Mordecai, ‘All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold sceptre to them and spares their lives…

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai,  he sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’ (Esther 4:11-16)

Is this Queen Elizabeth II’s Queen 'Esther moment' I wonder? Was she brought to royal position ‘for such a time as this’?

We must pray earnestly that she is given great courage and great wisdom. 


  1. Peter

    Very important comment and the comparison with Queen Esther's dilemma is apposite.

  2. Excellent reportage, will this be the time also to expose the power the crown has? Has Mr Cameron done this deliberately to increase the power of parliament and diminish that of the crown.

    1. I would suggest he has. Some years back he endorsed, apparently, Tony Benn's proposal to curtail HM of her constitutional powers.

  3. It is as clear as day that our Queen would have to betray her Coronation Oath if she signed this iniquitous Bill into law.

    Our Prime Minister would be both extremely foolish and arrogant if he presented this Bill to the Queen misguidedly claiming in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, that it would extend the benefits of marriage to homosexuals and strengthen the institution itself.

    For the Queen to sign the Bill would render the Coronation Oath null and void and challenge the establishment of the Church of England. The monarchy would be diminished and an unvarnished barbarism of legal might over-ruling a politically weakened moral right would be strengthened.

    A house divided against itself cannot stand and our nation would become that house.

    1. She has already been forced to betray her Coronation Oath: by signing into law homosexual acts (1967) and the Sunday Trading Law (1994). This nation, once a great Imperial power through whose Empire missionaries spread the Gospel is coming under judgement.

  4. I fully agree with the excellent analysis of this constitutional issue and the following comments.
    Technically, and constitutionally I think it is true to say that the Queen can do no wrong, although she may, to use the phrase, be "deceived in her grant".

    Neither the PM or any other Minister has the right to offer advice to HMQ which is in conflict with our Constitution, as she is the ultimate guardian of it. Moreover, all Ministers are servants of the Crown and are bound by their personal oath of loyalty to HMQ, and that loyalty cannot be separated from a loyalty to our Constitution.

    I believe therefore it is our duty to point out these facts to the PM and assure him that he is accountable to Parliament (that is the people), and to the Crown. Ironic though it may be, the PM's duty is for him to either abandon the Marriage Bill as unconstitutional, or advise HMQ not to give the Royal Assent which would compel her to break her own Coronation Oath to the people and before God.
    As far as I'm aware, only Bishop Ali Nazir has publicly gone on record to record a similar view.

  5. I assume she gave her consent to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the sixties, so by the same yardstick she has already broken her oath.

  6. I am afraid i believe that with one eye on the public face of the House of Windsor there will be great pressure on Her majesty to sign this bill into law. We live in an age of pragmatism.

    We have to accept that this is no longer a Christian nation and the church will now only grow by grasping its being on the outside. A persecuted church grows i believe.

  7. Correction. The Bishop's name should be Nazir Ali - not the reverse!

    A brief comment on the following as it raises serious constitutional questions:
    "Were the Queen to refuse to sign the Marriage Bill, it would provoke a similar constitutional crisis and would place the British Parliament in the situation of deciding whether to strip her of her constitutional powers in order to force it through."

    1. I do not believe that Parliament has the power to strip its own Constitutional head of her lawful powers. Parliament's power is not absolute or arbitrary but is itself bound by the rule of law, or in effect, the existing statutes of our Constitution. The Monarch herself is also similarly bound. (what point in a Constitution if that were not the case?). It was the absolutist monarch Charles 1st who sought to place himself above law, introduce tyranny, and thereby lost his head!

    2. I do not believe that two Statute laws can both exist if one conflicts with the other.
    In this case a new SSM marriage law, endorsing 'Same-sex marriage' could not sit alongside the clear terms of the Coronation Oath that the Sovereign has given, before God and the people) and which is itself entrenched in law, namely the Coronation Oath Act.
    In the spirit and letter of the Oath and Act they are mutually exclusive. The Act remains extant law unless and until it is repealed.
    Thus, to reverse that situation if Parliament wished to place the new Marriage law ABOVE that of the 1689 Act, then the latter would first have to be repealed. That would indeed raise a constitutional crisis, for we know that a Constitutional Act of Parliament cannot be impliedly repealed (by a later law), but only by the express intention of Parliament.

    I believe that the preamble to the 1689 Act makes clear that such a process is not possible and that whilst we have a Sovereign and our Constitution, then no reversal can take place for (I quote) . . . . "The Oath shall be administered by every King or Queen that shall succeed to the Crown. . . . any law, statute, or usage to the contrary" notwithstanding".
    It seems to me then, that the constitutional crisis cannot be avoided if Parliament attempts to force this evil Bill through.

  8. Surely the Queen must also have given assent to the Abortion Act, which is equally against the Law of God, is it not?

    1. She gave her assent to the equivalent Canadian legislation.

    2. Quite. I don't see what the fuss is about, though I don't understand how her assent to the Abortion Act was managed. After all, the former Bishop of Durham David Jenkins signed up to the 39 Articles and later taught contrary to them. Humpty Dumpty had it right - what words mean depend on who is to be master.

  9. Thank you Peter, a great piece that is a real challenge.

    Clearly if the Queen were to refuse to give assent to this Bill, in accordance with her Coronation Oath a constitutional crisis would undoubtedly be precipitated but perhaps she is in a better position now than ever before to make such a stand. At the age of 87 there is a sense in which she has nothing to lose.
    Had she exercised her rights in the cases highlighted in other posts this crisis would have arisen earlier and would arguably have resulted in the removal of the need for the Monarch to give assent leaving her unable to act on this more dangerous and damaging legislation. If she has the Esther like courage and conviction to act now (and I pray that she has) and the royal assent requirement is withdrawn the cost may well be small as I fear that Prince Charles and William are unlikely to have the convictions to make a similar stand in the future.

    1. I think you make a good point about HM being in a better position than ever before to uphold her coronation oath--and also about there being nothing to lose as the future kings have clearly shown themselves to be lackeys to modern immorality. However, I fail to understand how the current legislation is "more dangerous and damaging" than the Abortion Act of 1967 to which HM gave Royal Assent. I join all HM's subjects of good will in praying that she does not betray her coronation oath again.
      Best, Andrew in California

  10. What is needed now as never before is a debate in the Churches. I suggest that Bishop Holtam's (C/E Salisbury) advice to a Muslim member of the House of Lords regarding the redefinition of marriage is studied, prayed about and the presumed consequences for the nation is made plain in Church Assemblies, Councils and Synods up and down the land. The advice Bishop Holtam gave is representative of the kind of 'theological?' thinking which gives credence to the possibility of sidelining traditional biblical interpretation of of how marriage could be regarded in the 21 century. I personally believe his interpretation pays insufficient attention to the time-honoured biblical understanding of marriage. The only way I can see that Churches can make their voice properly heard without prejudice is for this national debate to be promulgated immediately throughout all the Christian Churches and Her Majesty the Queen be informed of the findings prior to her decision about giving her assent to the proposed bill. So far this debate has not been had especially at 'grass roots' level within the Churches.

  11. Many Christians, myself included, feel that civil marriage can and should be extended to same-sex couples. I am not sure about the Queen's own view on this subject but it isn't impossible that she may feel similarly, and to give an assent to this bill causes her no difficulty whatsoever.

    1. Jane, I don't see how, as a Christian, you can reconcile your feelings with the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. Christians are to be guided, not by their feelings, which are as changeable as the weather, but the unchanging Word of God.

    2. Dear Jane,
      You may very well be right about HM's moral gymnastics, but they are just that. The Sacrament of Matrimony, which pertains to divinely revealed law (and can only be entered into between Christians), is of course distinct from civil marriage, which Christians and non-Christians alike validly contract. However, civil laws must always conform at least to the natural law (to which we all have access through our reason, and which the Queen has solemnly vowed to uphold). As all societies at all times have recognized, the natural law dictates that marriage is a permanent contract between a man and a woman with the end of procreation and the rearing of children. It is the surest means to protect women and children and provide for social stability and survival. Today, with no-fault divorce, contraception, and general erotomania, many are under the delusion that marriage is a form of civil recognition for "love" (or passion, or companionship). The state cannot legislate that two people love or desire one another sexually or otherwise. To attempt to do so only further erodes our recognition of the basis for natural marriage: procreation, the protection of women and children, the promotion of social stability. With Tom, I would urge you not to let feelings cloud your judgment. As far as civil marriage goes, reason must judge. As far as Holy Matrimony goes, reason elevated by divine law must judge. Let us pray that HM is guided by reason, not sentiment.

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