Lecherous King Henry VIII wanted to divorce one of his playgirls in order to start an affair with a new one. The Pope said no way. So Henry formed his own church with rules allowing divorce.Common, oversimplified apologia against Anglicanism (see just one example here)
Far from the post-Reformation Church of England being historically lax on divorce and remarriage, it held among the strictest rules on this.
This week, background to the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, encourages a re-look at oversimplification of Church History to the point of saying the opposite of what actually happened.
Queen Elizabeth II would never have been Queen but for the impossibility of marriage after divorce in the Church of England. Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, only ascended the throne after his elder brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Marriage after divorce was opposed by the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, was vocal in insisting that Edward must go.
After Elizabeth became Queen, her sister, Princes Margaret, hoped to marry a divorcee, Peter Townsend. As Margaret was under 25, she needed the Queen’s consent, consent Elizabeth could not grant as Supreme Governor of the Church of England which did not allow for marriage after divorce.
Similarly, Prince Charles and Camilla could not be married in the Church of England as Camilla was a divorcee.
Far from the Church of England being historically lax on divorce and remarriage, it held among the strictest rules on this. Like Roman Catholicism, it held to complex regulations on annulments (ruling that a marriage was not valid). The Church of England’s annulling a marriage was never as lavishly applied as in Roman Catholicism. [Two of Henry VIII six marriages were annulled – there never were divorces].
The sixteenth-century English Reformers were not founding a new church any more than the bishops at Vatican II were founding a new church. Their answer to, “Where was your Church before the Reformation?” would have been, “Where was your face before you washed it this morning?”
To round out these reflections, Queen Elizabeth II was not the Head of the Church of England, she was its Supreme Governor (Christ is the Head of the Church). King Charles III is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but he has no status in any of the other 41 Anglican provinces. He is simply a layman when he visits Anglicanism in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Queen Elizabeth II was an Anglican in England. She was a Presbyterian layperson when she was in Scotland. I understand she never did official Church of England business whilst in Scotland. Queen Elizabeth II died a Presbyterian – because she died in Scotland.
Queen Elizabeth was the first Elizabeth to reign over Scotland (and over New Zealand). Her royal cypher was ‘EIIR’. Some in Scotland objected to this. The legal challenge ruled that the title, “Elizabeth the Second”, was within her royal prerogative to adopt any title the Queen saw fit. In other words “the Second” is not so much an ordinal number, it is part of her name.
King Charles III is Defender of the Faith. He holds this title in New Zealand. Fascinatingly, he does not hold this title in Australia. What it means to hold the “Defender of the Faith” title in New Zealand, others will have to work out. The Te Reo Māori version in the Proclamation of Charles III as King of New Zealand has him as “Te Kaipupuri i te mana o te Hāhi mihingare” – confusingly, as te Hāhi mihingare (or mihinare) is a common title for the Māori Anglican Church!