Dr Habgood's remarks will be seen as an attempt to limit damage to both Church and monarchy caused by the recent television documentary about the Prince. He blamed 'misleading media speculation' for suggesting the Prince wished to break the link between Church and monarchy. The Prince caused a furore when he said in the documentary that he wished to be seen as a defender of faith rather than 'defender of the faith', which is one of the titles he will inherit when he is made king.
At his coronation, the monarch takes an oath to 'maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant religion established by law' and to 'maintain and preserve inviolable the settlement of the Church of England and the doctrine, worship and discipline thereof'.
Last year, both Archbishops suggested that this oath be modified. Now both have changed their minds. 'It is the nearest thing we have to a written constitution,' Dr Habgood said on Saturday.
Yesterday, he told the Church's General Synod in York that 'at no stage (in the documentary) did the Prince make any reference to disestablishment, and he has . . . made clear to the Archbishop of Canterbury and myself that his remarks should not be taken as implying support for disestablishment or any other change to this country's constitutional arrangements.'
Dr Habgood, speaking in a debate on disestablishment, warned the Synod against attempting to tinker with the constitution.
'As a country without a written constitution we depend more than most on symbolism, on historical precedent, and on subtle linkages between Crown and Parliament and Church. None of these is unalterable, but we need to get out of our minds the idea that it is possible to make a few simple changes without the risk of triggering off a whole series of other changes which might be far from what we want.'
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