The outburst from the Venerable George Austin came as royal sources reiterated that there was no question of anyone other than Prince Charles succeeding the Queen. Lambeth Palace dismissed as 'pure fabrication' a report in the Sun that the Archbishop of Canterbury believed that the Prince should not become King.
As John Major had a weekly audience with the Queen last night, Downing Street refused to be drawn into the controversy, which began when Dr Austin, a prominent Church of England traditionalist, referred in an interview on Radio 4's Today to allegations that the Prince had had an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.
Dr Austin said: 'Charles made solemn vows before God in church about his marriage, and it seems - if the rumours are true about Camilla - that he began to break them almost immediately.
'He has broken the trust on one thing, and broken vows to God on one thing, how can he then go into . . . Westminster Abbey, and take the Coronation vows? Are we to believe him that he will keep those? I think it brings into question the whole attitude of Charles to vows, trust and so on.'
Nicholas Soames, the food minister and a close friend of the Prince, denounced Dr Austin's remarks as 'disgraceful, wounding, ignorant and hurtful'. Mr Soames, a former equerry to the Prince, rarely discusses royal affairs.
'Being heir to the throne is not an ambition but a duty and one which will befall him on a sad moment later in his life. He will inherit the throne and that is the end of the matter.'
Mr Soames, the first government minister to speak out on the Prince's behalf, said Dr Austin had shown 'a remarkable ignorance of the true feelings of the British who want to see the stability of the throne'.
The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev William Westwood, said: 'Of all the people who might be King, Prince Charles is the best prepared. He cares about it. He knows about it. He is well informed. The mind boggles at the prospect of any alternative.'
The Rt Rev Peter Nott, Bishop of Norwich, said: 'The Archdeacon of York is strictly expressing his own opinions . . . He is well known for his eccentric views.'
Lord St John of Fawsley, a former Leader of the Commons, said: 'I am afraid heirs to the throne throughout the ages have had affairs. One may pass moral judgements . . . but this has nothing to do with the constitution, nothing to do with the rights of succession.'
THIS is the oath the Queen took in 1953.
Archbishop of Canterbury: Madam, is your Majesty willing to take the Oath?
The Queen: I am willing.
Archbishop: Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?
The Queen: I solemnly promise so to do.
Archbishop: Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?
The Queen: I will.
Archbishop: 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? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?
The Queen: All this I promise to do.
The Queen then goes to the Altar swears on the great Bible: The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God.
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