Letter: King Charles III: no natural defects in his body politic

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The Independent Online
Sir: Since the theological pot has recently been boiling away fiercely, and indeed threatening to boil over, it is rather surprising that the Church of England should embroil itself in a democratic controversy - namely the fitness or otherwise of the Prince of Wales for the throne.

Until Charter 88 manages to achieve a coup d'etat, it is worth recalling what the common law position has been ever since the 16th century when the Church of England was formed. The king has 'two bodies' - a 'natural' one and a 'politic' one. The latter,

constituted for the Direction of the People . . . is utterly devoid of other natural Defects and Imbecilities, which the body natural is subject to, and therefore, what the King does in his Body politic, cannot be invalidated . . . by any Disability of his natural body. (Plowden's Reports, compiled under Elizabeth I)

The legal language may be a little obscure, but the message is clear: the heir to the throne's marriage has no bearing whatsoever on his suitability for the throne. It is, or at least logically ought to be, an article of faith that the coronation acts as a purgative. That (believe it or not) is what the service is actually for.

It was, of course, royal marital arrangements that prompted Henry VIII to establish the Church of England in the first place. Yet Henry himself, and subsequent monarchs such as Charles II, George IV and Edward VII, whose adherence to the orthodox doctrine on marriage was more noted in the breach than the observance, were not ejected from the throne.

Today, surely, a Church that is seeking to meddle with the state is a Church inviting constitutional reform? If the monarchy is not sacrosanct, why should the Church be?

If the Prince of Wales's status is

being questioned, why not that

of the Church - should it not be disestablished?

Yours faithfully,

GERALD MONTAGU

London, NW6

9 December

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