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Bishop Peter pays tribute to King Charles III

Bishop Peter Collins has recalled his encounters with the future King Charles III during a homily at a Mass for the intentions of the King at St John’s Cathedral in Norwich on the eve of his coronation.

We offer our intentions at this Mass for the health and wellbeing of the sovereign, His Majesty King Charles III, and of Her Majesty the Queen Consort. We pray that God’s graceful blessing will descend upon the King, bringing peace and fruitfulness to the realms and to the Commonwealth.

I was in the top year of primary school when the then Prince of Wales celebrated his ceremonial investiture at Caernarfon Castle. Along with all school pupils in the county of Monmouthshire, I recall receiving a commemorative book of poems entitled There’s Rosemary. I still hold the book in my library.

I did not envisage back then that I would one day, as a bishop, accompany a cardinal to Buckingham Palace to deliver a loyal address on behalf of the Catholic Church to the one who had been invested as Prince of Wales and who was about to be crowned as King.

I had the privilege of meeting His Majesty when he was Prince of Wales on a number of occasions. I visited him at his then official residence in Carmarthenshire. I had the honour of escorting him when he visited the cathedral campus in Cardiff during the centenary celebrations of the Archdiocese. On that occasion I guided him around a display of precious items from the cathedral treasury. Having himself read history and archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge, he was engaged and engaging.

As we prepare for tomorrow’s solemn celebration we are aware of the decades-long apprenticeship that His Majesty has undertaken in preparation for his accession and coronation.

Across his lifetime, His Majesty has drawn inspiration and strength from the example of devoted service provided by his beloved late parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

As Prince of Wales, His Majesty forged many pathways of service, sometimes provoking controversy with his opinions. However, the passage of years has revealed a man of consistent dedication, possessed of a creative spirit united with prescient insightfulness.

The coronation of the monarch forges a link between the continuity of history and the evolution of a rapidly changing present. The crowning of a sovereign within our settlement of a constitutional monarchy enables us to reflect upon the interdependence of crown, parliament and judiciary.

Early in tomorrow’s ceremonial the tone will be set when a chorister of the Chapel Royal will address the King with the reminder that we are all children of God, children of the King of Kings. His Majesty will respond by employing the words of Christ himself, proclaiming that he has come to serve, not to be served.

Tomorrow’s ceremonial will be truly majestic, unrivalled anywhere in the world.

The majesty of sovereignty will be represented by many items of regalia: robes and ring; spurs and rod; orb and sceptre. There will be a crowning glory for King and Queen Consort.

However, the majesty of earthly sovereignty will be subject to the sovereignty of God, contextualised through the offering of solemn prayers and by the taking of solemn oaths.

The history of monarchy in these islands has not always run smoothly across the centuries. At times oaths and promises have been broken, by some who have worn the crown and by others who were subject to the crown. We often forget that our realm and its nations have experienced more than one revolution.

The very creation of this United Kingdom was a complex affair. The imperial and post-imperial ages hold many tensions. There are undoubted uncertainties within our evolving national story.

Nonetheless, this evolving national story reveals how we have learned to draw strength from the continuance of a monarchical tradition.

Across a thousand years of history we have learned to evolve beyond mere submission to regal authority. Within this realm we are more than subjects, we are citizens.

When homage and allegiance are spoken of tomorrow we will recognise that these concepts represent a two-way exchange of commitment between King and people.

When homage and allegiance are proclaimed tomorrow we will recognise that we are addressing a person who occupies an office of service.

The person and office of the sovereign gathers and represents the identity of us all.

Regal dignity and authority are defined by generous service and willing sacrifice.

Regal dignity and authority are confined by the enlightenment of wisdom and by the fragrance of humility.

God save the King.

Homily delivered on Friday May 5 at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Norwich.