As Britain celebrates the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth's 1952 ascension to the throne, it can also assess her legacy in balancing the monarch's duty as 'supreme governor' of the Church of England with being head of state.
Matt Dunham/AP Photo
As Britain celebrates the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne, it can also honor her ability over the past six decades to subtly navigate a troublesome problem for any country: Finding the right balance between religion and state.
Nearly forgotten amid the celebrity and pomp of British royalty is the fact that the queen is not just the unelected head of state and a symbol of national unity and tradition. She is also the “supreme governor” of the Church of England.
And not only that, at her coronation, she was also designated as “Defender of the Faith.” (The title was first given to Henry VIII after he broke England away from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 as part of the Protestant Reformation – and to allow for his divorce.)
During her long reign, the queen has witnessed a marked shift in Britain from a country of largely one faith to that of many faiths – and no faith. Half of Britons today claim no religious affiliation. And Africa now has more Anglicans than England does.