Mark Pritchard MP: Should all new citizens swear an oath to the Queen?
Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, asks questions about Lord Goldsmith’s plans to introduce citizenship ceremonies for all young adults coming of age.
The humble British penny provides a revealing insight into why Labour’s plans for swearing an Oath of Alligence to Her Majesty the Queen as a national ‘rite of passage’ for teenagers graduating into full citizenship are fundamentally flawed. The measure is another pseudo-patriotic gasp and strain – an attempt to try and mitigate Britain’s worsening community relations, caused not because few union flags fly over public buildings, but because of forty years of failed multi-culturalism and Britain’s open and porous borders.
Servicemen and women of all faith groups and none already swear an Oath of Alligence to the Queen on joining the Armed Forces, and so do MPs when entering the Commons, but in each circumstance, swearing the Oath is a condition of employment and membership - not a pre-requisite for acquiring basic legal rights. Today, it is less clear, whether a new generation of young adults, many from other faiths, will be willing to swear alligence to the Defender of the Faith – a Christian faith?
For the last 300 years British coins have been engraved with the abbreviations, F D or FID DEF – "Fidei Defensor". A subsidiary title of English monarchs since it was granted to King Henry VIII in 1521 by Pope Leo X. The title was revoked nine years later by Pope Paul III following Henry's decision to break with Rome and restored again after fourteen years by Parliament and conferred on King Edward VI, and ‘his successors’ - who would now defend the Anglican faith and be its Supreme Governors.
Since 2004, all new British citizens have had to swear:
“That on becoming a British citizen I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to law”.
To date, there has been no recorded incident of an ‘FD objector’ - refusing to swear the oath on religious grounds - perhaps this is because there is no explicit reference to Her Majesty as Defender of the Faith?
But if the government gets its way, it will mean 100,000 people annually being required to swear alligence to the defender of a faith they may not even recognise. For many new citizens, the Oath will be counter-cultural and offensive. It may only a matter of time before someone objects on the grounds of religious conscience?
If a new generation of British-born, or naturalised British citizens, are unprepared or unwilling to swear allegiance to the Defender of the Faith then the government might drop the Oath to Her Majesty altogether - and opt for an Oath to the United Kingdom – country rather Queen. This would certainly feed the creeping Republicanism within Labour’s parliamentary ranks – many of whom see new Constitutional reforms as an opportunity to progress their anti-monarchy agenda.
There may even be a move to swear allegiance to the devolved nations rather than the United Kingdom – this has already been hinted at by some Ministers, most notably by Welsh Secretary, Paul Murphy MP, when he recently appeared before the Welsh Affairs Select Committee. Indeed, Wales and Northern Ireland may provide an opt-out for ‘FD objectors’? As whilst the Queen remains ‘Defender of the Faith’ in England, Scotland, Canada and New Zealand; the Church in Northern Ireland was disestablished in 1869 - and similarly in Wales in 1920.
The government might also take the lead of Pakistan, while still a dominion of the Commonwealth, in 1953, it dropped the title altogether - recognizing the contradiction between its overwhelmingly Muslim population and the Queen as defender of a Christian faith. There is also the Prince of Wales option. In 1994 he said, should he succeed to the throne; "I personally would rather see [my future role] as Defender of Faith, not the Faith". But I doubt the current public mood, which rightly and already, fears the diminution and dilution of Britain’s culture and traditions, would make His Royal Highness’s views any more popular today, than they were fourteen years ago.
The government might also chose the Northern Ireland Assembly model - where nationalist Republicans have once again been appeased – and are now only required to sign up to a ‘Roll of Honour’.
Whatever the final outcome of the government’s consultations, it is likely that a policy supposedly designed to bring our nation together - will once again undermine the United Kingdom’s traditions, heritage, and culture – and divide rather than unite.