Charles agrees to be ‘Defender of faith’

Prince Charles will embrace ‘multiculturalism’ when he becomes King by dropping “the” from the historic title “Defender of the Faith”, press reports say.

The title has been given to each English monarch since Henry VIII in 1521. Although it was first given by the Pope, it quickly developed to reflect the monarch’s status as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Several years ago the Prince of Wales controversially floated the idea of taking the title “Defender of the Faiths [plural]” but according to reports in today’s press has now settled on “Defender of Faith”.

A senior source told the Daily Telegraph: “There have been lots of discussions. He would like to be known as the Defender of Faith which is a subtle but hugely symbolic shift.”

The move could pave the way for the disestablishment of the Church of England.

Last month immigration minister, Phil Woolas, gaffed by saying that a split between church and state was inevitable.

“Disestablishment – I think it will happen because it’s the way things are going,” he told The Times. “Once you open debate about reform of the House of Lords, you open up debate about the make-up of the House. It will probably take 50 years, but a modern society is multi-faith.”

The Government was quick to distance itself from his comments, saying disestablishment was not on the agenda. Colleagues said Mr Woolas was speaking “off message”.

It did, however, spark a small media debate about the Church of England’s role.

In The Times, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert (Bishop of St Albans) defended establishment. He wrote: “First of all, it is misinformation to say that Britain is a secular society.

“The evidence that we have from the 2001 census is that more than 72 per cent of people under no pressure whatsoever described themselves as Christian and 6 per cent as belonging to another faith.

“Even roughly one in five worship monthly – a huge number – but the Church of England exists not simply for those who come to church, but for every single person who lives within our parish system.

“The vicars of our parishes are there not only to offer worship with their congregations; they exist to offer pastoral care, social care, community care with their churches in every bit of England. That’s a very significant part of social, cultural and community life.”

But Dr Sean Gabb (Director of the Libertarian Alliance) said he was in favour of cutting the state’s link to the church.

He said: “Nowadays, priests and bishops seem to be less interested in preaching the Gospel than in preaching an embarrassingly naïve socialism.”

He continued: “Now, the problem here is not that so many Anglican spokesmen appear to be of the Left, but that they seem wholly unaware of any other theological perspective on economics and politics.

“With this, I regret, goes their almost casual rejection of the Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer in favour of new versions that are devoid of literary merit.

“The Church should be disestablished because it has, in a sense, disestablished itself. It has made itself an object of derision if not of contempt. It should not be allowed to continue representing itself as England at prayer.”