05 May 2023
The Royal Mint has revealed the new 50 pence coin featuring for the first time the portrait of King Charles III. Like all the coins of his mother, Elizabeth II, this one has a series of Latin acronyms surrounding the monarch’s effigy.
The acronyms, D.G., Rex, F.D, stand for: by the Grace of God, King, Defender of the Faith. Defender of the Faith was a title first bestowed on Henry VIII by a grateful pope for Henry’s rebuttal of Martin Luther’s criticism of the faith. When Henry, in turn, split away from Rome, he hung on to the title. Our monarchs have used it ever since, signifying their fidelity to Christianity.
But in 1994, the then Prince Charles suggested that he would consider being known as Defender of Faith, not the Faith, when he became king because Britain had become a diverse, multi-faith nation. This caused intense debate, given that our monarchs also have another title, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, as to whether Defender of the Faith should be rewritten in this way.
Change was, though, in the air, and in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II told a group of diverse faith leaders that the Church of England was not just about exclusively defending Anglicanism but had a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.
Although it seemed a reinterpretation of the Church of England’s role, it reflected a growing desire among Christians for greater dialogue with other faiths, and mutual respect. Pope Francis has pointed to the parable of the Good Samaritan, about a Samaritan coming to the aid of an injured Jewish man, as a lesson in how common humanity rather than difference should be a watchword in dealings with others.
A similar focus on what binds people together was also evident after the accession of the new King. While he was proclaimed Defender of the Faith at his Accession Council and the title is stamped on his coinage, he told a gathering of faith leaders at Buckingham Palace that it was his duty to protect the space for faith in Britain and its practice through many different cultures. In other words, the new King is both honouring his ancient Defender of the Faith title but interpreting it for 21st century Britain.
This balancing act is also what we are trying to do at Walhampton with our vision that we describe as ‘radically traditional’. It’s about respecting the past, building on it, keeping traditional values at our foundation, but learning relevant subject matter in a relevant way for today so you are better prepared for the world you’re going to meet. That’s why we follow the PSB and those core skills that you’re all so familiar with.
And like Walhampton, the King will strive to hold on to eternal values while also making belief meaningful for people today. The next great challenge for both the new King and the Church of England will come first at the Coronation and then in considering the future roles of these British institutions: how to embrace both the ancient and the modern.
Written by Jonny Timms, Head