Here's why the coronation is a 'missed opportunity', according to an expert

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: King Charles III visits The Africa Centre on January 26, 2023 in London, England. The King is visiting the centre to learn about its role in connecting Africans with the UK and to visit its exhibition illustrating the effects of climate change. (Photo by Jack Hill - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
How King Charles would manage the religious aspects coronation has long been a source of speculation. (Getty Images)

King Charles III's coronation is just around the corner, and it has become clear his service will look significantly different from that of his late mother's 1953 ceremony.

Despite being smaller and shorter in length, the coronation is not yet generating huge amounts of excitement, with 41% of Brits saying they are unlikely to tune in.

Charles, however, seems determined to make the 1,000-year-old religious service more inclusive by adapting it to fit in with the UK's multi-faith and increasingly secular society.

The Times has reported that peers of different faiths will be involved in the service and will present the King with the coronation regalia.

However, one expert told Yahoo UK that he felt "disappointment" that the coronation oath itself will not be modernised for King Charles's coronation — something which would require legislative action.

Currently, Charles has to make an oath in which he pledges to "preserve and maintain" the Anglican church — of which he is supreme governor — and the Protestant Reformed Religion.

Professor Robert Hazell, of UCL's Constitution Unit, said his disappointment was rooted in the fact that it was a "missed opportunity" to make the coronation more inclusive and reflective of British society.

"The government has known about this looming problem for a long time. If they say there was not time to legislate, that is simply not true.

"The government found time to legislate to amend the Regency Acts in the Counsellors of State Act 2022; they could also have found time to legislate to amend the Coronation Oath Act.

"It was a missed opportunity, because the urgency will now fade away until the next coronation."

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: King Charles III delivers his Commonwealth Day message as he attends the annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey on March 13, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty images)
Charles broke with tradition at his first Commonwealth Day Service since becoming King by giving a spoken address instead of a written one. (Getty Images)

Charles first courted the possibility that he would adapt his role as monarch to reflect the plurality of faiths seen in British society in 1994, when he said that he wanted to be "defender of faith" rather than the traditional title of "defender of the faith" which the monarch has held for centuries.

He walked these comments back in recent years: both in 2015 when he acknowledged in a radio interview that while he is concerned about protecting all faiths, his original comments had been misinterpreted and when he met with faith leaders after Queen Elizabeth's death and reiterated his commitment to Anglicanism.

On 19 April, the Cabinet Office confirmed that there will be no significant changes to the oath that would require legislation, instead the only changes will be to how the realms are referred.

There is historical precedent for making a change like this without legislation being required.

The Constitutional Unit at UCL have proposed a variety of amendments to the coronation oath, which range from minor adjustments to the removal of any mention of protestantism.

Hazell explained to Yahoo that he "would have been happy for the government to have opted for any of the amendments we suggested: we laid out a range of possible options, some of which recognised the continuing importance of Christianity and Anglicanism more than others".

Queen Elizabeth II after her coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, London.    (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II after her coronation in Westminster Abbey, London in 1953. (Getty Images)

However, Hazell noted it is still possible some extra wording may be included, even if the oath won't be changed.

"I expect some words may be added as a preface to explain the origins and historical context of the oath; but I don’t expect further changes to the wording of the oath itself."

Late in 2022, census data from the Office of National Statistics showed that for the first time the UK is recorded as being a minority Christian country — with only 46.2% self-identifying as such.

This led campaigners to saying it is "absurd" that the Church of England remains the state religion, with the monarch at the head of it.

Despite the fact that the monarchy relies heavily on traditions to solidify their ceremonial function, Hazell said that adapting to these demographic changes would not be a problem for the royals.

"The monarchy has survived by continuously adapting. Look at its presence now on Facebook and Instagram! And Charles recognised the changing demographics in the reception he gave to faith leaders on 16 September 2022".

With peers of other faiths playing a role in the coronation service, even a small one, Charles has indicated a way to combine tradition and modernity, with the ceremony remaining, as Hazell put it, "at its core an Anglican service, while still involving contributions from other faiths."