I was invited by BBC Radio Essex to comment on an opinion poll commissioned by the BBC on “the Monarchy’s role in faith today” (pdf), that appears to show that the Queen should retain “a faith role”. The other contributor to this item was the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell.
The BBC’s press release says,
Almost three quarters of people in England think that the Queen and future monarchs should keep the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and ‘Defender of the Faith’.
Additionally four-fifths (79%) of those who took part in a survey by ComRes for BBC local radio agree the Queen still has an important faith role.
73 per cent also think she should still be Defender of the Faith – a title which was originally given to Henry VIII – and remain as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Only a quarter (25%) agree that the Queen and future monarchs should not have any faith role or title at all.
The survey also found opinion divided on the suggestion by Prince Charles that he might change the religious role of the monarchy.
He has called for greater understanding between people of different faiths and says he would personally rather see his role as ‘Defender of Faith’ not ‘The Faith’.
Half of those surveyed (50%) say that they agree that if Prince Charles becomes king his title should be changed to Defender of Faith compared with 35 per cent who said they disagree with the proposed change to the title.
The survey found some regional variations in attitudes to the faith role of the monarch.
A third of Londoners (32%) agree that the Queen and future monarchs should have no faith role or title at all compared with 19% in the South West.
The item was brief, so there was only time to point out that the poll focussed people’s attention on the current monarch, who is very popular, but what if one of her heirs is not religious? And what about disestablishment?
I think that the poll results are misleading because most people won’t know what “defender of the faith” means, and will not have considered the possibilities for the future of the monarchy.