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Angela Tilby: Hope for the future of the Royal Family

16 September 2022


The King and other members of the Royal family follow the bearer party carrying the coffin of the late Queen into Westminster Hall, on Wednesday

The King and other members of the Royal family follow the bearer party carrying the coffin of the late Queen into Westminster Hall, on Wednesday...

I HAD just arrived to begin my degree at Girton College, Cambridge. On the first Sunday of term, I cycled into the city centre, and, amazed at the variety of choice for evensong, decided on the chapel of Trinity College. There was Prince Charles. The Dean, John Robinson, author of Honest to God, preached about vocation, with a meaningful nod towards the heir to the throne. A few days later, I met the then youthful Rowan Williams, at that stage beardless and slightly awkward, given to wearing a mud-coloured mac, whatever the weather.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan presided over the blessing of Charles and Camilla’s wedding in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in 2005. I wondered whether his solemn demeanour was an indication that he did not quite approve, and was struck by the fact that he led the couple and congregation in the General Confession near the beginning of the service.

Time passes, and there are very few now who still resent Camilla as Diana’s usurper. As it happened, I met one last Friday at a supermarket checkout. His vitriol against the Queen Consort was epic. But, much as Diana is still revered, the mutiny that almost broke out at the time of her death has faded. There was just one moment during the Privy Council meeting on Saturday when I almost winced. My eyes strayed to William when King Charles referred affectionately to the Queen Consort, and I wondered whether he was thinking of what might have been.

The death of the Queen and the accession of King Charles III has reminded us that the Royal Family has endured at least as much tragedy and drama as any other family. There are hopes and dreams. There are mistakes, accidents, and betrayals and, with them, new beginnings. There is still love and sorrow for Diana, but we can also rejoice with Camilla as she becomes the King’s beloved consort.

In so many biblical stories, especially in the Old Testament, we are confronted with family breakdown. Jealousy, adultery, abandonment, and murder weave in and out of the story of God’s purposes. Read the genealogy at the start of St Matthew’s Gospel and you are confronted with a preposterous family tree, from Abraham to the Messiah, via Rahab the prostitute, the non-Jewish Ruth, Bathsheba, seduced by King David, and some of the most wicked of the kings of Israel.

God, indeed, appears to write straight with crooked lines. The individuals make terrible and wicked errors, but the divine purpose carries on. We may not presume to know what will happen in the reign of King Charles III, or how the Royal Family may transform itself in the future. But Christian experience gives us reason to retain our hope. “Sin is behovely” (“sin serves a purpose”), as Julian of Norwich wrote, “but all shall be well.”

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