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Publication Detail
Swearing in the new King: the Accession Declarations and Coronation Oaths
Abstract
On accession the new sovereign has to make three statutory oaths: the Scottish oath, to uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland; the Accession Declaration oath, to be a true and faithful Protestant; and the coronation oath, which includes promising to uphold the rights and privileges of the Church of England. These oaths date originally from 1688-1707, when Catholic Europe was seen as an existential threat. In our more secular and pluralist society, the oaths need to be revised and updated; or dropped altogether. Because the oaths are statutory, any significant revision would require fresh legislation; as would their repeal. To be in time for the next accession, legislation would need to be passed during the present reign. Legislation could adapt each oath to its context. In a radical reformulation, the Scottish oath could become an oath about the Union; the Accession Declaration, traditionally made before Parliament, could become an oath to uphold the constitution and our laws; and the coronation oath, in a ceremony watched by millions, could be an oath made to the people. This report offers three different reformulations of each oath, depending on how radical the government wishes to be. It may not be easy to reach consensus, with the churches, other faith groups and all sections of society; ultimately the government has to decide. If there is not the political will to legislate, the government should consider preparing a statement to give to Parliament on accession explaining the historical reasons for the oaths, and how they are to be understood in modern times; with accompanying briefing for the media.
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Dept of Political Science
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