James Cleverly today defended the “very generous invitation” for members of the public to pledge their allegiance to King Charles during the Coronation. Charles’s Coronation will include the first Homage of the People – a modern addition to the ancient ceremony that will see people across the UK and overseas realms invited to swear an oath of allegiance to him.
But the radical change has sparked controversy with critics branding it “tone deaf”.
The Foreign Secretary this morning defended the offer to the public, which replaces the traditional Homage of Peers in which a long line of hereditary peers knelt and made a pledge to the monarch in person.
Mr Cleverly also revealed that he would be pledging his allegiance to the King.
He told Sky News: “It’s an individual choice. It’s an invitation, a very generous invitation, to expand what has traditionally been quite an exclusive function which is just for members of the House of Lords to swear allegiance to the new monarch.
“Actually the King has decided to open this up to give everyone the opportunity to. No one is forced to, no one has to, no one’s going to be checking. If you want to do it, and I will, great. If you don’t want to do it, fine.”
The liturgy – the words and actions of the Coronation – was revealed over the weekend after it was chosen in consultation with the King, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Government.
Lambeth Palace said it hoped the Homage of the People will result in a “great cry around the nation and around the world of support for the King” from those watching on television, online or gathered in the open air at big screens.
It said the change was introduced to allow “a chorus of millions of voices” to be “enabled for the first time in history to participate in this solemn and joyful moment”.
The Archbishop will call upon “all persons of goodwill in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of the other realms and the territories to make their homage, in heart and voice, to their undoubted King, defender of all”.
The order of service will read: “All who so desire, in the abbey, and elsewhere, say together:
“All: I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”
It will be followed by the playing of a fanfare.
The Archbishop of Canterbury will then proclaim “God Save The King”, with all asked to respond: “God Save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May the King live for ever.”
But the change to the historic service at Westminster Abbey this Saturday has sparked controversy.
Graham Smith, of the Republic pressure group which campaigns to ditch the monarchy, branded it “offensive, tone deaf and a gesture that holds the people in contempt”.
It has also been widely mocked by social media users.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper and Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator Shabana Mahmood both told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme that they would make the pledge.
But Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay suggested he would opt out.
Buckingham Palace aides reportedly fear the issue is casting a cloud over the celebrations.
A senior source told The Sun: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has gone off-piste on this one.”