Britain is a Christian Country

· British History, Religion
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Is Britain a Christian Nation?

I have always considered Britain as a Christian Nation all my life, perhaps because of my background, my education, my experiences with the Church, and my knowledge of English history. So I was take aback when communicating with an Anglo-Indian living in India who has many relatives living in England to challenge me saying that, “England was not a Christian nation.” He said that he has bad many discussions with his English relatives and they confirmed that Britain was not a Christian nation and that I was wrong. I am only assume that he and his relatives saw England as a “secular nation” and that the English people had now accepted “multiculturalism” as the accepted norm for Britain. The British also are known to have forsaken their churches and their clergy in favour of Sunday shopping, or even having Sunday Family Lunch with some beer at a pub.

Naturally I got rather annoyed, and told him that The Monarch was crowned on Oath to  “maintain and preserve inviolable the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?”  This is described in greater detain under, “The Coronation and Oath of the British Monarch” detailed below,[3]

and that to say that Britain was not a Christian nation was tantamount to saying that the oath taken by the Monarch was a mockery. I believe I got the point across and the post was deleted. But the thought that people in India and other commonwealth nations could have gained  an impression that Britain was NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION riled me and I decided to write on this issue for the benefit of others. After looking at some of the facts available, I could see why such an impression was easily acquired by those less intimately aware of the history of Britain. But this discussion must necessarily be detailed to cover a wider perspective.

Factors that have Created the Impression that Britain is Secular

The impression Britain gives to the world is that she is a very open, tolerant, generous, and secular is by he behaviour of her people and her government policies. Following WWII and Churchill’s signing of the Atlantic Charter, the European colonial empires were doomed. This in effect opened the world markets to America, and gave unlimited political powers to nations once dominated by European powers. It was also coincidental that the industrialised nations depended on petroleum fuels and most of these fuels were found in Arab countries. After WWII Europe needed labour to rebuild her industries and cheap fuel, and Arab had plenty of both.

The West had never really understood the Arabs or their ideologies in spite of the many long years of the War of the Crusades, and the Arabs realising their backwardness in science, technology, and manufacturing, blamed their disadvantage on having been subjugated and repressed by the West instead of blaming  faults in their own cultural ideologies. So when Charles de Gaulle reached out to the Arabs to form a union to challenge the supremacy of America, the Arabs held all the trump cards. The Arab time had come. Allah has again blessed the Arabs.

The Arabs only agreed to form a union with Europe on condition that the Arab nations and all her peoples were afforded the same citizenship conditions as the Europeans and that Arabs were allowed to promote the Arabic language, Arabic culture, and Arabic religion in Europe, as equal to the European languages, culture, and religions. Both parties seemed to think that this better understanding and cooperation would be no bad thing for both countries. But this union is the cause of disintegration of the Western culture.

France and Arab Countries

When Algeria gained its independence in 1962 (4 years later), De Gaulle set out to reorient France’s policy toward the Arab/Islamic world. He pursued economic and strategic long-range planning designed to unite the European and Arab countries, on both sides of the Mediterranean, into a single, interdependent economic bloc that could oppose America.

Pierre Lyautey, a nephew of Marshall Lyautey, the first French governor of Morocco championed a Franco-Muslim Association. In May 1962 he said,

A French Islamic policy carried out together with the new Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, perhaps linked tomorrow with a North African federation, and with the states of the Middle East, would bring us a prestige which would impress the United States and the USSR.”

De Gaulle shared with his collaborators his wish to build a community with all the Mediterranean countries, different from the American model. This French- Arab policy coalesced with De Gaulle’s greatest ambition, the creation of a unified Europe whose centrepiece was an unprecedented rapprochement between two traditional enemies, France and what was then West Germany.

On November 27th, 1967, De Gaulle announced that French-Arab collaboration would be a fundamental element in French politics.

The Second International Conference in Support of the Arab Peoples”


This conference was held in January, 1969 in Cairo. The chief object of this conference was to demonstrate “European hostility towards Zionism and show solidarity with the Arab Population of Palestine.*” The conference stressed:

“that all information media should be mobilised to enlighten world public opinion, kept in ignorance and confusion by deceitful propaganda on the part of Israel and its supporters.”

It is an incumbent moral and political duty” of all participants of this conference to reveal the truth and spread it through the press, the radio, television, demonstrations, visits of delegations, and the organisation of seminars and conferences in the West and through all continents.”

Resolution 15*: “The conference decided to form special parliamentary groups, where they did not exist, and to use the parliamentary platform for promoting support of the Arab people and the Palestinian resistance.”
Resolution 22*: Representatives will organize, on return from the conference, special meetings and publications, and utilize the press, radio, and television media to popularize the conference’s decisions in the most appropriate way for each individual country.
[Not only were the Arabs determined to force the new European partners to demonise the Israelis and Americans, but also to force them to accept the legitimacy of the Palestinian peoples, that was a newly created *political identity since 1945, and to support their demands for their territorial demands, that also was non-existent before 1945. United States cannot claim not to have been aware of the decisions taken at these meetings as they were represented there.]
Of the 54 members of the conference, 43 were from Europe, i.e., France, East Germany, England, Italy, Belgium and Cyprus, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Hungary, and Chile, and the United States. [Appendix 4] [4.p44]


***

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

British Prime Minister: “We are a Christian country”
The Bible has given Britain a set of values and morals which it should actively defend, says David Cameron.

The following is the prepared text of a speech by British Prime Minister David Cameron, delivered at Christ Church, Oxford, last weekend for the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. In it, Mr Cameron says the UK is Christian country and that when Christians are confident of their own identity it provides greater space for other religious faiths too.

It’s great to be here and to have this opportunity to come together today to mark the end of this very special 400th anniversary year for the King James Bible.

I know there are some who will question why I am giving this speech. And if they happen to know that I’m setting out my views today in a former home of the current Archbishop of Canterbury and in front of many great theologians and church leaders they really will think I have entered the lions’ den. But I am proud to stand here and celebrate the achievements of the King James Bible. Not as some great Christian on a mission to convert the world. But because, as Prime Minister, it is right to recognise the impact of a translation that is, I believe, one of this country’s greatest achievements.

The Bible is a book that has not just shaped our country, but shaped the world. And, with three Bibles sold or given away every second, a book that is not just important in understanding our past, but which will continue to have a profound impact in shaping our collective future.

In making this speech I claim no religious authority whatsoever. I am a committed – but I have to say vaguely practising – Church of England Christian, who will stand up for the values and principles of my faith but who is full of doubts and, like many, constantly grappling with the difficult questions when it comes to some of the big theological issues. But what I do believe is this. The King James Bible is as relevant today as at any point in its 400 year history. And none of us should be frightened of recognising this. Why? Put simply, three reasons.

First, the King James Bible has bequeathed a body of language that permeates every aspect of our culture and heritage from everyday phrases to our greatest works of literature, music and art. We live and breathe the language of the King James Bible, sometimes without even realising it. And it is right that we should acknowledge this – particularly in this anniversary year.

Second, just as our language and culture is steeped in the Bible, so too is our politics. From human rights and equality to our constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, from the role of the church in the first forms of welfare provision, to the many modern day faith-led social action projects the Bible has been a spur to action for people of faith throughout history, and it remains so today.

Third, we are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so. Let me be clear: I am not in any way saying that to have another faith – or no faith – is somehow wrong. I know and fully respect that many people in this country do not have a religion. And I am also incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make our country stronger. But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend. The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option. You can’t fight something with nothing. Because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.

Let me take each of these points in turn.

First, language and culture.

Powerful language is incredibly evocative. It crystallises profound, sometimes complex, thoughts and suggests a depth of meaning far beyond the words on the page giving us something to share, to cherish, to celebrate. Part of the glue that can help to bind us together.

Along with Shakespeare, the King James Bible is a high point of the English language, creating arresting phrases that move, challenge and inspire. One of my favourites is the line “For now we see through a glass, darkly.” It is a brilliant summation of the profound sense that there is more to life, that we are imperfect, that we get things wrong, that we should strive to see beyond our own perspective. The key word is darkly – profoundly loaded, with many shades of meaning. I feel the power is lost in some more literal translations. The New International Version says: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” The Good News Bible: “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror”. They feel not just a bit less special but dry and cold, and don’t quite have the same magic and meaning.

Like Shakespeare, the King James translation dates from a period when the written word was intended to be read aloud. And this helps to give it a poetic power and sheer resonance that in my view is not matched by any subsequent translation. It has also contributed immensely to the spread of spoken English around the world. Indeed, the language of the King James Bible is very much alive today.

I’ve already mentioned the lions’ den. Just think about some of the other things we all say. Phrases like: strength to strength, how the mighty are fallen, the skin of my teeth, the salt of the earth, nothing new under the sun. According to one recent study there are 257 of these phrases and idioms that come from the Bible. These phrases are all around us from court cases to TV sitcoms and from recipe books to pop music lyrics.

Of course, there is a healthy debate about the extent to which it was the King James version that originated the many phrases in our language today. And it’s right to recognise the impact of earlier versions like Tyndale, Wycliffe, Douai-Rheims, the Bishops and Geneva Bibles too. The King James Bible does exactly that, setting out with the stated aim of making a good translation better, or out of many good ones, to make “one principal good one”. But what is clear is that the King James Version gave the Bible’s many expressions a much more widespread public presence.

Much of that dissemination has come through our literature, through the great speeches we remember and the art and music we still enjoy today. From Milton to Morrison and Coleridge to Cormac McCarthy the Bible supports the plot, context, language and sometimes even the characters in some of our greatest literature. Tennyson makes over 400 Biblical references in his poems and makes allusions to 42 different books of the Bible.

The Bible has infused some of the greatest speeches from Martin Luther King’s dream that Isaiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled and that one day “every valley shall be exalted” to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address which employed not just Biblical words but cadence and rhythms borrowed from the King James Bible as well. When Lincoln said that his forefathers “brought forth” a new nation, he was imitating the way in which the Bible announced the birth of Jesus.

The Bible also runs through our art. From Giotto to El Greco and Michelangelo to Stanley Spencer. The paintings in Sandham Memorial Chapel in Berkshire are some of my favourite works of art. Those who died in Salonika rising to heaven is religious art in the modern age and, in my view, as powerful as some of what has come before.

And the Bible runs through our music too. From the great oratorios like J S Bach’s Matthew and John Passions and Handel’s Messiah to the wealth of music written across the ages for mass and evensong in great cathedrals like this one. The Biblical settings of composers from Tallis to Taverner are regularly celebrated here in this great cathedral and will sustain our great British tradition of choral music for generations to come.

It’s impossible to do justice in a short speech to the full scale of the cultural impact of the King James Bible. But what is clear is that four hundred years on, this book is still absolutely pivotal to our language and culture. And that’s one very good reason for us all to recognise it today.

A second reason is this.

Just as our language and culture is steeped in the Bible, so too is our politics. The Bible runs through our political history in a way that is often not properly recognised. The history and existence of a constitutional monarchy owes much to a Bible in which Kings were anointed and sanctified with the authority of God and in which there was a clear emphasis on the respect for Royal Power and the need to maintain political order. Jesus said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

And yet at the same time, the Judeo-Christian roots of the Bible also provide the foundations for protest and for the evolution of our freedom and democracy. The Torah placed the first limits on Royal Power. And the knowledge that God created man in his own image was, if you like, a game changer for the cause of human dignity and equality.

In the ancient world this equity was inconceivable. In Athens, for example, full and equal rights were the preserve of adult, free born men. But when each and every individual is related to a power above all of us and when every human being is of equal and infinite importance, created in the very image of God we get the irrepressible foundation for equality and human rights — a foundation that has seen the Bible at the forefront of the emergence of democracy, the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of women – even if not every church has always got the point!

Crucially the translation of the Bible into English made all this accessible to many who had previously been unable to comprehend the Latin versions. And this created an unrelenting desire for change. The Putney debates in the Church of St Mary the Virgin in 1647 saw the first call for One Man, One vote and the demand that authority be invested in the House of Commons rather than the King. Reading the Bible in English gave people equality with each other through God. And this led them to seek equality with each other through government.

In a similar way, the Bible provides a defining influence on the formation of the first welfare state. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says that whatever people have done “unto one of the least of these my brethren” they have done unto him. Just as in the past it was the influence of the church that enabled hospitals to be built, charities created, the hungry fed, the sick nursed and the poor given shelter, so today faith based groups are at the heart of modern social action.

Organisations like the Church Urban Fund which has supported over 5,000 faith based projects in England’s poorest communities including the Near Neighbours Programme which Eric Pickles helped to launch last month. And St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London’s Bishopsgate a building once destroyed by an IRA bomb but now a centre where people divided by conflict, culture or religion can meet and listen to each other’s perspective.

In total, there are almost 30 thousand faith based charities in this country not to mention the thousands of people who step forward as individuals, as families, as communities, as organisations and yes, as churches and do extraordinary things to help build a bigger, richer, stronger, more prosperous and more generous society. And when it comes to the great humanitarian crises – like the famine in Horn of Africa – again you can count on faith-based organisations like Christian Aid, Tearfund, CAFOD, Jewish Care, Islamic Relief, and Muslim Aid to be at the forefront of the action to save lives.

So it’s right to recognise the huge contribution our faith communities make to our politics and to recognise the role of the Bible in inspiring many of their works.

People often say that politicians shouldn’t “do God.” If by that they mean we shouldn’t try to claim a direct line to God for one particular political party they could not be more right. But we shouldn’t let our caution about that stand in the way of recognising both what our faith communities bring to our country and also just how incredibly important faith is to so many people in Britain.

The Economist may have published the obituary of God in their Millennium issue. But in the past century, the proportion of people in the world who adhere to the four biggest religions has actually increased from around two-thirds to nearly three quarters and is forecast to continue rising.

For example, it is now thought there are at least 65 million protestants in China and 12 million Catholics – more Christians than there are members of the communist party. Official numbers indicate China has about 20 million Muslims – almost as many as in Saudi Arabia – and nearly twice as many as in the whole of the EU. And by 2050, some people think China could well be both the world’s biggest Christian nation and its biggest Muslim one too.

Here in Britain we only have to look at the reaction to the Pope’s visit last year, this year’s Royal Wedding or of course the festival of Christmas next week, to see that Christianity is alive and well in our country.

The key point is this. Societies do not necessarily become more secular with modernity but rather more plural, with a wider range of beliefs and commitments.

And that brings me to my third point.

The Bible has helped to shape the values which define our country. Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once said, “we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible.” Responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities these are the values we treasure.

Yes, they are Christian values. And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that. But they are also values that speak to us all – to people of every faith and none. And I believe we should all stand up and defend them. Those who oppose this usually make the case for secular neutrality. They argue that by saying we are a Christian country and standing up for Christian values we are somehow doing down other faiths. And that the only way not to offend people is not to pass judgement on their behaviour.

I think these arguments are profoundly wrong. And being clear on this is absolutely fundamental to who we are as a people what we stand for and the kind of society we want to build.

First, those who say being a Christian country is doing down other faiths simply don’t understand that it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain has confidence in its Christian identity. Many people tell me it is much easier to be Jewish or Muslim here in Britain than it is in a secular country like France.

Why? Because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths too. And because many of the values of a Christian country are shared by people of all faiths and indeed by people of no faith at all.

Second, those who advocate secular neutrality in order to avoid passing judgement on the behaviour of others fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code.

Let’s be clear. Faith is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for morality. There are Christians who don’t live by a moral code. And there are atheists and agnostics who do. But for people who do have a faith, their faith can be a helpful prod in the right direction. And whether inspired by faith or not – that direction, that moral code, matters.

Whether you look at the riots last summer, the financial crash and the expenses scandal, or the on-going terrorist threat from Islamist extremists around the world, one thing is clear: moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Shying away from speaking the truth about behaviour, about morality has actually helped to cause some of the social problems that lie at the heart of the lawlessness we saw with the riots.

The absence of any real accountability, or moral code allowed some bankers and politicians to behave with scant regard for the rest of society. And when it comes to fighting violent extremism, the almost fearful passive tolerance of religious extremism that has allowed segregated communities to behave in ways that run completely counter to our values has not contained that extremism but allowed it to grow and prosper in the process blackening the good name of the great religions that these extremists abuse for their own purposes.

Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. “Live and let live” has too often become “do what you please”. Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles. To be confident in saying something is wrong is not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength.

But we can’t fight something with nothing. As I’ve said, if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything. One of the biggest lessons of the riots last Summer is that we’ve got stand up for our values if we are to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations.

The same is true of religious extremism. As President Obama wrote in the Audacity of Hope: “…in reaction to religious overreach we equate tolerance with secularism, and forfeit the moral language that would help infuse our politics with larger meaning.”

Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values.

But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. We need to stand up for these values. To have the confidence to say to people – this is what defines us as a society and that to belong here is to believe in these things.

I believe the church – and indeed all our religious leaders and their communities in Britain – have a vital role to play in helping to achieve this. I have never really understood the argument some people make about the church not getting involved in politics. To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the Church and the Bible are all inherently involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions.

So I don’t think we should be shy or frightened of this. I certainly don’t object to the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing his views on politics. Religion has a moral basis and if he doesn’t agree with something he’s right to say so. But just as it is legitimate for religious leaders to make political comments, he shouldn’t be surprised when I respond.

Also it’s legitimate for political leaders to say something about religious institutions as they see them affecting our society, not least in the vital areas of equality and tolerance. I believe the Church of England has a unique opportunity to help shape the future of our communities. But to do so it must keep on the agenda that speaks to the whole country.

The future of our country is at a pivotal moment. The values we draw from the Bible go to the heart of what it means to belong in this country and you, as the Church of England, can help ensure that it stays that way.”

How is religion measured in the UK?

 

Copyright © David Cameron . Published by MercatorNet.com. You may download and print extracts from this article for your own personal and non-commercial use only. Contact us if you wish to discuss republication. [1]

*****

Lord’s Spiritual

26 bishops of the Church of England sit in the House of Lords. Known as the Lords Spiritual, they read prayers at the start of each daily meeting and play a full and active role in the life and work of the Upper House.

Christian religious leaders have had an active role in the legislative affairs of the country since before the formation of the Church of England.  Prior to the 11th century feudal landlords and religious leaders were regularly consulted by Saxon kings.

In the 14th century, religious leaders and landed gentry formed the ‘Upper House’ (the Lords) as, respectively, the Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal. Local representatives formed the ‘Lower House’ (the Commons). Apart from a brief interruption following the English Civil war, religious leaders have played an active role in parliament ever since.

The continuing place of Anglican bishops in the Lords reflects our enduring constitutional arrangement, with an established Church of England and its Supreme Governor as Monarch and Head of State.

Although there are 44 dioceses in the present-day Church of England, the Bishopric of Manchester Act of 1847 limited the number of places for Lords Spiritual to 26. In the Upper House today the 26 Lords Spiritual constitute around 3.5% of its membership.

Which bishops become Lords Spiritual?

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of Durham, London and Winchester are ex-officio members of the House of Lords. The remaining 21 places on the Bishops’ Bench are not determined by diocese, but are occupied by those English diocesan bishops that have served the longest.

When bishops retire from their see (compulsory at 70), their membership of the House also ceases. Occasionally some have become life peers, and this is usually the case for former archbishops.

What do they do in Parliament?

There is always a Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords when it is sitting, to read prayers at the start of the day and to participate in the business of the House.  Attendance in the House to read prayers is determined by the Lords Spiritual on a weekly rota basis, but bishops also choose to attend the House on an ad-hoc basis when matters of interest and concern to them are before it (the links on this page to individual Lords Spiritual provide more details).

Who do they represent in Parliament?

There is no ‘Bishops’ Party’ and as non-aligned members, their activities in the Upper House are not whipped.

Like other members of the Lords, they do not represent a parliamentary constituency, although their work is often closely informed by their diocesan role.

They sit as individual Lords Spiritual, and as such they have much in common with the independent Crossbenchers and those who are not party-affiliated.

Their presence in the Lords is an extension of their general vocation as bishops to preach God’s word and to lead people in prayer. Bishops provide an important independent voice and spiritual insight to the work of the Upper House and, while they make no claims to direct representation, they seek to be a voice for all people of faith, not just Christians. [2]

THE CORONATION AND OATH OF A BRITISH MONARCH

Since the Glorious Revolution, the Coronation Oath Act of 1688 has required, among other things, that the Sovereign “Promise and Sweare to Governe the People of this Kingdome of England and the Dominions thereto belonging according to the Statutes in Parlyament Agreed on and the Laws and Customs of the same”.[46]The oath has been modified without statutory authority; for example, at the Coronation of Elizabeth II, the exchange between the Queen and the Archbishop was as follows:

The Archbishop of Canterbury: “Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?”
The Queen: “I solemnly promise so to do.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury: “Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?”
The Queen: “I will.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury: “Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolable the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?”
The Queen: “All this I promise to do. The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God.”[23]

The monarch additionally swears an oath to preserve Presbyterian church government in the Church of Scotland. This part of the oath is taken before the coronation.[27]

Once the taking of the oath concludes, an ecclesiastic presents a Bible to the Sovereign, saying “Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.”[23] The Bible used is a full King James Bible, including the Apocrypha.[47] At Elizabeth II’s coronation, the Bible was presented by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Once the Bible is presented, the Holy Communion is celebrated, but the service is interrupted after the Nicene Creed. [3]

References

[1] Cameron’s Speech: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/british_prime_minister_we_are_a_christian_country

[2] Lord’s Spiritual: http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/the-church-in-parliament/bishops-in-the-house-of-lords.aspx

[3] The Coronation of a British Monarch: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronation_of_the_British_monarch

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