We have been shown a copy of a
letter from the General
Convention of your Church asking us, in our capacity as Supreme Governor of the
Church of England, to make formal apology for our predecessor Henry Vll and for
the ''Christian Doctrine of Discovery''.
We very much fear that your
Convention has misunderstood the Polity of the Church of England. Whilst it is
true that we are Supreme Governor, it is not in any personal capacity. The
Supreme Governor of the Church of England is the Crown in Parliament, who acts
on the advice of her ministers. We are assured that the matter which you have
raised will be dealt with, in due course, by the proper constitutional
authorities at an appropriate level.
Speaking personally, we are
not enthusiastic about issuing condemnations of our predecessors. Where would it
end? I am afraid that many of our forebears entertained views and opinions which
our advisers would not permit us to hold. (Charles, it seems, has greater
freedom in these areas; but no matter.]
And their personal lives,
frankly, were conducted in a
manner which (even in this liberated age) we Wndsors could never
entertain. You would probably take a more tolerant attitude than we to
the peccadilloes of Edward 11 and Richard 11, but we could perhaps agree that
Henry Vlll is infinitely more deserving of censure than his father.
To divorce a blameless wife in
order to marry a strumpet, to found an entire Church in order to do so, and then
to behead the strumpet in question, does not seems to us a fitting precedent for
subsequent Anglican behaviour. But perhaps your Convention would draw different
conclusions. And then there is the matter of George IV and poor Caroline...
We are sure that our ministers
will wisely steer us from any course which might involve us in this modish and
fruitless round of historical recrimination, and until such time we offer you
our sincerest good wishes in your difficult role.
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