by Rab Bruce’s spider

Just when you think the flag-waving British Nationalists can’t get any more ridiculous in their worship of the monarchy, they come up with yet another bizarre idea to promote adulation of the late Queen. Apparently, there are now calls for her to be declared a saint. And yes, that is as daft as it sounds because there are a couple of reasons why it shouldn’t happen. I won’t say it can’t happen because the extremes to which the UK will go to further its royal fetish should not be underestimated, but I’d like to take a look at the arguments against this outlandish proposal.

First of all, the idea of sainthood is that it is earned through selfless acts which benefit either other individuals or the Church. There is a caveat to that idea which I’ll address shortly, but I think it fair to say that those criteria would be generally accepted by most people as being required before sainthood can be awarded.

So what selfless acts did the late Queen exhibit during her long life? She certainly had a lot of hospitals and schools, not to mention bridges and other public constructions, named in her honour, but as far as I know, she did not use even a tiny portion of her massive wealth to pay for any hospitals, schools or even food banks. In fact, as recent revelations have shown, she often went out of her way to ensure that her wealth was protected from any of the laws which affect her subjects. I’m afraid that simply being polite and dignified while remaining silent on social issues isn’t my idea of what would qualify one for sainthood. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t think of any act the Queen undertook in her long reign which would come close to being a saintly act. Perhaps those advocating her canonisation can come up with some examples, but I’m stuck at a count of zero.

There is, though, another very good reason why this almost certainly can’t happen. First, though, that caveat I mentioned. I’ll admit that I’m no expert on religion as it has no bearing on my life, but my understanding of the Protestant faith is that it regards every Christian as a saint by default. That means the Queen is already a saint in the eyes of the Protestant religion, but so is every other Christian. However, the Protestant version of Christianity is generally confined to Scotland and Northern Ireland as far as the UK is concerned. As with most things in this so-called union of equals, it can therefore be discounted for the purposes of this argument because it is Anglicanism which is the version of Christianity most relevant to the idea.

A wee bit of history first. When King Henry VIII of England was awarded the title, "Defender of the Faith", the faith in question was Roman Catholicism. Henry retained the title even after he ditched Catholicism and transformed England into a Protestant state because he didn’t like the Pope’s views on divorce. UK monarchs retain the title, but the faith they are defending is never really explained. Is it Christianity as a whole? Probably not, considering that Catholics are not permitted to become part of the royal family. So is it only Protestant versions of Christianity? Or is it only Anglicanism? I’m not sure at all.

As for Anglicanism, it is often viewed as a half-way house between Protestantism and Catholicism. It does retain some features of Catholicism but, importantly, it does not canonise new saints. That is still the preserve of the Pope of Rome. This presents something of a problem for the idea of sainthood for the late queen. The royal family’s highly sectarian stance on Catholics is, like most things monarchical in the UK, rooted in history, but nobody seems inclined to modernise it at all. Unlike railway workers, it seems the monarchy has no need to modernise. But what this means is that an institution which specifically bans an entire religious sect from participation now needs to ask the Pope, as leader of that sect, for permission to allow its former head to become a member of the Catholic Church’s most exclusive club. If the Pope spoke Scots, I can imagine his response being, "Aye, right!".

Despite this rather obvious reason why queen Elizabeth II is very unlikely to be canonised, it is always possible if sufficient influence and inducements are offered to the Vatican, but I think it unlikely.

Anglicanism, though, does recognise saints who feature from the early centuries of Christianity, and does have a sort of quasi-sainthood for important members of (normally English) society who are held in high regard. It’s not sainthood as such, but it is an elevated status which allows those individuals to be revered if not actually worshipped. Perhaps, in the Alice through the Looking Glass world of the UK media, according this status on the Queen will be sufficient to begin referring to her as a saint. If that’s what they want to do, good for them. Personally, it won’t alter my opinion of the monarchy in general or Queen Elizabeth in particular, although I dare say it might reinforce my opinion of the extremists who are promoting this bizarre idea.