The idea must have seemed to King Charles like an easy win for inclusivity and modernity: to scrap the homage of peers—a staple of coronations for centuries, when the royal dukes bend the knee and pledge fealty to their feudal lord—with a “homage of the people,” which would involve the populace bellowing their “true allegiance” to the monarch from their sofas, with the text scrolling on the screen.
Unfortunately, it seems no one thought to check with the people first.
Turns out they aren’t so keen.
Unsurprisingly, while some devout monarchists will seize on the chance to “cry out” their loyalty at this Saturday’s coronation, not everyone seems thrilled to take up the Archbishop of Canterbury’s offer to say together the following words: “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”
Labour MP Clive Lewis told The Guardian that he thought the proposed oath would be “either unwelcome or ignored by many.”
Republic, the anti-monarchist organization, said it was “an offensive and tone-deaf gesture that holds the people in contempt,” adding, “Asking people to swear allegiance to Charles and his heirs means swearing allegiance to Andrew. In a democracy it is the head of state who should swear allegiance to us. This is an offensive and tone-deaf gesture that holds the people in contempt.”
The internet, as is the general rule, was ruder, with comparisons to fascist and totalitarian states popping up among the outrage. The royals should quail to think what some people might film themselves doing when the moment comes on Saturday.
An online poll for British breakfast TV show Good Morning Britain found 85 percent of respondents clicked to say they would not participate.
Although unscientific, the numbers should have been completely predictable to Charles, given that polls are showing he is not nearly as popular with the public as his beloved mother was, and his wife is struggling with a popularity rating the same as Meghan Markle and just a few points above Prince Andrew.
Speaking of Andrew, some social media commentators also bridled at the fact that the #homageofthepeople (really), in asking for a pledge of loyalty to Charles’ heirs, was seeking loyalty to an entourage of not particularly distinguished figures, including Andrew, who is, after all, only eighth in line to the throne.
The church has now been forced into a hasty damage limitation exercise on behalf of the king, emphasizing that the rejoinder is optional. Republicans, and easily embarrassed Englishmen and -women, are no doubt thrilled to have it confirmed they won’t be sent to the tower for keeping their lips zipped Saturday.
In a statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office said, “This is very much an invitation rather than an expectation or request, as you can see from the Archbishop's introduction to the homage… Much like the National Anthem, it's for people to join in if that feels right for them.”