Thursday 26 March 2015

Greek Independence Day - in 1964 and today

Greek Independence Day, a national holiday that is celebrated annually on 25th March, commemorating the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821. It coincides with the Greek Orthodox Church’s celebration of the Annunciation to the Theotokos, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would bear the son of God.

Very often it has been celebrated with military parades. In 1964 King Constantine II had been King of the Hellenes for just 19 days following the death of King Paul I, when he presided over the celebrations for the first time as Greece's sovereign. The excellent Greek Royalist blog The Royal Chronicles reminded of the 1964 celebrations with a couple of photos of King Constantine II on horseback and Prince Peter at his side the author also published this video report of the celebrations in Athens:

 On 25th March 2015 Greece was still celebrating her Independence Day, but this time King Constantine II of the Hellenes no longer watched the crowds on horseback, but the  King followed the military parade standing on the balcony of the Hotel Grande Bretagne. Poor Greece!

King Constantine II in Athens on Independence Day 2015

Commonwealth of Australia: New succession laws take effect today

After the Australian Parliament passed the changes to the laws of succession (Succession to the Crown Bill 2015) the new rules come into effect on 26th March 2015. Australia was the last Commonwealth country to finish the legislative process because the federal parliament had to wait for the state parliaments to accept the new succession laws. Constitutional rules in Australia require that each of its six states consent to the changes – and while five have passed or are passing the necessary legislation, Western Australia was holding out.

Four years ago, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia, an agreement was made between those 16 countries who recognise The Queen as their Head of State that there would be changes to the royal succession laws. Four years on and despite an Act of Parliament being passed in the UK, the changes only come today into force.

Ironically, the hold-up for these changes was down the very state from which they originated in Australia. Part of the Perth Agreement in 2011 was that each of the 16 Commonwealth realms would, where appropriate, each introduce their own laws with the necessary changes and that these laws would all be brought into effect at the same time.

The Queen in Perth on 27th October 2011 (to her left is WA Premier Colin Barnett), where and when the Perth agreement was made during the Commonwealth Heads of Goverment Meeting (CHOGM).
While every other realm has either asserted that legislation isn't needed or that they have passed any necessary changes, the Western Australia parliament took its time.In February 2015 the WA parliament passed the necessary bills, which gave the federal parliament the green light to act. The Bill was passed with the votes of the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition.

The purpose of the Succession to the Crown Bill 2015 (the Bill) was to assent to three reforms concerning the succession to the Crown consistent with changes enacted in the United Kingdom Succession to Crown Act 2013 (UK) (UK Succession to the Crown Act). Those reforms are:
  • to bring to an end the system of male primogeniture so that the order of succession will be determined by order of birth
  • to remove the statutory provisions under which anyone who marries a person of the Roman Catholic faith loses their place in the line of succession and
  • to limit the requirement that the Sovereign consent to the marriage of a descendant of his late Majesty King George the Second in certain circumstances.


The United Kingdom enacted the UK Succession to the Crown Act on 25 April 2013. Whilst the UK Succession to the Crown Act commenced on that day, its provisions come into force ‘on such day and at such time as the Lord President of the Council may by order made by statutory instrument appoint’. According to an ABC media report in February 2014:

Commonwealth realms rushed to agree to the changes after Prince William, the eldest son of Prince Charles and next in line to the throne after his father, got married in April 2011.

They were agreed in principle by prime ministers of the 16 countries at a Commonwealth summit in Perth on October 28, 2011.

On 3 December 2012, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced that they were expecting their first child, so in a sense the impending birth of Prince George became the catalyst for activity to modernise the laws of succession. The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg, announced the agreement of the realms on 4 December 2012:

"The new rules will apply to any baby born in the line of succession, taking effect after the Prime Minister made the announcement in Perth, Australia, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in October 2011. At that meeting, an agreement was reached with all of the realms that the change should take effect immediately, and would be confirmed in legislation at a later date. This comes at the end of a significant period of work by the Government, the realms and Buckingham Palace."

The process of changing Royal succession laws is a lengthy one. As noted in a House of Commons research paper:

The Bill is tied into an international process. The Queen is Head of State of 16 states, including the UK, and her status is entrenched separately in each of these. The decision has been taken to move forward with changes at the same time in each of these “realms”. In October 2011, the political leaders of the realms agreed to change the rules of succession in two ways, to treat men and women equally, differentiating solely on the basis of age, and to remove the bar on the monarch or any person in the line of succession being married to a Roman Catholic (though the bar on the monarch being a Roman Catholic will remain). Work then began to bring all 16 of these states into a position in which the legislation could be introduced.

The ABC media report referred to above noted that British Government Ministers said that Australia was holding up changes to royal succession laws and that ‘all realms that took the view that legislation is required have passed the necessary legislation apart from Australia’.

The Council of Australian Governments agreed to the reforms on 25 July 2012 and at its April 2013 meeting agreed to the process to be undertaken:

COAG agreed to a hybrid model to implement the previously agreed changes to the rules of Royal succession in Australia. Under the hybrid model, States may choose to enact State legislation dealing with the rules of Royal succession. States have agreed that they will request the Commonwealth under s.51(38) of the Constitution to enact legislation, and that any State legislation will be consistent with their requests to the Commonwealth under s.51(38).

Section 51(xxxviii) of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (Constitution) provides that:

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:

(xxxviii) the exercise within the Commonwealth, at the request or with the concurrence of the Parliaments of all the States directly concerned, of any power which can at the establishment of this Constitution be exercised only by the Parliament of the United Kingdom or by the Federal Council of Australasia

All the Australian states have now enacted the necessary legislation requesting the Commonwealth to enact legislation for the whole of Australia and this legislation has now commenced, which was required before the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia could enact the Commonwealth legislation.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrated a Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of King Richard III in Leicester

Requiem Mass is what Richard III would have wanted, says Cardinal Nichols. The Archbishop of Westminster made the comments in his homily during a Requiem Mass for King Richard at Holy Cross Priory in Leicester on Sunday, 22nd March 2015.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols in Leicester Cathedrale
Full text of Cardinal Nichols’ homily:

This evening we fulfil a profound and essential Christian duty: that of praying for the dead, for the repose of their eternal souls. Here we pray for King Richard III, ‘King of England and France and Lord of Ireland’ to use a title he ascribed to himself. This is a remarkable moment.

The prayer we offer for him this evening is the best prayer there is: the offering of the Holy Mass, the prayer of Jesus himself, made complete in the oblation of his body and blood on the altar of the cross, present here for us on this altar. This is the summit of all prayer, for it is made in and through the one person, the eternal Word, through whom all created beings have life. It is a prayer that arises from the very core of creation, the cry of the Word returning to the Father and carrying within it the totality of that creation, marred and broken in its history, yet still longing for the completion for which it has been created. It is, therefore, such an important Catholic tradition to seek the celebration of Mass for the repose of the souls of those who have died, especially for each of our loved ones whose passing we mourn. Let us not forget or neglect this great gift.

During this week, Mass is being offered in many Catholic Churches for the repose of the soul of King Richard III. Rightly so. That is exactly what he would have wished, having himself set up at least one chantry chapel for Masses to be celebrated for the dead of both sides of the Battle of Towton in 1461. This was a most violent conflict, marking the defeat of Henry IV, a single day on which between 10-20,000 Lancastrians were killed and a stark demonstration of the tragedy of civil war. Prayers were indeed needed.

Surely we can be confident that, despite the haste and the violent confusion of the time, this same Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated by the Greyfriars for the repose of the soul of the defeated King at the time of his burial in their church here in Leicester in August 1485.

Indeed we know that Richard was a man of anxious devotion who kept and marked his own book of prayers and who must have attended Mass throughout his life. Remarkably we also know that this vestment that I wear this evening is recorded as belonging to the royal wardrobe of Richard III. We may reasonably speculate that Richard participated in the celebration of Mass at which this same vestment was being worn.

Richard was not a man of peace. The times in which he lived and the role into which he was born did not permit that. But now we pray for his eternal peace.

Richard was a man who sought to offer to his citizens justice through the rule of law. He brought in important changes to the administration of law, including the institution of the Court of Requests at which poor people could bring their grievances to law. He improved the conditions of bail, enabling people to defend their property in the period before trial and he ordered the translation into English of written laws and Statutes again to make them more widely available. His role and arbiter and judge appear strongly in contemporary records and he twice asserted, in one legal dispute, that ‘we intend, nor will none otherwise do at any time, but according to the King’s laws.’ His actions did not always match those words. But this evening we pray that the merciful judgement of our loving God is extended to him in every degree, for we know that it is only the gift of God’s mercy that protects us from the demands of God’s justice.

I am much relieved that this evening we are not required to come to any such judgement ourselves. Indeed the judgement of our fellow human being is only of passing consequence for we know how fickle that judgement can be. This we see most clearly as reflection continues on the dramatic years of the House of Tudor in both fiction and historical research: saints are recast as sinners and sinners can become saints. But that is not our business.

Ours is to beseech of our loving Father the embrace of his mercy for this our brother who lived and died so long ago but who through such strange circumstances is again at the centre of public attention and human judgment. We pray for him as a sinner, like every other person, even if his life was lived on a more spectacular scale and in a more public arena than most. Today then we seek not to assert the greatness of Kings but the greatness of God’s mercy towards them and towards us all.

Richard, we know was not the physically most handsome of men. We know he suffered a brutal death, suffering ten fierce blows to the head. We know that his body was subject to humiliation after death, paraded from the field of battle by being thrown naked over the back of a horse and there receiving further wounds from a hostile sword. But we also know that he had been baptised into the death of Christ and so received the promise that he would rise with Christ to new life.

The words of the Holy Gospel, then, invite our trust, not only for ourselves but for all who have departed this life with a trusting faith in God. We know that the Lord has gone to prepare a place, a home, for us. This promise of a heavenly home was made to Richard. In his day, a ruthless and violent age, especially in the upper reaches of society, a home certainly had to be a castle, strong, well-fortified and easily defended. Otherwise it provided no safety at all. But the home promised to us by the Lord is of a different nature. In it peace comes only through the victory of Jesus over the last of all enemies, death itself. Protection too is ensured by that victory which has dethroned the powers of evil once and for all, even though they are still to be found within the fashioning of every human endeavour. The entry to that heavenly home, its open gates and sweeping drive, the royal road of life, is none other than the person of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

This evening we pray that this promise of the Lord is indeed fulfilled. We offer this holy Mass that even while his remains are lying in the Cathedral nearby, his soul is united with God in the glory of heaven there to await the final resurrection of all things in Christ.

This was the hope he held in his heart. This is the hope we hold for ourselves and our loved ones too. We share this one hope and the faith and love which accompany it. In this grace we pray for this dead King and we pray that the kingship in Christ, given to us all, may truly guide our lives and make us builders of that eternal Kingdom here in our world today.

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Leicester to pay their respect to King Richard III

Monday 9 March 2015

Happy Commonwealth Day 2015

On the 9th March 1837 Melbourne was officially named Melbourne in honour of then British  Prime Minister Lord Melbourne.

And coincidentally this 9th March is also Commonwealth Day 2015.

Happy Commonwealth Day to everyone


Commonwealth Day Message from Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth

One simple lesson from history is that when people come together to talk, to exchange ideas and to develop common goals, wonderful things can happen. So many of the world's greatest technological and industrial achievements have begun as partnerships between families, countries, and even continents. But, as we are often reminded, the opposite can also be true. When common goals fall apart, so does the exchange of ideas. And if people no longer trust or understand each other, the talking will soon stop too.

In the Commonwealth we are a group of 53 nations of dramatically different sizes and climates. But over the years, drawing on our shared history, we have seen and acted upon the huge advantages of mutual cooperation and understanding, for the benefit of our countries and the people who live in them.

Not only are there tremendous rewards for this cooperation, but through dialogue we protect ourselves against the dangers that can so easily arise from a failure to talk or to see the other person's point of view.

Indeed, it seems to me that now, in the second decade of the twenty first century, what we share through being members of the Commonwealth is more important and worthy of protection than perhaps at any other time in the Commonwealth's existence. We are guardians of a precious flame, and it is our duty not only to keep it burning brightly but to keep it replenished for the decades ahead.

With this in mind, I think it apt that on this day we celebrate ‘A Young Commonwealth’ and all that it has to offer. As a concept that is unique in human history, the Commonwealth can only flourish if its ideas and ideals continue to be young and fresh and relevant to all generations.

Her Majesty addressing the Commonwealth
The youthfulness and vitality that motivate our collective endeavours were seen in abundance last year in Glasgow. They will be seen again in a few months’ time when Young Leaders from islands and continents gather to make new friendships and to work on exciting initiatives that can help to build a safer world for future generations. And last November in India, talented young scientists from universities and research institutes conferred with eminent professors and pioneers of discovery at the Commonwealth Science Conference where together they shared thoughts on insights and inventions that promise a more sustainable future.

These are stirring examples of what is meant by ‘A Young Commonwealth’. It is a globally diverse and inclusive community that opens up new possibilities for development through trust and encouragement. Commonwealth Day provides each of us, as members of this worldwide family, with a chance to recommit ourselves to upholding the values of the Commonwealth Charter.

It has the power to enrich us all, but, just as importantly in an uncertain world, it gives us a good reason to keep talking.

Elizabeth R.

The flags of all realms that recognise The Queen as their sovereign.