The head that wears the crown - a reflection by Bishop Nick

First published on: 6th May 2023

On the day of the coronation of King Charles III, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds reflects on power, authority and humility as we welcome the new monarch.

Bishop Nick writes: “Shakespeare puts it perfectly: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” (Henry IV, Part 2, 3.1.31)

Or, perhaps, uneasy should lie the head that wears a crown? Not all monarchs carry the burdens of headship with the humility and recognition of mortality that are vital to the task. As we look around the world, particularly at those who either crave or assume political leadership, we see people who worship power and sometimes lose sight of what (and who) that power is for.

King Charles III follows a monarch who epitomized faithfulness, service and humility for over seven decades. It is obvious already that her son has watched and learned and taken note. For power without humility becomes arrogance – it all becomes about the power-holder rather than the well-being of those who are subject to that power. Good kingship demands something different.

In the Hebrew Scriptures we read how, following the inconvenient death of the long-lived leader Moses - just as the people delivered from captivity are about to enter the so-called promised Land with all its uncertainties - Joshua is told by God to be “strong and very courageous” as he leads the people forward. So far, so good. I am sure he felt suitably encouraged. But, this is followed by a condition: “… being careful to act accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you…” (Joshua :7). In other words, power and authority are not a possession without limits.

As King Charles is crowned the next King of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, this sense of conditional obligation clearly weighs upon him. His acknowledgment of his own need of the grace of God is essential to the wise exercise of royal power – it is this acceptance of need, rooted in humility, that affords a necessary accountability.

We must pray that at his coronation the King is imbued with the power of God’s Spirit, that he might serve his people with confidence, grace, accountability and humility. This is the way to wisdom and the key to good authority.”

God save the King!

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