Liberal and Conservative Bishops Spar over Coronation Service

Tuesday 1st December 1936

Only one bishop was appointed (under Ramsay MacDonald’s first premiership, Ernest Barnes, a one-time mathematician and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who was notably liberal in his theological views. He stirred up a hornet’s nest when he suggested that the coronation ceremony for Edward VIII might depart from the tradition of treating as something other than a Holy Sacrament.

Bishop Blunt of Bradford, a conservative traditionalist, responded trenchantly in a speech to the Dioscesan Conference. He argued that Barnes’s proposal would be in practice a step towards the disestablishment of the Church of England. It would greatly weaken the religious aspect of the coronation and reduce it to a “piece of national pageantry”. Blunt was on a roll and allowed himself a scantily veiled criticism of the King’s perfunctory approach to Christian worship in view of his need for considerable amounts of Divine Grace at such a solemn moment, “We hope that he is aware of his need. Some of us wish that he gave more positive signs of his awareness.” It was diificult for journalists writing about the speech to avoid obvious puns on the Bishop's surname