Simon Heffer

Diary – 26 April 2003

The Daily Mail columunist despairs at the lack of gentlemen in the nation's most vaunted clubs

As an atheist, I am reluctant to intrude into the private affairs of the Church of England, despite having been baptised into it (I was six weeks old at the time, and had little say in the matter). However, conscious as I am of its residual cultural significance, I have been dismayed by aspects of the new Archbishop of Canterbury. His bleeding-heart views on the late war were only to be expected; it was the extreme beard that really caused me to despair. I consoled myself that perhaps it betokened a proper regard for the ideology of the Old Testament; but I fear I may be mistaken. However delightfully prehistoric it was of Dr Williams to revive the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday, it did express a humility that, I am afraid, is probably the last thing the Church needs. It has spent too much of its recent life cringing and grovelling, and look where that has got it. Having heard one or two of the Archbishop’s pronouncements over the Easter weekend, I must say that he does at least sound like a prelate, lacking the mincing tone and the estuary inflections respectively of his two predecessors. Perhaps, though, if he has this regard for tradition he will stick to the 1662 Prayer Book and the King James Bible, and chuck out the modern dross. I am sure that congregations would swell at once, if only for aesthetic reasons. Much as I have always enjoyed the 37th Article, my favourite part of the Prayer Book is the Commination Service. If the new Primate can bring himself to hold one of those (and there are, for God’s sake, so many wicked people who just cry out to be comminated), I shall forgive him even the beard.

I hope, too, that he will spend some of his time in office preparing the heir to the throne for a proper coronation, and not the Mickey Mouse multicultural version His Royal Highness has occasionally, in his more barking moments, hinted that he wants.

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