The Constitution Unit


Church and State

Stained glass depiction in Canterbury Cathedral

Britain is one of the northern European monarchies which has a close relationship with a state church: the sovereign must be in communion with the Church of England, has been that Church’s ‘Supreme Governor’ since the sixteenth century Reformation, and must not be a Roman Catholic. The relationship is one described as the Church being ‘established’.

The sovereign has a rather different relationship with the Church of Scotland where the Reformation occurred later in the sixteenth century and in a way which led to the mutual recognition of state and church but without the closer ties of English establishment.

English establishment has evolved to the point where, although formally the sovereign still appoints all the senior clergy on the Prime Minister’s advice and is committed by a coronation oath to support the Church, the Church is practically autonomous.

The Unit has extended this research in the accession and coronation project which examined the religious roles of the sovereign.


In 2005 the Unit commenced a study of church establishment which led to three publications: