3 May 2023

Belief in action: Charles and the Army

1999 – Edinburgh, 31 December Prince Charles visited Pleasance Lifehouse, met by divisional leaders Majors Robert and Isobel McIntyre (pictured), and Centre Manager Captain Jack Middleton. He shared lunch with guests from the Army and the community. Picture: Jack Middleton
1999 – Edinburgh, 31 December Prince Charles visited Pleasance Lifehouse, met by divisional leaders Majors Robert and Isobel McIntyre (pictured), and Centre Manager Captain Jack Middleton. He shared lunch with guests from the Army and the community. Picture: Jack Middleton

Salvationist charts the Christian conviction shared by King Charles III and The Salvation Army.

‘It is difficult to imagine that there was once a time when there was no Salvation Army,’ said His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, during the opening ceremony of the 1978 International Congress at Wembley Arena.

It was perhaps no surprise that the future King Charles III celebrated, in particular, the Army and William Booth’s enduring determination to fight for a better world.

‘We have a great deal to learn from their refusal to be beaten,’ he observed of the Founder’s ‘steadfast conviction’, forged in the Victorian era.

Eight years before that speech, at the age of only 21, the heir to the throne gave his first major public address about the environment, warning of the ‘horrifying effects of pollution’. That would set the tone for his decades serving as Prince of Wales, during which time he became a well-known and pioneering voice for environmental causes. He has farmed organically since 1990 and, in 2021, spoke at the opening ceremony of COP26. He has also been a vocal advocate for young people – in 1976, he founded the Prince’s Trust to help 11 to 30-year-olds with training and work experience.

Charles’s belief in action can only have been reinforced by the many times he and the Army crossed paths.

1978 – International Congress, 30 June Prince Charles, flanked by General Arnold Brown and Chief of the Staff Commissioner Stanley Cottrill received the applause of Salvationists at the opening of the International Congress at Wembley Arena.
1978 – International Congress, 30 June Prince Charles, flanked by General Arnold Brown and Chief of the Staff Commissioner Stanley Cottrill received the applause of Salvationists at the opening of the International Congress at Wembley Arena.

In 2022 he visited the Romexpo in Bucharest, accompanied by Princess Margareta of Romania, to see how Ukrainian refugees were being helped. He thanked the teams for doing ‘an amazing job’.

In 2007 he witnessed the Army responding to the major floods in Yorkshire – at the time described as the biggest rescue effort undertaken in peacetime Britain.

On 31 December 1999, he visited the reopened Pleasance Lifehouse in Edinburgh, speaking to residents and staff members. He signed a portrait that went on display and was presented with a Salvation Army crest mounted on a background of Salvation Army tartan.

In 1996 he spoke to Salvation Army personnel supporting the emergency services in the Docklands area of London, where a bomb had exploded.

‘It is what we have come to expect,’ he observed of the team’s non-stop work over several days.

The year before, he visited the Army’s inner-city project in Manchester, where he learnt about the centre’s need for quality sports equipment. Within a week, a cheque for £20,000 arrived from the Sports and Arts Foundation. He made a point of returning in 1997 and even enjoyed an impromptu game of basketball with a group of young people.

Charles’s forward-thinking outlook was evident in his address to the 1978 Congress, where he spoke about the need for ecumenical unity as well as ‘awareness of the things of the Spirit and of the meaning and infinite beauty of nature’.

‘So often … you hear people bewailing the fact that, as individuals, they cannot possibly do anything about an issue that concerns them deeply,’ he said, in words that could easily apply to today. ‘They feel powerless and frustrated.’

1996 – London Docklands, 13 February Prince Charles talked to Majors Robert and Muriel McClenahan, shortly after a bomb attack at London’s Docklands. The McClenahans and other Salvationists manned Hoxton’s emergency unit non-stop for days. Picture: Mike Shankster
1996 – London Docklands, 13 February Prince Charles talked to Majors Robert and Muriel McClenahan, shortly after a bomb attack at London’s Docklands. The McClenahans and other Salvationists manned Hoxton’s emergency unit non-stop for days. Picture: Mike Shankster

But he championed the Army’s simple and effective form of Christianity: ‘General Booth’s crusade is being carried on by a worldwide Army … of individuals … striving to do their duty and to set the kind of example they believe is important.’

The Congress opened and concluded with the national anthem, but not before the fitting final song, ‘Crown Him with Many Crowns’.

In March this year, Territorial Commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill was part of the Free Churches Group delegation that pledged loyalty to the King – one of the 27 Privileged Bodies to do so in a tradition that dates back to the 17th century. The TC assured the King of the prayers of Salvationists, to which he replied: ‘That’s good – I need that!’

Much like the Army, Charles will need to remain non-party political in his new role as monarch. In his first address as King in September 2022, he acknowledged: ‘It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply.’

‘But,’ he added, ‘I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others.’

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