For the Anglican Church, whenever sex has gotten in the way of doctrine, sex prevailed. When Henry VIII couldn’t contain his libido, the received Christian teaching on marital indissolubility had to go. When Lambeth decided that “a little bit of contraception every now and then” was OK, the received Christian teaching on the unity of the procreative and unitive meanings of human sexuality had to go. When homosexual activity became acceptable, the received Christian tradition had to go. For Canterbury, nihil novi sub soli.
Now it is time for her audiences, a morning ritual which is almost as rigid as the boxes. For these she walks through a little anteroom and into the Forty-Four room, named because of its occupancy in 1844 by the Emperor Nicholas of Russia. His painted face, imprisoned in its heavy gilt frame, stares down on the Queen along with those of Louis Philippe of France, and Leopold I of the Belgians, both of whom have in their day occupied these quarters. Like almost every room in the palace the Forty-Four room is a miniature museum with its cabinets of Sevres china, its Louis XIV writing tables, its Ch’ien Lung jar of famille rose porcelain and its cream-and-gold Regency chairs upholstered in scarlet silk. Over the red-carpeted threshold and into this exquisite little showpiece of a room the tides of Empire wash daily. Sooner or later every important official of the crown will come to this or to a similar room to meet his Queen: field marshals to receive their batons, prime ministers to report on their corner of the Commonwealth, colonial governors fresh from the coconut palms of the West Indies or the blue jacarandas of Fiji, high commissioners, Foreign Office men, first sea lords, diplomats.