I was alerted to a story in the Daily Mail saying that 'for the first time ever' Catholics were to have an official prayer for the Queen, for her Diamond Jubilee. Not until I saw the Catholic Herald was it explained that this was to be said on Trinity Sunday 2012. I could find no trace of the announcement on the Bishops' Conference website (what is this website actually for, one may ask?)
Not even the Catholic Herald seemed aware that the Bishops were using the prayer which was said at the end of the principal Mass on a Sunday in every parish in England and Wales until 1964. The translation is not the same as that found in my Baronius Press missal but it is clearly the same prayer.
Not only do Catholics still have this prayer when they attend a Sung Mass on a Sunday in Extraordinary Form, but they sing part of it; it is familiar as the 'Domine salvam fac' ('salvUm fac' when there is a king). The rest is strictly a collect, which is said by the priest. (You can hear it sung from the LMS website here.)
I'm delighted to see this being restored, at least for one Sunday. I'm not sure why it 'is used after the post-Communion prayer and before the final blessing', instead of right at the end of Mass; perhaps the Bishops are worried that, not being used to it, the people would start leaving church before the prayer was said.
In 1964, so I understand (I hadn't been born) the Bishops of England and Wales announced that the Domine salvam fac would no longer be said, but a prayer for the Queen should be included among the Bidding Prayers. I think I have heard this happen, but I'd say it was pretty rare. What actually happened in most places is that prayers for the good estate of the Queen were just forgotten.
When this prayer is mentioned there is usually a flurry of annoyed comments from Jacobites, Fenians, and assorted grumpy Republicans asking why we should pray for the Queen. The answer is not, of course, that (as one commentator on the Catholic Herald story suggested) she is a 'good Christian lady'. She's not, particularly. The idea that she should refuse to sign any of the now quite numerous laws permitting the cold-blooded murder of her most vulnerable subjects, as her Coronation Oath would suggest she should, and as several Catholic monarchs have done, seems far from her mind. The answer is, simply, that she is the Queen. If we had a Republic (which God forbid), we should pray for the President, or the Republic itself, however good, bad, or indifferent they might be. To refuse to pray for the Head of State is to refuse to pray for the good of the very fabric of law and custom which sustains society. It is a form of spite whose object is ultimately oneself. Much more productive is the slogan of the otherwise obscure American statesman, Carl Schurz:
My country right or wrong! If right to be kept right! If wrong to be set right!
I don't know when Catholics started to pray the Domine salvum /salvam fac for the monarch, but a friend of mine has found it in a Missal printed in 1815. Message to the Daily Mail: we've been doing this for a long while!