On the day that our loved Queen Elizabeth II died, I telephoned my father to ask how he was feeling. He said he was sad, along with so many, because her death brought to an end the close link that he had had with the Queen throughout her reign. 1952, the year of her ascension to the throne, was the same year in which he took his first job and marked the beginning of his working for the Queen for the whole of his life: first in the army, then as a police officer and then as a Civil Servant. He remarked that many of his generation would be feeling the same, but on watching everything on television, was so pleased to also see much affection from those of a young age.
This outpouring of love from children, young people, those who are older and all those in between, of different backgrounds and cultures, has been amazing. But as we look back, what was it about Queen Elizabeth that was so special? The answers are revealed in her Christian faith and her expression of it over the years:
“I declare before you all, that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.” – The Queen’s Birthday in 1947
‘‘I pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.” – The Queen’s first Christmas Broadcast in 1952
“The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoretical explanations for the puzzles of Life. Instead it’s about the birth of a child and the hope that birth 2000 years ago brought to the world and I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel. Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born. Now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever.” – The Queen’s Christmas message in 2002
“Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.” – The Queen’s Christmas message in 2011
“The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose and we can all take heart from this” – The Queen’s Easter Message 2020
“I have been and remain, very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for his steadfast love. I have indeed seen his faithfulness.” – The Queen at her 90th birthday
“In our time of anxiety, of grief, and of weariness, the Gospel has brought hope, as it has done throughout the ages”. – The Queen’s Covid Message 2021
Our Queen had many qualities didn’t she, but most of all, as we have all recognised, was her selfless service of us. She made a promise, kept it and lived it out in her daily life for 70 years, and she was able to, not just because it was the role given to her, but rather she really believed in it.
In our individualistic society today, we seek happiness around satisfying ourselves, however the Queen knew the secret to life, that it is actually found when we give our lives away in love and service of others. As the Book of Common Prayer says: “it is in service that we find perfect freedom” and as Jesus himself said “Greater love has no-one than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
In the Queen’s life and in her death, we have been touched by something that we have forgotten at the centre of our society…that in serving others and putting ourselves second, or even last, might not always bring happiness, but it will bring contentment which is what brings meaning to life.
And how did the Queen serve in the way she did and for so long? Our Queen was able to serve because she served someone greater than herself. As the Bible Society, of which she was patron, put about her on her 90th birthday commemorative book, to which she wrote the forward herself: ‘The Queen and the King she serves.’
We are going to miss our Queen very much aren’t we, but we are now called to pray for our new King Charles III, and this is what we are called to pray: “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2v2-4
Long Live the King…..
Revd James – St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham and Blessed Mary Upham
26th September 2022