These are historic times. The death of Queen Elizabeth 11, has brought with it a huge outpouring of grief and sympathy, for a life that has “fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith”. Perusing some of the comments about her going home to her God and her King on Facebook, one stood out to me especially. It was the epithet noted by the Revd. Dr. Lee Gatiss, the Director of the Anglican Church Society; Elizabeth the Faithful. This epithet well captures her praiseworthy devotion to serving her people as their Queen to the very end of her life. She was true to the vow she had made to her people even before she became Queen: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” When her father, George VI, died in 1952, Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a sermon about the momentous occasion on the following Sunday, February 10. He took as his text, from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and made the prescient comment towards the close of what is a remarkable sermon:
There is nothing more important, at this particular stage in our history, with regard to our constitutional monarchy, than character. Never was the character of the Occupant of the Throne more important. … Character counts as it has never done before. Let us therefore pray that the new Queen may always be conscious of this, and that she may regard as the most important in her life, the Christian life, and herself as an example of it to the whole nation. Lloyd-Jones’ prayer for the Queen was more than abundantly answered, for her commitment to following the Lord Jesus Christ was crystal-clear, especially in her widely broadcast, beloved Christmas messages. In 2016, for instance, she stated; At Christmas, our attention is drawn to the birth of a baby some two thousand years ago. It was the humblest of beginnings, and his parents, Joseph and Mary, did not think they were important. Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them …
One of the most remarkable acts of her reign as Queen, and one that well displays her Christian kindness, took place fairly recently when she visited the Republic of Ireland in May of 2011. The last visit of a reigning monarch to the south of Ireland had been in 1911, when her grandfather George V (r.1910–1936) had visited Dublin in May of 1911, a century earlier. That century had witnessed a multitude of acts of violence in the British Isles and Ireland that had poisoned the relationship between the British and the Irish. When the Queen flew to Ireland, she chose to wear a green overcoat and matching hat. And at a state dinner, when she rose to speak, she wowed her hearers with some opening remarks in Gaelic. When she had finished speaking, historian Robert Lacey noted, the whole room stood and applauded with “sustained, heartfelt appreciation of the bridge that the Queen had herself built” between the British and the Irish that night. Later in the tour, she visited the National Garden of Remembrance that commemorated those Irish men and women who had died fighting the British in the War of Independence (1919–1921) and with a simple bow of the head in sincere sorrow, she won over the hearts of many in Ireland. “Blessed are the peacemakers…”. Or as the Queen herself put it in a 2015 speech; St. Paul reminds us that all Christians, as ambassadors for Christ, are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Spreading God’s word and the onerous but rewarding task of peace-making and conflict resolution are important parts of that ministry.
Catholic Cardinal Vincent Nichols noted that Elizabeth’s deep Christian faith and her encouragement to others to practice their faith, made her a “shining light” in British history. “This faith, so often and so eloquently proclaimed in her public messages, has been an inspiration to me, and I am sure to many. The wisdom, stability and service which she consistently embodied, often in circumstances of extreme difficulty, are a shining legacy and testament to her faith. “Our prayer is that she is now received into the merciful presence of God, there to be reunited with her beloved Prince Philip. This is the promise of our faith, and our deep consolation”.
Death the Leveller -James Shirley
“The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and crown,
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade”.