The passing of a monarch
Queen Elizabeth II (1926–2022)
On the 8 September 2022 Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, died, aged 96. She was the longest-serving monarch of the modern era and had recently celebrated her platinum jubilee (June 2022), marking seventy years on the throne.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on 21st April 1926, the firstborn child of the Duke and Duchess of York and the first grandchild of King George V. Elizabeth II was the 42nd British monarch in a long royal line extending back nearly 1,000 years, to the Norman King William the Conqueror.1
Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne on 6 February 1952 at the age of 25 on the death of her father King George VI. Britain had barely survived the ravages of the Second World War, and was much diminished from the loss of Empire. Elizabeth II epitomized a fresh face of optimism in a modern, post-colonial era, which she helped facilitate by the transfer of powers to the new Commonwealth.
During her reign she presided over 15 British Prime ministers from Winston Churchill to the new Conservative leader Liz Truss, whom she welcomed just two days before her decease.
The Queen’s Coronation
Her coronation ceremony was watched in the UK by an estimated 27 million people, 11 million listened on radio, plus millions more tuned in world-wide. It took place at Westminster Abbey, London, which had been the setting for every coronation since 1066.2 During the service she was asked by the Archbishop to make the following promises:
Archbishop: “Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?”
Queen: “I solemnly promise so to do.”
Archbishop: “Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?”
Queen: “All this I promise to do.”
The Bible, as God’s Word, played a central role in the proceedings, when the Queen knelt at the altar,3 and laid her right hand upon the Bible and said:
“The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.”4
The Bible was then presented to Elizabeth II by the Archbishop who said:
“Our gracious Queen: to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.”5
In her seventy-year reign the Queen demonstrated herself to be a woman of integrity. She sought to be faithful to those promises and took her oaths very seriously, even in the face of difficult Acts of Parliament (see below).
What Elizabeth II represented
The Queen’s official titles were ‘Head of State’, ‘Defender of the Faith’ and ‘Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. Of course, titles alone do not confer Christian faith. Nevertheless, her personal faith shone through her tireless charitable service and was regularly referenced in her annual Christmas addresses to the nation and Commonwealth (see below).
For the 56 countries of the commonwealth, with populations approaching 2.5 billion people, the Queen was a unifying figure who outlasted and superseded politics, ethnicity, or creed. For instance, in New Zealand her first visit with her husband Philip in 1953 became “the most elaborate and most whole-hearted public occasion in New Zealand history” attracting an estimated 75% of the population.6
For British folk at least, the Queen represented what it meant to be ‘British’. For most people below the age of 80, she is the only British monarch they have ever known. Her qualities were in stark contrast to the hedonism and self-centeredness of much of modern culture—selfless duty and responsibility to one’s country, kindness, charity, wisdom—she seemed part of the bedrock of cultural and national identity.
Personal Christian faith
The Queen’s faith represented more than mere deference to religious tradition.7 Her yearly Christmas broadcasts regularly encapsulated statements of personal Christian belief, that Jesus Christ was her Saviour (see particularly her 2011 statement, below). For instance, in 2000 she stated:
“For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.”8
During her 2008 Christmas broadcast, the Queen made a clear declaration of faith:
“I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselﬁsh and sacrificial life. Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate His birthday at Christmas, inspired by His teaching. He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served. We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw in inspiration from His life and message, and to ﬁnd in Him a source of strength and courage.”9
In her 2014 Christmas address she stated:
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”10
In her 2016 address, the Queen testified:
“Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in Him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value in doing small things with great love…”11
During her first televised Easter message in 2020, recorded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she stated:
“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 … As dark as death can be—particularly for those suffering with grief—light and life are greater.”12
The Queen also publicly welcomed and hosted American evangelist Billy Graham on a dozen different occasions. Graham wrote of her in his autobiography Just as I am:
“No one in Britain has been more cordial toward us than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Almost every occasion I have been with her has been in a warm, informal setting, such as a luncheon or dinner, either alone or with a few family members or other close friends.”13
In 2016 the Queen marked her 90th birthday. To celebrate, the Bible Society joined forces with HOPE and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) to publish a biography about the Queen’s Christian faith, titled: The Servant Queen and the King she serves.9 In it, the Queen’s own words described her faith in Christ, exploring the place of her Christian faith in her public role, family life, and in times of celebration and grief.
Royal wit—we are amused!
The Queen was known for her warm wit and humor, often delivered with a mischievous glint in her eye. Who can forget the Queen’s opening ceremony at the 2012 Olympic Games? Here, at Buckingham Palace she and two pet corgis met ‘James Bond’ (actor Daniel Craig). Then, travelling by helicopter to the London stadium, she and Bond (portrayed by actors) parachuted into the waiting arena below.14 The Queen also made a delightfully amusing appearance alongside ‘Paddington Bear’ for tea, marking her 70th jubilee. We finally all learned what the Monarch kept in her royal handbag—a marmalade sandwich!15
Royal feet of clay
The Queen, like the rest of us, was a descendant of Adam, and therefore sinful and in need of a Saviour (Romans 3:23). That she recognized this is very clear from her 2011 Christmas message:
“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.”16
Unfortunately, her immediate family was (and is) not immune to controversy and scandal. There were times of tremendous grief over personal tragedy, and sorrow for the behaviour of immediate family members. Yet, she herself was never caught up in scandal, nor media gossip; she remained dignified and stoic.
As the titular Head of State she was legally bound to sign legislation put in front of her—having no power to object—without causing a serious constitutional crisis. On a number of occasions, sadly, her obligations placed her in direct conflict with her Coronation oaths to: “maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel”. Specifically, the legalization of abortion in England, Scotland, and Wales in 1967. That same year homosexuality was legalized. Then in 2013 same-sex ‘marriage’ was instituted. All these laws, and many more, passed by Royal Assent, stood in opposition to clear biblical teaching.
Such a state of affairs marks the wholesale erosion of faith and moral standards in British life. It is a sad indictment of the state of the church, which in large part, ceded authority to secular thinking, forsaking the authority of Scripture, which is grounded in Genesis as real history.
The Queen’s son Charles became King Charles III on his mother’s death. In his first televised address to the nation and beyond, he gave a fitting and warm tribute to his mother. He also promised to serve with the same devotion demonstrated by the Queen. He said of his mother, that her life was:
“… a life well lived, a promise with destiny kept and she is mourned most deeply in her passing …”17
We agree with Charles’s sentiments, and pray that Charles III will be a godly and wise king.
Furthermore, countless millions have sung (on multiple occasions) the British national anthem “God save the Queen” on important ceremonial occasions. The following prayerful lines seem most prescient:
“Send her victorious,
happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen.”
For seventy years, the Queen’s reign has represented an emblem of stability and faith, encouraging millions—which can only represent the answer to prayer! We can truly be thankful for her life and many public declarations of Christian faith. Long may Queen Elizabeth II’s good words and deeds be remembered.18
References and notes
- His accession, famously, was the year of the Norman conquest (1066). See also: Kings and Queens from 1066; royal.uk/kings-and-queens-1066, and: Descent of Elizabeth II from William the Conqueror; infogalactic.com, accessed 16 September 2022. Return to text.
- 50 facts about The Queen’s Coronation, royal.uk; accessed 9 Sept 2022. Return to text.
- Although the official term for the table where bread and wine are consecrated in communion services, evangelical Christians usually refer to it as ‘the Lord’s table’. Return to text.
- The Queen’s Coronation oath, 1953, royal.uk, 2 June 1953. Return to text.
- Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth II, westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/royals/elizabeth-ii; accessed 12 Sept 2022. Return to text.
- University of Canterbury, Queen Elizabeth II walked a long road with Aotearoa New Zealand, canterbury.ac.nz, 9 Sept 2022. Return to text.
- For a comprehensive list of the Queen’s public statements of faith see: Greene, M., 10 brilliant things the Queen has said about God, Premier Christianity, premierchristianity.com, 8 Sept 2022. Return to text.
- See the full speech: The Queen’s Christmas message 2000, reelsarency, youtu.be/Ih8mpDdj94o, 24 Jan 2011. The pertinent section starts at 5:16. Return to text.
- Greene, M. and Butcher, C., The Servant Queen and the King she serves, Bible Society, p. 13, 2016. Return to text.
- The Queen’s 2014 Christmas speech, The Telegraph, youtu.be/iUXHVLMPz9I, 25 Dec 2014. The pertinent section starts at 4:53. Return to text.
- See the full speech: The Royal Family, Christmas broadcast 2016, youtu.be/FvSsmBDY_fk, 25 Dec 2016. The pertinent section starts at 5:00. Return to text.
- See the full speech: The Royal Family Channel, The Queen records first Easter message amid coronavirus crisis, youtu.be/QMMSo4PB5Qk, 12 Apr 2020. The pertinent section starts at 3:30. Return to text.
- Graham, B., Just as I am, HarperOne, Canada, p. 697, 2007. Return to text.
- Olympics, James Bond and The Queen London 2012 Performance, youtu.be/1AS-dCdYZbo, 27 Jul 2012. Return to text.
- The Royal Family, Ma’amalade sandwich Your Majesty? youtu.be/7UfiCa244XE, 6 Jun 2022. Return to text.
- Inter-Pathé History, The Queen’s Christmas Message 2011 …, youtu.be/dJ1MMhzbU7A, 23 May 2018. The pertinent section starts at 5:28. Return to text.
- The Royal Family Channel, King Charles III addresses the nation for the very first time, youtu.be/l2n-JZjV7Sg, 9 Sept 2022. Return to text.
- See also The Christian Institute’s tribute to the Queen: HM Queen Elizabeth II: A life of faith, christian.org.uk, 10 Sept 2022. Return to text.