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Queen Elizabeth II: Looking upwards and outwards

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth II had two ceremonies to celebrate the beginning of her reign as Queen?

The first was her public coronation as Queen, and the second was her ‘coronation’ as God’s servant. In this second un-televised ceremony, the Queen stood dressed in a simple white dress without any decoration.

As she entered a place too sacred to be televised, Handel’s anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’ was sung and all the symbols of the Queen’s high position were removed – her crimson velvet robe, her diamond diadem (ornamental crown), and her coronation necklace.

The Archbishop anointed her with holy oil, pouring it onto her hands and head. This was to symbolise the fact that she was being set apart as God’s servant, to love and serve her people with all her actions, heart and mind.

This moment in the Queen’s life was recorded by the royal biographer William Shawcross, who wrote:

It was the moment when the holy oil was applied to her, rather than her crowning with St Edward’s crown of solid gold, that was of supreme importance to the Queen. Indeed, it was the most solemn and important moment of her entire life.

Loving in a personal way

Queen Elizabeth II was down-to-earth and valued personal relationship and personal interaction. She loved people and was equally relaxed in a school or residential care facility as she was in the company of world leaders and bosses of large businesses and corporations. Despite the fact that the Queen was, and will remain the most famous woman in the world for some time, and employed more than 1200 people, she still chose to feed her own dogs.

While she did not have any formal power to make political decisions, her personal authority brought nations together in unity. Her commitment as the Head of the Commonwealth and her decades of service and attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs) around the world played a vital role as leaders of governments met to discuss important global issues. Former Prime Ministers have said that they have found Queen Elizabeth to be very helpful in her comments.

Drawing strength from the gospel

At the time of publishing this article, the Queen remains the longest reigning monarch and also served seven decades as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Her ‘normal’ 40-hour week included a weekly meeting with the British Prime Minister, weekly church commitments, and overseas and local travel commitments.

How did she keep this up until just days before her death at the age of 96? What was the secret to the Queen’s remarkable consistency of character and extraordinary contribution to the nation, the Commonwealth and the global community?

It is a question she herself answered back in 2002:

“I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try and do what is right, to take the long-term view, to give my best in all the day brings and to put my trust in God … I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”

Many commentators have noticed the depth of her trust in God. In the days since her passing, the worldwide media have commented numerous times about the importance of her faith and priority of attending the local community church near her Balmoral home. The Queen was a woman who always looked in two directions: upwards towards God, and outwards towards her people. She certainly expressed her sincerity towards God and her people in her coronation vows; but even years before her coronation, when she was Princess Elizabeth, she said this in a radio speech on the occasion of her twenty-first birthday:

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service … But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in with me … God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”

Sixty-one years later, in her 2008 Christmas broadcast, she said:

“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.

What a wonderful long-term role model, whose strength lay in her commitment to ‘look both ways’ – upwards to God, and outwards to others.

Written by Graham McDonald.


Quotations are taken from The Servant Queen and the King She Serves, Bible Society, HOPE and LICC, Swindon, UK, 2016.]

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