HER LATE MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Our generation is in unchartered waters now. The vast majority of us have no living memory of a change of monarch. The Queen has been the quiet, harmonious soundtrack to our individual lives and now the music has stopped, the silence is ringing in our ears.
It is an unusually large, shared bereavement, and like all losses, the first instinct is for gratitude. Elizabeth II showed astonishing levels of fidelity to the nation and commonwealth over seven decades and one of the images that may come to define her reign was found at the very end, as she met with the new Prime Minister to ask her to form a new government. Standing up, to receive her, working at the age of 96. Hours later she was dead. Public service isn’t an especially fashionable concept today, but a good society is founded on it, and she embodied this. The values of kindness, fortitude and humour so typical of the war generation she was a part of.
Politics tends to polarise people, and that’s OK. We manage it in a democracy by consent, and acceptance of electoral outcomes whether we like them or not, but there can still be anger, pain and name calling in public life. The Queen by contrast was a big, unifying presence. She exercised resolute self-discipline, keeping her opinions to herself, carving out a public space for us to walk in together, free from political argument. We do not rally round a big ideology, because ideologies tend to divide. Instead, we gather round a person. And she was an icon in a fascinating way. A woman, in a global world where females are less visible in public life. And as time wore on, an old person, in a culture which venerates youth. International politics are dominated by strongmen, who throw their weight around. I don’t need to name them; you know them. For power to be expressed in a frail old woman carries echoes of the scriptures Elizabeth II believed in, where God’s power is made perfect in human weakness. Where the sacrificial cross of Christ is the defining image of his sovereign reign.
And we are grateful for her faith. It’s sometimes said that the monarch is the head of the Church of England when she or he is actually its Supreme Governor. The late Queen understood that distinction, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is the universal Church’s head, for he is the King of kings. And I know King Charles will implicitly grasp this too. The late Queen spoke openly of her personal trust in Christ each Christmas and was a weekly worshipper of him; and it showed in her character.
Part of this was her kindness to the people she met. And I would encourage us to reflect this in the weeks ahead. A collective bereavement like this triggers emotions round other losses in our personal lives. This is already a fragile moment, coming out of the pandemic, with war in Europe and a cost of living emergency. Attending to these needs in each other would be a fitting tribute to the late Queen and the sign of someone walking the way of Christ.
Throughout all this, God will not leave our side, and it is to his mercy we entrust Elizabeth II in this time of mourning, knowing she believed in his promises too.
The Queen is dead; long live the King.
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