The former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey (1991-2002) was a strong advocate for Queen Elizabeth II. “Her faith, strong on conviction, but also generous and hospitable, is an example to us all in a time of radicalism and extremism. She reflects the best and most noble values of what it is to be British,” he wrote. “To be honest, she has often been more effective at communicating the timeless truths of the gospel to the nation than the many bishops and Archbishops she has seen come and go during her reign,” he added.
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York was born in Mayfair, London April 21, 1926. She was the first child of the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later called the Queen Mother. Princess Elizabeth became heir-apparent after King Edward VIII abdicated and her father King George VI ascended to the throne.
At the age of 14 Elizabeth made her first public speech on the BBC Children’s Hour to reassure children who had been separated from their parents during the Blitz. In 1945 she served Britain, during World War II, in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. The future queen trained as a mechanic and a military truck driver. She is the only female member of the royal family to serve in the armed forces.
She married Prince Philip Mountbatten of Greece and Denmark at Westminster Abbey November 20, 1947. Not many know she saved ration coupons to buy the material for her wedding dress.
Queen Elizabeth relied heavily on her faith when the royal family suffered very public setbacks. Most royal observers admired her strength as she negotiated times of mounting public concern, particularly in the nineties.
Maybe those years inspired the Queen to say: “To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. 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.” (Christmas message, 2000)
Her strong Christian faith was known long before she became ‘the defender of the faith.’ On the occasion of her 21st birthday in 1947 she made a radio broadcast in which she said: ‘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.
‘But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do. I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.’
In an article ‘Defender of the faith’ Gillan Scott wrote: “Jesus is the Servant King, but Elizabeth perhaps should be known as the servant queen. For not only has she sought to serve us as her people, but she has also chosen to place herself under authority, serving Jesus as her own Lord and Master and seeking to follow in his footsteps.”
There is little argument the Queen has lived to serve. She has not inundated with flamboyant, long-winded speeches. Instead her words have been disciplined but appropriate. In short succinct messages the Queen communicates memorably and effectively.
‘The Servant Queen and the King She Serves’ was published by the Bible Society, HOPE and LICC this year, to mark her 90th birthday. In the foreword the Queen wrote: “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.”
She referred to terrorism and the refugee crisis by saying, “It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’… Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.” (Christmas message, 2015)
Behind Palace walls apparently the Queen likes to sing and dance. The Queen’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson said: “We did a lot of singing at Kensington Palace. Nobody thought it was odd after dinner if we put on a record and all sang The Lambeth Walk. The Queen is a fantastic dancer. She’s got great rhythm.”
Her music taste includes the loveable larrikin George Formby and ‘Oklahoma’ sung by Howard Keel. Her top ten includes Vera Lynn ‘The White Cliffs of Dover” and the hymns “Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven” and “The Lord is My Shepherd.”
A few years ago in her Christmas message the Queen inspired: “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… It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.” (Christmas message, 2011)
Last June, the world officially acknowledged the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. “Long live the Queen!” has worked, and we pray it continues.