The celebrations for the Queen’s official birthday have provided a welcome break for some of us from the referendum on the EU. For those of my age, who were not even born when the UK entered the EU and who have grown up with it, this seems much about nothing – whereas all the people I know think the Queen is marvellous. It isn’t just the long continuity she provides (Harry S Truman was President when she came to the Throne), it is the way she has provided it.
The Queen is a devout Anglican who takes her faith seriously. When she came to the throne she dedicated her life, however long or short it might be, to her people; at the age of 90, after more than 63 years on the throne, she is still doing that.She provides us with a yardstick by which to judge duty, and it is a pretty big one. I can’t think of anyone of the age of 90 who is still doing a job, and being Queen is so much more than that. She knows that the media would be on her like a rat up a drainpipe if she made a mistake – but despite the odd faux pas, she has put on an all but impeccable performance – and that is because it is not a performance at all. She really believes that it is her God-given duty to the Queen of the UK and her other countries, and so this is, for her, a vocation; that is why any talk of retirement is wrong – you do not retire from a vocation.
The Queen is anointed at her Coronation, and she took her oath in God’s sight, so the crown is, for her, a sacred trust; you do not hand back sacred trusts. When I was born she had already been on the throne for more than thirty years – like everyone under the age of 60, I have lived under no other monarch; in an ever-changing world she has been the one constant. The Archbishop of Canterbury caught all of this perfectly when he preached at the celebration on Friday:
Over the 63 years and the 90 years there has been much to fear: at times of personal challenge or national crisis. But just as the psalmist sees through fear to something more stirring and more extraordinary, so we look back on Your Majesty’s 90 years in the life of our nation with deep wonder and profound gratitude. Through war and hardship, through turmoil and change, we have been fearfully and wonderfully sustained.
The Archbishop reminded us that:
Nothing is outside God’s understanding. Nothing is beyond God’s grace. Nothing is too broken for God’s transformation. No one can flee from God’s redeeming goodness or finally escape God’s loving attention.
It is plain to see that for the Queen, God is at the centre of her witness, and the Archbishop rightly reminds us that we are all at the centre of God’s love. It is no accident that we celebrate not just the Queen, but the Royal Family, for the family is the foundation stone of our civilization and the first catechesis for children. The Royal Family has not been spared its share, and more, of the hazards of life, but through the storms of life, the Queen has provided a steady hand. Her trust in God’s providence is one we might, with advantage, emulate. God save the Queen!