Queen Elizabeth II’ had become so ingrained in British culture and life that it seemed she was immortal and would always remain. Thousands upon thousands flocked to London, lining up for 14 hours if not more, to pay their last respects to her Majesty as she was lying-in-state within Westminster Hall. World leaders have flown to London to attend the funeral, which has been marked as a national bank holiday; and countless many have tuned in through the television, radio and internet to follow the ceremony.
The Queen, despite frail health and advancing age, never abdicated and remained in her position until her last breath, seeing it as a lifelong duty. Queen Elizabeth II’s service to her nation and the commonwealth serves as a continued reminder that regardless of one’s condition, age or stage in life they always have an invaluable service to offer to others; and they are never worthless, neither should they be abandoned. As she said, even before becoming Queen, on her twenty-first birthday in 1947, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.” The Queen even recently reaffirmed this commitment during her thank you message for the Platinum Jubilee weekend 2022, “My heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability.”
Queen Elizabeth II, from a tender age, saw the great responsibility she had within society. For example, at the age of 14 she and her sister Princess Margaret did a radio broadcast to offer hope and consolation to other children living through the terrors of the Second World War. Additionally, since a young age she always reminded the public how her role was founded upon the Christian faith. As she once said, “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, took great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.” As Supreme Governor of the Church of England she was entrusted with the duty of defending the Protestant faith. She was even given the title of the ‘Defender of the Faith’. This was a title originally rewarded to Henry VIII by Pope Leo X for the Tudor King’s defence of the seven sacraments, which was later renounced; and then repealed by Queen Mary I, finally being reinstated during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.
During Queen Elizabeth II’s time she recognized and celebrated other faiths. As she said at the Inter-Faith Reception, Lambeth Palace, 15th February 2012 “Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves.”
For the Catholic Church she had arguably helped advance relations, even accepting conversions within her own family. This is quite significant, as before the reign of Queen Elizabeth II the first sovereign of Great Britain to visit the Pope was King Edward VII in 1903, after three and a half centuries, followed by King George V in 1923. She met five Popes, four as Queen and coincidentally her death occurred on an important feast day celebrated within the Catholic Church, the Nativity of Our Lady.
Catholics have joined in mourning for Queen Elizabeth II and in England a requiem Mass was offered by the President of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, on the 9th September. As Cardinal Nichols noted in his homily in Westminster Cathedral, London “Queen Elizabeth took so many opportunities to explain her faith, gently yet directly, especially in almost every public Christmas message that she gave. The words of St. Paul we have just heard reminded me of that. She saw, as he did, that it was her duty to proclaim her faith in Jesus Christ. And, she said, among the treasures that flowed from that faith was her readiness not to judge others, to treat people with respect and without unnecessary criticism, to make them welcome…never to concentrate on the splinter in another’s eye. In contrast, she was always ready to see the good in everyone she met. In an age in which we rush so quickly to close people down, to ‘cancel’ them, her example is crucially important.”
During a time where many, including modern day leaders, often so easily give into the latest trends, populism, ideologies or a particular style of life, the Queen was a symbol of steadfastness, dignity and sophistication: not allowing herself to be taken in by an ever changing ephemeral culture that often belittles, scandalizes and debases the human being. She showed how formalities, refinement and tradition should not be abandoned, but are the cogs toward respect and self-discipline reminding one of their higher calling in life; as well as the example they must set for others.
She was an empowerment to women, showing how one could be a leading authority in the world without sacrificing their natural femininity, actually showing it to be a great strength that must be embraced rather than a hindrance to a woman’s identity. As the Queen consort, Camilla, said to the BBC programme recently, when paying tribute to the Queen, she “carved her own role” in a male-dominated world.
In her Christmas messages, Queen Elizabeth II was a reminder that no matter how much we advance in society we must never lose sight of the core values founded in Christianity. As she mentioned in 1983, when examining the technological advancements in communication and transport, «Perhaps even more serious is the risk that this mastery of technology may blind us to the more fundamental needs of people. Electronics cannot create comradeship; computers cannot generate compassion; satellites cannot transmit tolerance.» The Queen admired technology and new discoveries within the world, but also saw the importance not to allow these innovations to distract us from the most important things in life. She promoted the need to be close to the poor and show respect toward our fellow neighbour, not allowing our status or talents to be used as a means to overpower others; but instead to be used at the service of others.
Queen Elizabeth II was the modern epitome of elegance and sophistication which many people have tried to emulate but often fall short of. As the nation and the rest of the world unite in bidding farewell to a monumental figure in recent time, it is most appropriate to end this article on one of the Queen’s last messages. In her Accession Day message on the 5th February 2022, Queen Elizabeth II seemed to be keenly aware of the future and wanted to prepare all for this sad moment by stressing the importance of togetherness: “This anniversary also affords me a time to reflect on the goodwill shown to me by people of all nationalities, faiths and ages in this country and around the world over these years. I would like to express my thanks to you all for your support. I remain eternally grateful for, and humbled by, the loyalty and affection that you continue to give me. And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me.”