Since my first well remembered awareness as a young child was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, this born and bred Londoner has been inspired by a monarch who has lived a longer-than-long life that included many trials and tribulations such as the “annus horribilis.”
While many visitors to London have viewed the crown jewels housed in the Tower of London, I think less about the crown she wore at her coronation or the jewels that adorned her body on state occasions, but I think more about her jeweled life as a Public Servant, Symbol of Unity, Indomitable Leader, and Exemplary Christian.
Queen Elizabeth II’s life taught me the importance of a genuine Public Servant! Many politicians promise to be “public servants,” but how many live up to their promises? Few if any would garner the 90% support the Queen received from the British people!
As soon as she ascended the throne upon the untimely death of her beloved father, she promised to serve her country and the British Commonwealth of Nations. She kept that promise! She served willingly and graciously for 70 years of long days bearing great responsibility, something that her youngest grandson opted out of doing.
Many a visitor was “in awe of how well informed” she was on a wide range of subjects. Even the disrespectful Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who “slid down the banisters at Buckingham Palace and pirouetted behind the Queen’s back” was taken aback by “the grace the Queen displayed in public” AND “the wisdom she showed in private.” There is no doubt she worked hard at being a Public Servant, a true Servant Leader.
Second, Queen Elizabeth has taught me the importance of having people who seek to unite not divide us. She was a SYMBOL OF UNITY in a multi-diverse United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations. She worked overtime to be a symbol of unity and cooperation in a world of disunity and rivalry, always able to steer clear of partisan politics and actually stay above the fray, being a true and timely national unifier.
She not only embraced and cherished British Heritage that included the Magna Carta, the Elizabethan and Shakespearean Age, the Industrial Revolution, the Rise of the British Empire, the Pioneering Abolition of Slavery, and what may have been Britain’s “Finest Hour” during the Battle of Britain, but she also faced and embraced changes that sometimes seemed to happen faster than the speed of light.
Ever since she became Queen at the young age of 25, she was confronted with a tidal wave of changes that diminished her authority and saw the dissolution of the empire. With calm composure she observed: “Change is constant. Managing it has become an expanding discipline. The way we embrace it defines our future.” She was a steadying influence, a Symbol of Unity as the country struggled not only survive but thrive amidst unprecedented upheavals.
Third, Queen Elizabeth taught me the importance of having an Indomitable Leader who is not only steady but steadfast, determined to do what she had to do no matter what. She possessed some of that Churchillian spirit of “never, never, never giving in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
When her father preferred her to marry an English aristocrat instead of the Greek-born love of her life, who would become Prince Philip, “the princess was adamant.” As her cousins noted, “She never looked at anyone else,” and that marriage lasted well over 70 years until his death.
Unforeseen deaths and tragedies marked her life, and even family divorces and scandals took their toll during the horrible year (“annus horribilis”) of 1992, but she proved to be indomitable. After the tragic death of Princess Diana she spoke not just to but with the nation, honestly and humbly speaking from her heart and mind, identifying with people: “It is not easy to express a sense of loss, since the initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings: disbelief, incomprehension, anger – and concern for those who remain.” She led her people through that Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Fourth and finally, Queen Elizabeth taught me the importance of being an Exemplary Christian. She carried the title “Defender of the (Christian) Faith.” While some Monarchs have dishonored that title, she did not. The first major royal ceremony each year is Royal Maundy Thursday when Christians commemorate how after Christ washed the disciples’ feet He commanded (mandatum) them and us to “love one another.”
Since 5th century Christians used to wash the feet of the poor, British Kings and Queens since John have commemorated Maundy Thursday by giving alms to the poor. Each Maundy Thursday, Queen Elizabeth delighted in making a pilgrimage to a church in order to give special gifts to elderly people who have been a blessing to those in their communities.
The number of recipients matched her age: 95 this past April. However, the Queen believed that being a Christian was not just for “Holy Days” but each and every day. She talked about doing even the “smallest things” with the “greatest love.” She was never shy about asking people to pray for her, that God might give her wisdom and strength to live up to His commands and her promises.
Queen Elizabeth not only talked about “the imperishable truth to be found in the treasure house, the Bible” but she used it as her guidebook. As a young girl she helped prepare herself to be Queen by “studying religion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.” She shared: “I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good and bad times … Each day is a new beginning – for me to do my best and put my trust in God.”
May we all do just that! The British National Anthem contains these prayerful words: “God save the Queen” (now, it is the King). I believe God saved Queen Elizabeth II and when she entered heaven she probably heard these words from the King of Kings: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Amen.
Dr. Paul Baxter is the mission strategist for Georgia's Pine Mountain Baptist Association.