I was a subject of the Monarchy in England for fifty-five years until I needed to relinquish my Australian citizenship to become an American citizen. So, it seems fitting that I should pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her death last week. Australia was part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, having been founded as a penal colony back in 1788 at the same time as America was becoming a nation. So much has been written about Queen Elizabeth, and also so much has occupied the screens of modern media. Thus, there is no reason to repeat the obvious things about her. Instead, I want to mention some personal aspects as well as some times that are not known or carefully reported.
QUEEN ELIZABETH IN AUSTRALIA
In 1954, not long after she was coronated, Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, visited Australia for the first time. It was a tremendous event for the nation, and it was estimated that 75% of Australians saw the Queen in person during that visit.
Dorothy and I, together with other young people from our church, decided we would go to see her arrive. So, to ensure we would get a good place to see her, we went downtown in Sydney and spent the night in the Botanical Gardens, ready to witness her arrival from her ship, stepping off at Farm Cove. At the time, she was given an overwhelming welcome, and the nation celebrated her arrival to this far-off land that was part of the Commonwealth of Nations under the British monarchy.
One little sidenote to the visit: A young lady was living on our street just a few houses away from our own home. The story was that she met Prince Philip (before he became a prince) when he was in Sydney with the Royal Navy. I don’t know for sure if this is true or not.
Another little snippet: According to Guy Still of WCCO, Queen Elizabeth II owned a Lake Property in Minneapolis on Cedar Lake that was used by the Canadian Consulate General. It was sold in 2015 for 1.65 million dollars (minnesotasnewcountry.com).
QUEEN ELIZABETH & BILLY GRAHAM
One of the fascinating aspects of the life of Queen Elizabeth II is her friendship with American evangelist Billy Graham.
“The Queen not only offered kinship and shared faith to Graham, she loved to hear him preach. She invited him to preach at Windsor Castle in the Royal Family’s private chapel. She invited him to lunch afterward, and their years’ long friendship took off with Billy Graham because they had the same fundamental Christian faith” (churchleaders.com).
In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham wrote about his relationship with the Queen. “No one in Britain has been more cordial toward us than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” wrote Billy Graham, who died in 2015 (churchleaders.com). Upon Graham’s death, the Queen sent a private message of condolence to Billy Graham’s family.
John Boyle of the Ashville Citizen-Times wrote an article about the friendship between Queen Elizabeth and Billy Graham. Here are some exerts:
“The BGEA ‘has a long history of ministry in London, and the Grahams have visited with the royal family on more than one occasion,’…
‘…Almost every occasion I have been with her has been in a warm, informal setting, such as a luncheon or dinner, either alone or with a few family members or other close friends.’ [said Billy Graham]
Graham also noted in Just As I Am that the Queen’s official position ‘has prevented her from openly endorsing our Crusade meetings.’
‘But by welcoming us and having me preach on several occasions to the royal family at Windsor and Sandringham, she has gone out of her way to be quietly supportive of our mission,’ Graham said.
Graham also said the Queen is ‘unquestionably one of the best-informed people on world affairs’ he’s ever met, and he ‘found her highly intelligent and knowledgeable about a wide variety of issues, not just politics.’
‘Once, when visiting the royal family at Sandringham in 1984, Ruth and I walked past a woman wearing an old raincoat, Wellingtons, and a scarf; she was bent over fixing some food for the dogs,’ Graham wrote. ‘We thought at first she was one of the housekeepers, but when she straightened up, we saw it was the Queen!’
On another occasion, Graham said the Queen was preparing her annual Christmas address and asked him for feedback, which he offered.
‘I always found her very interested in the Bible and its message,’ Graham wrote. ‘After preaching at Windsor one Sunday, I was sitting next to the Queen at lunch. I told her I had been undecided until the last minute about my choice of sermon and had almost preached on the healing of the crippled man in John 5. Her eyes sparkled and she bubbled over with enthusiasm, as she could do on occasion. “I wish you had!” she exclaimed. “That is my favorite story.” ‘ ” (usatoday.com).
QUEEN ELIZABETH’S FAITH
It seems certain that Queen Elizabeth fully embraced the Christian faith. Dudley Delffs, a former English professor and the author of The Faith of Queen Elizabeth, wrote for Christianity Today.
“Throughout the course of her unprecedented reign, Queen Elizabeth II spoke frequently about her personal Christian faith” (christianitytoday.com). As Queen, she was also head of the Church of England, as were the previous Kings of England.
“But the Queen’s faith was more than the product of polite deference to historical tradition. Throughout her reign, she articulated the importance of her faith and recommended it to her subjects.
‘For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life,” she said in 2000. “I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.’
In 2002 the Queen endured a painful year of personal losses with the deaths of her sister, Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother. In her annual Christmas address that year, she spoke of how her faith had sustained her.
‘I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad,’ she said. ‘Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God'” (christianitytoday.com).
“From the beginning of her reign, the Queen consistently cited references from Scripture, particularly in her annual Christmas broadcasts.
‘To what greater inspiration and counsel can we turn,’ she asked, ‘than to the imperishable truth to be found in this treasure house, the Bible?’
In her 2016 address, Her Majesty explained, ‘Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value in doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe'” (christianitytoday.com).
“Her Majesty personally wrote the foreword [to a special book entitled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves], thanking readers for their prayers and good wishes. ‘I have been—and remain—very grateful to … God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness,’ she wrote” (christianitytoday.com).
QUEEN ELIZABETH’S LEGACY
Far beyond all the tributes that have been written and said about her, Queen Elizabeth leaves a legacy relating to her faith in Christ. Dudley Delffs wrote this concerning her legacy,” ‘Ultimately, monarchy points beyond itself to the majesty of God,’ wrote Ian Bradley, professor at the University of St Andrews School of Divinity. ‘It encourages the God-given human faculties of reverence, loyalty and worship. It derives its true sanction and authority from above rather than from below.’
Queen Elizabeth II was such a monarch. Bridging the 20th and 21st centuries, modernity and postmodernity, Her Majesty credited her personal faith in God and belief in Christ as her anchor amid the many storms, both public and private, that she endured. To the end, she fulfilled her sacred coronation vows to God, living faithfully and serving those entrusted to her care” (christianitytoday.com).
One must remember she is received into heaven not as Queen but as a sinner saved by grace. That is the only way for all of us, whoever we may be. God save the Queen.