I write this at the end of a whirlwind week in our Nation’s History. A change in Prime Minister, the death of our beloved Queen Elizabeth II, her eldest Son proclaimed King Charles III and other Royal Titles redistributed.
In my sadness, I have done what I always do and looked to my happy, cherished memories. So, my mind returned to the school assembly I did at Crowthorne Church of England Primary School on 1stFebruary this year. In that assembly I selected Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as one of the people who inspired me. I commented that everyone in the room had one thing in common, Queen Elizabeth II had been our Queen for the whole of all our lives. I was born just after King George VIdied.
I only saw the Queen in person a few times. First as a child when I waved a flag as she passed along a road near my home. Then in 1993 I was lucky enough to watch the Queen distribute Maundy money at Wells Cathedral. The Queen was 67 then and distributed specially minted Maundy money to 67 men and women pensioners from the Diocese of Bath & Wells who had given outstanding Community and Church service. Every Maundy Thursday the Queen distributed this special Maundy money to commemorate Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper.
Early in her reign the Queen decided that Maundy money would not only be distributed to the people of London and so she travelled all over the country to various Cathedrals and Abbeys to give gifts to local people. In 2017 she was in Leicester Cathedral which meant every Cathedral in the country had been visited for this purpose.
More recently on 22 November 2012 I met the Queen at the re-opening of the Royal Box at The Bristol Old Vic. It was a great honour to be present and I thought how patient and kind she and Prince Philip were. Then aged 86 our Queen did not use a walking stick and walked around the theatre showing genuine interest in the extensive refurbishments. She smiled, joked and was incredibly gracious to all who were introduced to her; she gave generously of her time.
Why did she inspire me? Well, how many of us could be on our best behaviour all the time? How would we cope with the huge expectations placed on us living in the public eye and having our every action and facial expression analysed? How many of us could have remained as graceful, dignified, patient and interested in so many different people and projects? How many of us at 96 will want to work 40 hours a week having reduced from 50 hours a week? How many would read with diligence and wisdom the red box of papers from the Prime Minister’s office every day except Christmas and Easter? 15 Prime Ministers benefitted from our Queen’s wisdom and integrity.
In 2002 the Queen said: “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. 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… I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian Gospel.”
If you have watched the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast, I wonder what you remember. Perhaps it’s her pearls, the corgis, the family photographs or the Christmas tree. For me the most important memory is how open the Queen was about her faith. She spoke about Jesus Christ as the ‘Prince of Peace’, ‘an inspiration’, ‘a role model’, ‘a Saviour with the power to forgive’, ‘an anchor’ to name but a few. The Queen never preached; her life reflected her faith, and she went to Church every week often inconspicuously.
For me the Queen was a woman who looked in two directions for almost her entire life. Upwards towards God and outwards towards her people. She served in a way few could manage.
Queen Elizabeth did not live the sort of life I live, or anyone reading this lives, but that does not mean we cannot be inspired by how she worked and served. Perhaps, as a lasting tribute to her and her memory, we can draw on our faith more deeply and follow her example.
we give thanks for the life of your servant Queen Elizabeth II and for her faith and her dedication to duty. Bless her family especially her son, King Charles III, our nation, the commonwealth and all who mourn her death. May her example continue to inspire us and, through faith in you, lead us to a greater service of others.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Julia Norton LLM