The death of the Queen is being felt profoundly by a nation that has been under her reign since 1952, but Christians will be mourning the additional loss of a monarch who so often spoke with warmth and gentle humility about her own personal faith.
This year, Queen Elizabeth II became the second longest-serving monarch in history when she reached her Platinum Jubilee – a milestone of 70 years on the throne that was celebrated across the country with street parties, tree-planting and a star-studded concert at Buckingham Palace.
At a Platinum Jubilee thanksgiving service held in her honour, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, summed up the collective admiration when he praised her “staunch constancy”, “steadfast consistency” and “faithfulness to God” during her 70-year reign.
It was a long reign that all started with a humble prayer – that God would grant her the wisdom and strength to serve her people all the days of her life. To quote Cottrell again in his comments on her passing, it is a prayer that has most certainly been answered as many come together to mourn a Queen who modelled quiet, humble service and an unwavering dedication to duty.
Irrespective of personal views around whether or not Britain should still have a monarchy in the 21st century, Christians have appreciated her openness about her faith over the years.
Her annual Christmas Day speeches – something of an institution on these shores – became in later years a particular outlet for sharing what Jesus meant to her personally. In her last Christmas Day speech in 2021, she said that the teachings of Jesus had been “the bedrock of my faith”. A year earlier, she remarked on how the teachings of Christ had served as her “inner light” during the pandemic.
Although her inherited titles included Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith, her interest in matters concerning the Church was as real as her deeply held Christian faith.
When Anglican bishops from around the world gathered at the Lambeth Conference over the summer, she extended her “warmest good wishes” and rallied them to respond to a post-pandemic world experiencing “a time of great need for the love of God – both in word and deed”.
Keenly aware of the challenges many of them would return to once the meeting was over, she wrote sympathetically that they had “convened during a period of immense challenge for bishops, clergy and lay people around the world, with many of you serving in places of suffering, conflict and trauma”.
“It is of comfort to me that you do so in the strength of God,” she said.
As was so often the case when her thoughts turned to her own faith, her words were simple and yet profoundly moving.
“Throughout my life, the message and teachings of Christ have been my guide and in them I find hope. It is my heartfelt prayer that you will continue to be sustained by your faith in times of trial and encouraged by hope at times of despair,” she told the bishops.
American evangelist Billy Graham once described the Queen as someone who was “very interested in the Bible and its message”.
In a particularly memorable story shared in his autobiography, he 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 favourite story.'”
It is this Queen, brimming with a warm, steadfast Christian faith, that this nation’s Christians will dearly miss.