Our Late Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is momentous for our generation. It will mark us. Many of us have known no other Monarch. Our loss is unique.
As her funeral approaches, I find myself reflecting on the times I saw her, small, beautiful, brightly dressed. I remember things she said in speeches or in Christmas broadcasts, or things other people who met her have told me. I am telling stories about Her Late Majesty with almost everyone I meet.
We always tell stories about our lost loved ones. It’s one of the ways we remember them. But when we tell stories about the Queen, we tell our own story too. She was the constant presence in a fast-changing world. During her reign, we endured economic crises, international disasters, political instability and, of course, the onset of climate change. Throughout, she was there for us: chin up, gaze steady. We saw her in photographs, on television and on our smartphones. We felt part of her life and that she was part of ours. We loved her, we relied on her, and her steadfast presence characterizes our times.
Her Late Majesty gave unparalleled service. She never wavered from her twenty-first birthday pledge: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service’. That speech struck the hallmarks of her reign. She spoke of the joy of taking responsibility. She helped us not to be ‘daunted by the anxieties and hardships’ lying ahead. She encouraged us to ‘go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart’. That faith in God would carry her through all the years ahead.
Her Late Majesty showed us and told us how important faith was to her. Everything she did, she did under God. Prayer sustained her. The life of Jesus inspired her. She never said what we should do, but her faith and service showed us what was right and good. We will not see her like again. As I think about her coming funeral, I encourage you to find your local church, light and candle and say a prayer. Then, with me, take her words to heart. Let us take our responsibilities joyfully, face the future courageously and trust in the ever-faithful God of our late Sovereign of happy Memory.
We have witnessed the end of a most remarkable life. Key to that life, I believe, was the inspiring promise made on her 21st birthday, back in 1947, when the young Princess Elizabeth made clear her intentions: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
Who would have thought that fulfilling this promise would involve a reign that stretched for 70 years, thus becoming the longest serving monarch in our history?
Who would have imagined that the late Queen would have visited 117 countries, travelling over one million miles in keeping that promise?
Who would have believed that Queen Elizabeth would still be working to make good that vow just two days before she died at the age of 96?
Anointed with oil at her coronation for the vocation from God that opened up before her much sooner than anyone could have imagined, Queen Elizabeth has inspired generations. It’s no surprise that people have felt drawn to churches from Great Yarmouth to King’s Lynn, from Harleston to Sheringham, to sign books of condolence, to offer a prayer, to reflect quietly, and in myriad ways to pay their respects to a life so well-lived.
In seeking to pay tribute and to honour our late Queen, each of us might do well to ponder our own vocation, our own calling in life. For what do we wish to be remembered, and what steps do we need to take to make our lives a blessing to others, in the way that the long life of service of our late Queen has been a blessing to so many.
Our lives may not involve such a well-known and far-reaching promise, nor the pomp and ceremony that surrounds the monarch, but we can draw inspiration from a life of devoted and unstinting service to others. In committing ourselves afresh to the service of others with whatever gifts we’ve be given, by God’s grace, we would be making the most fitting tribute to the remarkable life of our late Queen.
May God bless you richly.
+ Alan Thetford