Three years ago, in what is called The 1844 Room in Buckingham Palace, I knelt down in front of Her Majesty The Queen to pay homage on my appointment as Bishop of Norwich.
This ancient ceremony, with an oath administered by the Lord Chancellor, involved holding my hands together in prayer, with The Queen placing her hands over mine. She looked into my eyes. I looked into hers.
I found it a very moving, even spiritual, moment. I can’t recall anything of the grandness of the room where the Russian Tsar Nicholas I was received in 1844, hence its name, as my total focus was on the smiling, eye-sparkling Queen before me.
Since then, at Sandringham, I have encountered a person of humility, humour and warm hospitality, who shares, like us all, in the joys, challenges and heartaches of life. Hers has been a life of extraordinary duty, discretion and dignity in the public eye.
I believe that the pressures of The Queen’s role are somehow eased whenever she is at Sandringham. It is one of the few places where she can be surrounded by the things she loves and truly be herself away from the public gaze.
Whether she is looking at her new foals, attending a meeting of the WI, enjoying a family barbeque in the depths of winter, or delighting in the big skies and sunsets over the Wash, Sandringham has been a place of rest and relaxation.
She knows its people and they know her. Recently I worked with her to find a new rector and the pastoral care of all who live on the estate was a high priority.
I love the story of The Queen nipping into the village shop and the shop assistant remarking that she looked ever so much like the Queen. “How reassuring”, was the reply.
Her long reign of routine and dependability has brought reassurance in a world of much change and uncertainty.
At her Coronation, The Queen was anointed with holy oil according to a recipe that goes back into the mists of time. That anointing was for a life of service.
We saw the value she places in service to others when she signed her Platinum Jubilee letter with the words, “Your servant, Elizabeth R”.
Down through the years she has been sustained in that task by the prayers of millions and through her attentiveness to worship the God who daily sustains her. The Queen asked for our prayers in advance of her Coronation that “God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve him and you, all the days of my life.”
When she sat alone at the funeral of The Duke of Edinburgh it was as if the prayers of millions surrounded her. As age brings its challenges, it is as if she radiates the goodness, kindness and wisdom stored up over her years of service.
Her Christmas broadcasts have spoken about the faith that sustains her, remarking last year about Jesus’ “teachings have been handed down from generation to generation, and have been the bedrock of my faith”.
She is steeped in the Book of Common Prayer and the gentle rhythm of its well-known prayers. “I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad” she said, knowing of the need “to put my trust in God”.
In this she values the place of the Church of England, noting how it is “woven into the fabric of this country, the Church has helped to build a better society”.
On this Platinum Jubilee, join me in finding a quiet moment to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all that The Queen is to so many people.
Bishop Graham’s Prayer for Platinum Jubilee
Christ our King,
we come in gratitude for our Queen
whose long, extraordinary reign
has deliberately mirrored your service
through a life of visible self-giving.
As we thank you for Elizabeth,
– our beloved Servant Queen –
we acknowledge her tireless devotion
to country and to Commonwealth,
while rejoicing at the special place
which Norfolk has in her heart.
Thank you for her calm and constancy,
her humour and humanity,
her steadying words and unifying signs,
her grace and strength and resilience.
Protect her, we pray, O Christ,
and enfold her with your enduring love
for, prized above the rubies in her crown,
she is more precious to us than platinum itself.