Queen Elizabeth II, rest in peace

In my life experience, I can only remember one British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. She reigned as Queen from 1952-2022, having celebrated her “Platinum Jubilee” (70 years as Queen) earlier this year. I was five years old when she ascended to the throne in 1952.

During her reign, she had 15 prime ministers, her first being Sir. Winston Churchill. When she became Queen, Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union (which doesn’t even exist anymore) and Harry Truman was President of the United States.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth smiles as she greets well wishers on her 90th birthday during a walkabout in Windsor, west of London, Britain April 21, 2016.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth smiles as she greets well wishers on her 90th birthday during a walkabout in Windsor, west of London, Britain April 21, 2016. | Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne, Great Britain was in the doldrums economically, having emerged as a victorious nation in World War II, but basically bankrupt financially, exacerbated by having elected a Socialist Labour Government in 1945.

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At the time of her ascension to the throne, few would have predicted the comparatively prosperous nation Britain became during her 70-year reign.

Winston Churchill, prime minister at the beginning of her reign, speculated that she might birth a second “Elizabethan Age,” referring to Elizabeth I or “Elizabeth the Great,” the Tudor monarch who presided over Britain’s rise to being a great power.

Queen Elizabeth II’s life was one of duty and service to her country. Even before her father's death, she had promised Britain and the Commonwealth that “my whole life, be it long or short, will be devoted to your service.” That is a promise she kept faithfully and well.

The Queen was a serious and dedicated Christian and her faith guided her life. Her life became an inspiring example of a life lived in service to her countrymen and the British Commonwealth.

Great Britain was indeed fortunate to have Elizabeth II as its monarch for these past seven decades. She had an excellent example to follow in the service of her father, King George VI (1936-1952), and her mother, Queen Elizabeth, in contrast to the puerile selfishness of her uncle, the abdicated King Edward VIII (January 1936-December 1936).

During the height of the “Blitz” when London was being bombed nightly by German bombers and Buckingham Palace itself had been hit, Queen Elizabeth II’s mother was asked if Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were going to be evacuated to a safer location. She famously replied, “the Princesses will not leave without me, and I won’t leave without the king, and the king will never leave!”

Winston Churchill said that statement alone was worth five divisions of infantry in what it did for British morale at a critical time in World War II.

Elizabeth II was very close to her parents, and she learned her extraordinary sense of duty and service from them. As a father of daughters, I was particularly touched by a letter her father, King George VI, wrote to his daughter upon her marriage to Prince Philip:

“I was so proud and thrilled at having you so close to me on our long walk in Westminster Abbey. But when I handed your hand to the Archbishop, I felt I had lost something very precious….I have watched you grow up all these years with pride under the skillful direction of Mummy, who, as you know, is the most marvelous person in the world in my eyes, and I can, I know, always count on you, and now Philip, to help us in our work…I can see that you are sublimely happy with Philip, which is right, but don’t forget us, is the wish of your ever-loving and devoted…Papa.”

I lived in Oxford, England, for three years (1972-1975) and that experience gave me a new appreciation for how the British people felt about their Queen. I pastored a small British Baptist church during my tenure at Oxford University, and the membership of the church consisted literally of “butchers and bakers and candlestick makers.” These salt-of-the-earth common folk loved their Queen as you would love a favorite aunt or grandmother. As head of state, but not the head of government (which belonged to the prime minister), she was above politics and was seen as the symbol of the country for all her subjects.

This is a strength of the monarchy system. The unsolvable problem, with hereditary monarchies, even constitutional ones, is that if you get a bad monarch, the system fails badly. A really bad monarch (George III) is what impelled our forefathers to declare their independence from the British Crown, issuing a lengthy “Bill of Indictment” explaining: “The History of the present King of Great Britain is a History of repeated injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

The British people and freedom-loving people around the world were indeed fortunate to have had such a dedicated and beneficent monarch as Queen Elizabeth II for these past 70 years. Seldom has a nation been better or more self-sacrificially served than they were by the second “Elizabeth the Great.” As the new British Prime Minister Elizabeth Truss puts it, the Queen was “the rock upon which modern Britain was built.”

Amen to that!

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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