24th Sunday – The Queen is dead; long live the King

The Queen is dead; long live the King

Elizabeth II reigned for 70 years. That means that it is only those aged over 75 who would have any memory of her predecessor, King George VI, though more would remember the Queen Mother, who considerably outlived him. It’s worth reflecting on why we may feel diminished by the Queen’s passing, given that few of us would have had any meaningful engagement with her; and that her growing up and lifestyle was completely alien to ours. However, by her sheer longevity as head of state, symbolising the nation she became so to speak the backdrop of our lives, a stable reference point in an increasingly changing world. The Queen, of course, adapted to changing circumstances as time went on, though usually so subtly it was unremarked. Again, her family relationships – a long and happy marriage, and private anguish over the marital difficulties of her children – mirrored those of many of us.

In epitome her life can be summed up as constancy, duty, service, and Christian witness as head of the churches of England, Scotland and Wales – and that public mask is all anyone, apart from her family and intimate friends, knew of her. These values increasingly seemed incomprehensible to many in an emotionally incontinent age, but her formative years, during WWII, emphasised a shared sense of duty and stoicism which endured. As did her personal faith, as evidenced by her Christmas broadcasts.

But like all of us Elizabeth II will go to God with unfinished business: the wounds she suffered and inflicted, the chances for charity she missed. Unlike the repentant steel robber baron, Andrew Carnegie, she did not seem to subscribe to the view that ‘a man who dies rich dies disgraced’. There seems little public evidence that she used her vast personal fortune for philanthropy, as the tycoons in the USA are wont to do, but rather (in the style of British aristocracy) kept it in the family. Like all of us in our turn she will need our prayers that she may be healed of her hurts and enter fully into the communion of the blessed. That is why we pray for all the dead, as today we pray for her, and her heir.

Fr Greg

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