This week, Her Majesty the Queen became the longest reigning monarch in British history. At 63 years and 7 months, she has now passed the record previously set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Many of us have never known anyone else on the throne.
The Queen’s reign has been an extraordinary example of duty and service. She has been a wise ruler and counsellor to no fewer than 12 Prime Ministers and seven Archbishops of Canterbury. Throughout this second Elizabethan Age, she has been a focus of unity and stability amidst a time of unprecedented social change.
One of Her Majesty’s titles is ‘Defender of the Faith’. It was originally conferred on Henry VIII by the Pope, but subsequent kings and queens have adopted the same title. She is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Not ‘Head of the Church’, of course! Jesus Christ alone is our Head, and as a thoughtful Christian she would be horrified at such a suggestion.
Certainly the Queen would willingly acknowledge that she rules by the Grace of God. Her Christmas Day broadcasts are masterpieces of gentle Christian witness. Her faith is softly stated but crystal clear. Many of us have used the following prayer this week as we gave thanks for her long reign:
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ exchanged the glory of a heavenly throne for the form of a servant, we thank you that you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people, and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her: encourage us by her example to serve one another, and to seek the common good, until you call us all to reign with Christ in your eternal kingdom. Amen.
The Revd John Paul Hoskins, Bishop’s Chaplain