For most of us, it is all we have ever known; the Queen on the throne. To have any real memories of George VI, you will need to be at least 80. It is a period that has seen remarkable changes both nationally and internationally; for many of us, the 1950s seems another world with the Second World War still fresh in the memory. The Queen has been the symbol of the nation through good and bad; both good and bad in the life of the nation but also in her own life.
The coronation in 1953 was fundamentally a religious service with connections to enthronement services described in the Old Testament. Like a priest at ordination, the Queen was marked with oil as sign that she was called and set apart by God for her role. Like a priest, she made promises before God. Even in 1953, I doubt many people paid much attention to this; the country had long before effectively left the church of “all gas and gaiters” (Under 60s, Google this…) behind. But one person did take seriously the anointing and the vows made before God and that was the Queen herself. Almost alone of our national figures, she speaks openly about her faith as a Christian, whilst at the same time respecting the beliefs and convictions of those around her. Her faith underpins her life and she is open about this.
One of my favourite hobby horses is how, as a society, by rejecting organised religion, we are in danger of turning our backs on something that is actually part of our very nature, our spiritual life. That isn’t really about whether we believe in God or not, it goes instead to the heart of how we live our lives, what our values are, how we relate to other people and the world. It seems to me that many people have lost the language to talk about this and they are diminished as a result. By contrast, this 96 year old woman remains at the heart of the nation because she has not lost that language. Long may she reign as an example to us and to our political leaders.