Intellectually, one grasps that someone of 96 is at the close of their earthly life, but when someone who has been a comforting, familiar, and wise public figure not only for the whole of one’s own life but for a goodly number of years before, steps off the stage into eternity it still comes as something of a shock. In some respects, I am revisiting the feelings that I experienced last April when the Duke of Edinburgh died. Those of an era having come to an end, of change unwanted, but inevitable. Yet, there is a terrible truth in the words,
“The Queen is dead – Long live the King!”
The concept of monarchy is something far bigger than the present incumbent, and it is a concept invoked in the anthem, Zadok the Priest, the full text of which is:
“Zadok the Priest, and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon King, and all the people rejoiced and said, God save the King, Long live the King, May the king live forever. Alleluia. Amen”
The focus is on the anointing of the monarch, an act which both signaled God’s acceptance of the king and the monarch’s acceptance of the covenant, and upon continuity. It was also symbolic of the mystical tie between God, King, and People, which is alluded to in G.K. Chesterton’s hymn ‘O God of earth and altar,’
Tie in a living tether,
The prince and priest, and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us, and save us all;
In ire and exaltation
Aflame with faith and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.
Queen Elizabeth II, with her concept of service to God, the People, and the Country certainly tried to make that tie as real as it can be in an ever-shifting modern world. She also was not afraid to speak of her faith in Jesus Christ, and of the strength and understanding that it gave her. Something that is rare amongst public figures today.
The United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the world have lost not only a wise head of state, who in many respects personally embodied the ‘corporate memory’ without which no country can prosper, but someone who had the profound respect of many millions of people, and stood above the ruthless, divisive, and often self-centered politics of our day. She will be sorely missed.
On the other hand, the monarchy goes forwards. Charles III has ascended to the throne, and in what must be a time of profound mourning for his mother, assumes the duties and responsibilities for which he has so long prepared. We must pray for wisdom and grace from above for the King.