The Late Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III
If you are born into privilege, wealth and status, is it easier to be a Christian? Some may argue that it is harder. There is perhaps not the same sense of vulnerability and dependence which most humans feel until they have established themselves in work success and family. Many never achieve that level of security and most of all humanity have no opportunity to do so and will never achieve it.
If you are surrounded by fine houses, servants and sit atop the social order, it surely must take lifelong spiritual discipline not to become complacent and arrogant. The reigns of kings and queens of history suggest that many were not so inclined and became self-destructive monarchs, damaging themselves and their nations. Very few rulers from ancient peoples to modern times emerge with pass marks. The tendency has been towards the misuse of position and power culminating in absolutism, demagogy and tyranny. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot are recent examples and Kim Jung Un, and Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are current exemplars. There are also many ‘tin pot’ dictators throughout the world.
Constitutional monarchy facilitates Christian practice. To make the best of its relative political powerlessness, monarchs must embrace the opportunity to serve in order to contribute positively to national well-being. Queen Elizabeth II understood this well. Her personal Christianity allowed her to be a servant Queen. She was by spiritual nature and temperament a follower of Jesus Christ.
She, of course, was waited on hand and foot throughout her long life. She had great wealth, very expensive recreations, country houses and castles, much land, race horses, a large yacht at her disposal, and the very best of food and medical care when required. These were always guaranteed. Although she worked, she did not have to work for a living. There is a difference.
Is it easier to be gracious if you have been since a little girl and then long into adulthood the centre of attraction? Here was an elderly woman not ignored in later years. Elizabeth never needed to struggle for recognition. But the petulant, spoilt behaviour of her own children from time to time, suggests that privilege alone does not bring humility. Prince Andrew’s conduct and subsequent insensitivities proves the point.
The death of Queen Elizabeth and the succession of King Charles have been overtly Christian in character. Never before has the name of God been invoked so obviously by means of electronic media and communicated so globally. People might think that the United Kingdom is still a Christian nation. We are not. The late Queen and the new King are seen to be surrounded by Christian ministers. The new atheists are silent for the moment. Queen Elizabeth was able to keep the balance between her personal piety and conviction and her regal duty to be inclusive. Charles seeks to inherit that compromise.
Many will surely be asking in days to come questions such as ‘What was all that flummery?’ ‘Do we not need to dispense with God?’ ‘Do we need a new national anthem?’ ‘Does the anachronistic language of monarchy need to be modernised?’ ‘Has Charles the courage to do so or will it have to wait for William?’ ‘Is the manner and conduct of this death and succession completely out of touch with the country and with the western world?’
It is clear from the numbers on the streets that many people in Scotland and England loved and respected Queen Elizabeth and that they are willing to trust King Charles to follow in her footsteps, at least for the time being.
Monarchy does not sit on its own. It is the apex of a class system which supports aristocracy and lesser entitlements, local gentry, created wealth along with social classes AB, C1, C2, D and E, that is higher & intermediate managerial, administrative, professional occupations, supervisory, clerical & junior managerial, administrative, professional occupations, skilled manual occupations and semi-skilled & unskilled manual occupations, unemployed and lowest grade occupations. Entry into this class system is offered to all on the basis of merit recognised by the Honours System. This is part of a parallel pyramid of influence and recognition through patronage of charities, encouragement of good works and discreet advocacy.
How long is such an inequitable system sustainable? Even in these days of mourning there are rumblings of discontent among left wing politicians, trade union leaders and republicans in the general public. Yet the political systems of Russia and China are far less egalitarian and inclusive. In many democracies an election winner will choose not to give up as head of state and remain for years and decades. Nations require hierarchical order of one form or another. Scandinavian monarchies are simpler reflecting the societies in which they operate.
Queen Elizabeth’s death and King Charles succession have seen Christianity restored to the centre of national conversation. There is a temporary suspension from being the butt of jokes and satire. The multicultural, multi-faith agenda is quiet for a moment. Even critical race theory has been put in larger context.
Do the people of these islands want to return to Christianity? Or have they simply admired Queen Elizabeth for being what they themselves do not want to be or are unable to be? The churches are open.
Even the most stubborn might concede that there is a kind providence in the manner of Queen Elizabeth’s passing. Should it not be so? Working until 96 years of age and until 48 hours before a quick and relatively easy passage from this life? Eyes of faith will see it. But it is ancient wisdom. Even King Charles’ succession is accounted for.
‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains’. (Psalm 116 : 15 - 16)