Reflection on the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III
“It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” Rev. 21:6
“The Queen was just so magnificent.” One of the crowd outside Buckingham Palace.
”What a woman!” Kim, USA.
What momentous times we are living through! In the same week that the Queen’s 15th Prime Minister flew up to kiss hands at Balmoral and begin her term of office, so Charles III has been proclaimed King after the sudden death of Queen Elizabeth II just two days after she had asked Liz Truss to form her Government. The Queen had appeared to be frail but was still smiling and at work so the sense of shock is, for many people, profound. However, it has been clear for some time that the Queen was not in the best of health, unsurprisingly at 96 after a lifetime of such dedicated service and hard work. Having come to the throne not long after the end of World War Two, both she and the peoples of the United Kingdom have lived through so many changes and, as President Biden said in his tribute to the Queen, “In a world of constant change she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride.”
The Queen was a steadying presence but also a realist promoting change when necessary, such as shaking hands with Martin McGuinness after the assassination of Lord Mountbatten and in accepting that the Wales’s should divorce which would have been unthinkable for the Royal Family not so long ago. That change will continue as the new stamps and coins needed will have the head of the King facing the opposite way to the Queen’s to signify the change of direction that has taken place and the many stories and anecdotes that have been shared about her have indicated the great constancy, respect and love in which the Queen was held. The laughter and sorrow that has been evoked have mingled and many have been moved to tears, not least at St Paul’s Cathedral as a piper played the Lament Flowers of the Forest whilst walking slowly down the aisle. After so protracted and uncertain a time over Covid, the war In Ukraine and the energy and cost of living crisis, the Queen’s death may be releasing some long pent up emotions, not least for those who were not able to say goodbye or be with their loved ones during the pandemic as we now must say goodbye – God be with ye – to this greatly loved monarch.
The Queen’s steadfastness, diplomacy and sense of humour have been much lauded and, whilst many were touched by the laughter many of the memories evoked, sometimes that was unintentional as when the Bishop of London referred in a live interview on Radio Four to the Queen being anointed under a golden canapé! She quickly corrected it to canopy, but that far-off Coronation will soon be followed by that of King Charles III and he has already facilitated further change with cameras being allowed in to the proclamation ceremony, seen for the first time on TV as was his mother’s Coronation.
That change was also evident in King Charles’ first address to the nation when he spoke formally and personally as both a son mourning his mother and a new monarch honouring his predecessor. The complexity of what he said was highlighted when he used part of a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet where, at the end of the play, Hamlet has taken on the responsibilities of kingship, but is dying. His old friend Horatio holds him in his arms and pays tribute to him as Prince of Denmark when he says, “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet Prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.“ This phrase would have had various resonances as it is part of the musicSong for Athene which was sung at the funeral of Charles’ first wife Diana, Princess of Wales and, at a heartbreaking time when his grief for the Queen was clear to see, King Charles is also leaving his years of service as Tywysog Cymru, Prince of Wales, being the longest serving heir apparent. It’s a sign of the times in which we live that the complexity and subtlety of these veiled references were missed by many who linked this quote when they heard it with the comedy series Blackadder, when it was used in Series Two.
Amongst the other titles that King Charles III has now assumed is that of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and it was said of the Queen by the historian Hugo Vickers that her lifelong motto was, “Do your best every day and say your prayers at night.” That’s not a bad philosophy for any of us to adopt as we face such change and uncertainty and as we each acknowledge the influence of Queen Elizabeth II in our own lives – the only monarch many of us will have known until now. As we now prepare to give thanks for her example, the New Elizabethan Age and the Queen’s legacy as we commend her to God at her funeral, so we pray for the reign of King Charles III as it is heralded with all the challenges facing him and us personally, nationally and internationally. As we do, let us do our best every day and say our prayers not just at night but throughout the day as we thank God for the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and prepare for that of King Charles II as we proclaim God save the King!
Every Blessing/Pob Bendith