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Defender of the faith: Queen Elizabeth's record reign

At 5:30pm today Queen Elizabeth will become this country’s longest reigning monarch, finally exceeding the 23,226 days of Queen Victoria.

It is a moment in history that may never be repeated and it could well be many years before we begin to fully appreciate the monumental part she has played in modern British history. She has worked with 12 prime ministers and has been an ever-present figure of stability both here and at an international level over the last six decades during which the world has experienced an unprecedented rate of change and technological development.

It has also been a time in history when the role of the monarchy has been threatened with accusations of increasing irrelevance, yet through it all our Queen has continued to be loved and admired by the vast majority. Such is her popularity that it is easy to forget that many of her ancestors did not deserve or receive a similar level of respect.

Queen Elizabeth has not demanded it from us, but rather has earned it through the humility and strength of character that she has displayed. Her devotion to this country and its people is unquestionable.

Jesus is the Servant King, but Elizabeth perhaps should be known as the servant queen. For not only has she sought to serve us as her people, but she has also chosen to place herself under authority, serving Jesus as her own Lord and Master and seeking to follow in his footsteps.

Her devotion to this country and its people is unquestionable.

If you look at any coin with the Queen’s portrait on it you will see round her head ‘ELIZABETH II D.G. REG. F.D.’ This stands for ‘Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Regina Fidei Defensor’, translated as ‘Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith’. For our Queen this is no mere title, but a command that she has fully embraced. And there is no better evidence of this than her Christmas messages from the last few years:

  • 'To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.' (2000)
  • 'I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God. Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.'  (2002)
  • 'Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love....It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.'  (2011)

We cannot attribute our Queen’s long life and reign directly to her Christian faith, but it can be tied to her life of service that has inspired and won the hearts of so many. She has put herself in God’s hands and as a faithful witness repeatedly calls on each one of us to do the same.

If you count our national anthem as a prayer, our Queen has been prayed for more than anyone else on the planet. That request which is sung so often has been answered; she has reigned long over us and for that we can truly thank God.

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