Bishop Forster praises Queen’s ‘faithful witness and dutifulness’ in Accession Day tribute
A statement by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Right Reverend Andrew Forster, to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday, 6th February:
Seventy years ago, today, bulletins printed on letterheaded paper were posted on the railings of Buckingham Palace and Sandringham House, announcing to the world that King George VI had passed away in his sleep.
It was a life–changing moment for his eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, who – in keeping with her whole life – had been fulfilling her royal duty at the time, in Kenya, deputising for the ailing King on a Commonwealth tour.
At the precise moment her beloved father died, the young princess ascended to the throne. When the news of the King’s death was broken to her by Prince Philip, it must have been a daunting moment.
Six months before her coronation, the Queen asked the nation and Commonwealth to pray “that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I will be making and that I may faithfully serve him and you all the days of my life.”
God has clearly answered those prayers.
The words faith and duty are important and recurring ones in Her Majesty’s life. Whether as an 18–year–old princess joining the women’s branch of the British Army – the Auxiliary Territorial Service – during the Second World War, or a 94–year–old sovereign, complying with Covid restrictions and sitting alone at her beloved husband’s funeral, the Queen has unerringly done the right thing.
The words of one of her Christmas speeches resonate today: “I know just how much I rely on my 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 my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God. I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian Gospel.”
Queen Elizabeth II is spending Accession Day at Sandringham, the country retreat where her father died. At the age of 95, she has become the first British monarch to mark a Platinum Jubilee. As her subjects celebrate this remarkable milestone, the Queen, I imagine, will be reflecting privately on more than nine decades of life and service, remembering her dear father and mother, and her devoted husband.
Last year, the Queen said Christ’s teachings, which had been “handed down from generation to generation,” had been the bedrock of her faith. Two Christmases ago, she said that those same teachings had served as her “inner light”.
Now and again, that inner light has been evident to us all, lighting the way for others to follow. Eleven years ago, during the first State visit to the Republic of Ireland by a British monarch since partition, she pointed to the ties of friendship between the people of Britain and Ireland; acknowledged the complexity of our shared history; and emphasised the importance of forbearance and conciliation.
Last year, in a centenary message to the people of Northern Ireland, she hoped that the building of an inclusive, prosperous, and hopeful society, strengthened by the gains of the peace process, would be “our guiding thread in the coming years”. She had some words of caution, though: “It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment.” Those qualities are needed in abundance now.
In celebration of the Platinum Jubilee, more than fifteen hundred beacons will be lit throughout the United Kingdom, in British Overseas Territories and in Commonwealth countries.
The Queen has been a beacon for all of us. Hers has – and continues to be – a life well lived: an example of faithful witness, selflessness, commitment and dutifulness. We thank God for her long life, her good health, her exemplary service and her impeccable example.