Queen Elizabeth II, who served longer than any other British monarch, was a woman of deep personal faith who set lifelong examples of belief.
Addressing Britain and the world on Christmas Day in 2016, she declared her faith openly: “Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.”
In what turned out to be her final Christmas message, viewed globally on Dec. 25, the queen said Christ’s teachings “have been the bedrock of my faith,” a declaration months after the April death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband of 73 years.
“Although it’s a time of great happiness and good cheer for many, Christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones. This year, especially, I understand why,” Elizabeth, 96, said in the 2021 Christmas video.
She expressed her Christian faith in her official role as “supreme governor” of the Church of England, with the additional title “defender of the faith,” as well as her daily reliance on God for strength in performing her public duties and for sustenance during private difficulties.
In November, Elizabeth opened the Church of England’s 11th General Synod. She recalled that she and Philip attended the first such meeting more than 50 years earlier. The queen noted COVID-19’s impact on believers and offered a word of hope born from her own experience.
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“For people of faith, the last few years have been particularly hard, with unprecedented restrictions in accessing the comfort and reassurance of public worship. For many, it has been a time of anxiety, of grief and of weariness. Yet the Gospel has brought hope, as it has done throughout the ages, and the church has adapted and continued its ministry, often in new ways — such as digital forms of worship,” she said.
“Her faith is a real cornerstone of her life. She isn’t showy about it. It helps guide her really every day,” biographer Sally Bedell Smith told The Washington Times. “And heaven only knows it has helped her endure any number of setbacks that have occurred to her during her life.”
When Elizabeth, who reigned for 70 years, was a youngster, Mrs. Smith said, “she prayed every morning with her mother in their chapel in Scotland that was part of [Balmoral] Castle. Her mother taught her Bible stories.”
Robert Hardman, a British journalist who has written several biographies of Elizabeth, said religion is “absolutely key and central to who she is. She’s probably the one person in British national life — the one lay person in public life — who is internally confident discussing their faith.”
American evangelist Billy Graham, whose friendship with the monarch lasted decades before his death in 2018, noted Elizabeth’s curiosity about Christianity.
“I always found her very interested in the Bible and its message,” he wrote in 2016. “After preaching at Windsor [Castle] one Sunday, I was sitting next to the Queen at lunch. I told her I had been undecided until the last minute about my choice of sermon and had almost preached on the healing of the crippled man in John 5. Her eyes sparkled and she bubbled over with enthusiasm, as she could do on occasion. ‘I wish you had!’ she exclaimed. ‘That is my favorite story.’”
During her lifetime, she endured the unexpected death of her father, King George VI, when she was 25, her subsequent accession to the throne, family issues involving her sister, Princess Margaret, and divorces for three of her four children, including Charles, who succeeds her as king.
The queen also had to navigate the aftermath of the fatal August 1997 automobile crash that took the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, who remained a part of the family after her divorce from Prince Charles and was the mother of the queen’s grandsons Princes William — now first in line to the throne — and Harry. Nearly a quarter century later, she lost her husband.
The queen often said her faith saw her through such times of difficulty and tragedy. Matthew Dennison, the author of a 2021 biography, told The Washington Times that Elizabeth’s annual Christmas messages since 2000 were “much more about her own Christian faith and the Christ teachings as a kind of guide to life that is available to everybody. She says in one of the broadcasts that [this] guide is something that is available to everybody at no cost. And that’s the example of Christ’s life.”
Mr. Dennison noted that the queen frequently mentioned in those talks “her own personal relationship with Christ. And I feel that for other believing Christian people in Britain, that must be incredibly inspiring because it’s not something we hear in this country unless you go and seek it out in a church context.”
Five years before she acceded to the throne, a 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth, speaking via wireless from South Africa, said, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
To those solemn words, she quickly added, “God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”
Elizabeth’s invocation of God and supplication for his help was a serious reflection of her deep personal faith and of the implications inherent in her position as heir to the throne held by her father, King George VI, royal historians say.
The Right Rev. Geoffrey Fisher, the archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Church of England, prepared Elizabeth for the spiritual aspects of her 1953 coronation ceremony. He explained “to the queen that after that moment, she would never be the same again,” said Mr. Dennison, her most recent biographer.
That coronation — the first to be televised and the first to be viewed globally — included an anointing ceremony called the Act of Consecration, in which the monarch, clothed in “a dress of purest white,” sat under a golden canopy and was anointed with oil on her head and her chest by Archbishop Fisher, who declared, “Be thy head anointed with holy oil: as kings, priests and prophets were anointed.”
It was the only part of the ceremony that was neither televised nor filmed for later viewing. Mr. Dennison said some who witnessed that part of the coronation “were almost embarrassed” because of its intensity and the “extraordinary seriousness which they felt they detected in the queen.”
Others present, Mr. Dennison recalled, “said at that point in the service she just radiated, fulfilled with what had been said.”
Unspoken by court historians at the time, but on the minds of many, was that the coronation was held on a throne where Elizabeth sat over the historic Stone of Scone, a Scottish relic that some believe was the same stone used by Hebrew patriarch Jacob as a “pillow” in Genesis 28:18-19. The Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland in 1996, and Elizabeth was the last monarch to sit over it during a coronation.