Universal coverage of widely endeared Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral provided the world with a unique glimpse into an almost forgotten heritage where faith and patriotism meet to help shape society.
With the queen’s son, now King Charles III, set to be crowned next summer, it’s worth reflecting on why these ancient funeral and coronation rites matter today.
The longest-serving monarch in England’s history left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of not only the British people, but the world.
To some in today’s technocratic age, the stuff of kings and queens seems but a curious relic of a bygone era — or worse, irreparably theocratic, anti-democratic and oppressive. At the same time, there’s a resurging interest in things that transcend the material and mundane. British royal ceremony is essentially Cliff Notes for Western civilization — its essence captured in a quintessentially English tea cup.
On full display at Elizabeth’s funeral was ceremony richly imbued with Christian patriotism. The hymns, prayers and dignified processions bearing the regalia of England’s far-famed monarchy — the last of its kind — pointed to something higher than mere politics.
The funeral procession through London’s rich heritage of monuments prominently showcased a stark faith symbology directly on top of Her Majesty’s casket: the scepter of power, justice and mercy, the orb symbolizing Christ’s rulership over the world, and the crown itself replete with divine imagery. These tokens of a society where God and country work together — the concept of Christendom — reach back to England’s early first days of monarchy.
Spanning from the elusive, quasi-legendary 5th-century King Arthur, a Christian military ruler whose battles against invading pagan Germanic tribes are shrouded in epic lore, through the Dark Age saints Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor, to the tragic Henry VIII, all the way up to the beloved queens Victoria and Elizabeth II, English society sought to nurture a partnership between government and faith, not unlike the early American colonies.
Though unique among today’s Western nations in retaining ancient ceremonies blending faith and governance, it is by no means the first. Stretching back to the days when, according to Near East and biblical accounts, the Flood waters receded, Noah had the patriarchy, later Sargon the first empire, Egypt its pharaohs, and Israel her kings.
England’s coronation service hearkens back to the latter with the monarch’s oath and in such official prayers for her new ruler still used today that bear quoting at some length:
“Oh Almighty and everlasting God, Creator of all things, Ruler of angels, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Who didst cause Thy faithful servant Abraham to triumph over his enemies, didst give many victories to Moses and Joshua, the governors of Thy people, didst exalt Thy lowly servant David unto the height of a kingdom, didst enrich Solomon with the unspeakable gift of wisdom and peace: Give ear we beseech Thee unto our humble prayers. … Establish him in the throne of this kingdom. Visit him as Thou didst visit Moses in the bush, Joshua in the battle, Gideon in the field, and Samuel in the Temple. Besprinkle him with the dew of Thy wisdom, and give unto him the blessing of David and Solomon. Be Thou unto him a coat of armor against his enemies, and an helmet in adversity. Give him patience in prosperity, and protect him always with Thy shield.”
No other nation on earth retains such solemn beauty in an official capacity. It’s really remarkable it’s even still preserved.
The queen’s faith was no ceremonial trapping, either, but genuine, attested by those who knew her — from British media to the great American evangelist Billy Graham and Roman Catholic popes as well. That same faith preserved the integrity of the crown when her playboy uncle abdicated and her father ascended the throne. It gave her conviction as she quietly engaged behind the scenes while maintaining a unifying dignity.
In cynical days when the mystical and spiritual have been left to decay, interest in rediscovering their advantageous role is surfacing, even in unexpected quarters. There seems to be a longing for the kind of sacred beauty England flashed for a day. It’s hard to deny what the mystical enhances, inspires and animates — even in the civic realm.
The fact that some of today’s most popular television series, including “The Crown,” “House of the Dragon” and “Rings of Power,” strive to capture something of a forgotten dignity seems to suggest many feel they’ve been robbed and kept juvenile. More are longing for the aesthetic, sacred and ancient. As the funeral’s readings showed, the 17th-century King James Bible is still the preferred and recognized gold standard for English Scripture, much as Shakespeare is for plays and poetry. A wonderful demonstration of the new making room for the cherished things of yesterday.
Although her passing marks the end of an era, the queen’s deep-rooted faith in Jesus Christ, and the United Kingdom’s ancient ceremonies, can be powerful examples to those in leadership positions throughout the world to be more mindful of God in their decision-making capacities.
They can serve to inspire higher ideals no matter the type of government, enterprise or one’s station in life — from cook to king.
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