Thursday, April 21, 2016

'Where a Crown shines, the courage cannot fail...'

H.M. the Queen visiting Hitchin on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in June, 2012.
Strange though it seems to write for the second time in a week in honour of a great person's birthday  (after Pope Emeritus Benedict's on Saturday), nevertheless I feel that the occasion calls for it: Elizabeth II, our Queen for sixty-three years, has  reached her ninetieth birthday. 

I hope soon to try to write a defence of the monarchy in principle, but for today it is Elizabeth herself who matters.  I feel all the more keenly a duty to mark her birthday because she has been such a just monarch and good example, made all the more radiant in an age with infrequent regard for justice and goodness.  This is the ninetieth year of a life that she herself vowed at the age of twenty-five to give, and ever since has given, to her kingdom.  It might not have been so.  She has reigned unfalteringly, making a deliberate decision to understand the verb 'to reign' to be very close in meaning as the verb 'to serve'.  Neither did this have to be the case.  She chose goodness, similarly to Benedict XVI, and has prevailed.

Three women, I think, deserve most of the credit for the British crown's continuity since the early nineteenth century.  Queen Victoria is the first, Queen Mary of Teck the second and our present Queen the third.  Queen Mary, wife of George V and Elizabeth II's grandmother, taught her grand-daughter the importance of duty, something that Elizabeth has taught us in turn, mainly by example.  She has shown us that the greatest strength is often proved not in impressive activity or energetic deeds, but in endurance and steadfastness (and I might add that she is echoed by her husband).  She is also unembarrassed to be a woman of faith, and an ordinary, simple faith at that, and it is clear that her sense of duty is bound up with an awareness of vocation.  Her duty is not only to her subjects.

Elizabeth is strong, and knows where her strength comes from, in a weak age unaware of the source of its weakness.  Long may she reign, and may her subjects strive in loyalty to her and to follow her example!

This post's title is taken from a poem written by John Masefield (1878-1967) for Elizabeth's marriage when Princess in 1947; the music is by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

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