Elizabeth II of England, the official head of the Church of England and the longest-reigning queen in British history, passed away on Thursday, September 8 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96. She ascended to the throne in 1952, but six years earlier, when she was a young princess of 21, she vowed to spend her life to serving her country, saying, "God assist me to make good my word."
Following the reign of her father, George VI, Elizabeth was crowned. At the time, Britain was still rebuilding from World War II and its extensive bombing raids. Winston Churchill was in office as prime minister, and there was still an empire in existence.
However, the actual coronation was steeped in history and supported the ties between the king and religion. The king is anointed during the more than 1,000-year-old rite, during which he or she makes sacred vows to the populace and commits to serving them.
The history of the Reformation also contributed to the creation of the queen's two official titles, Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, which were bestowed upon her upon her accession. The first was given to Henry VIII in recognition of the king's rejection of Martin Luther's teachings by a thankful pope.
First Elizabeth, his daughter, claimed that Jesus Christ was the head of the Church of England and referred to herself as its Supreme Governor. The British monarch still has constitutional control over the established church but does not exercise that control.
The monarch's service to "her people and her God," as well as her bravery in facing her grief over the death of her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away in April 2021, are just a few examples of the "signs of a deeply rooted Christian faith" in the queen's life that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby highlighted in a statement on Thursday.
She mostly accomplished this through her traditional Christmas speech, which was started by her grandfather George V in 1932 and carried on by her father. Her early Christmas Day programmes were trite; a common subject was the holidays as a time for family. But in 2000, she stated that the millennium marked the birth of Jesus Christ, "who was destined to change the path of our history," 2,000 years ago.
The nation was led by the queen during regular services honouring the fallen soldiers or expressing thanks for her jubilees, but she did not view religion as merely a spectacle for the general people. She reportedly had a simple, Bible- and prayer-based faith and frequently attended church throughout her life.
Many religious leaders and representatives of the church will be among the dignitaries paying their respects at her funeral at Westminster Abbey and her lying in state at Westminster Hall. She will be laid to rest in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle, outside of London, following an Anglican service in St. George's Chapel, according to plans published in Politico in 2021.