“God save the King”
It feels strange to say and to sing it. As we do so, it comes with a degree of sadness because the change in wording forces us to mark that we no longer have a sovereign Queen: we are reminded of the passing of the monarch who has been a central part of our national consciousness for the whole lives of many of us, for you would have to be in your eighties to have remembered the death of the late Queen’s father, King George VI.
This weekend we continue to process the death of Her Majesty, to pause and reflect on her significance to our nation, to celebrate all that she meant to us and, if we were lucky enough, to recall a time when we might have met her. A gentleman told me on Thursday evening of his encounter with her at Badminton. He sat watching the Horse Trials with his wife, with two empty chairs in a row before him. Her Majesty came over and asked if they minded her sitting there, as she didn’t want to block his view. I’m sure the Monarch could sit where she liked, but she was humble and considerate enough to ask first. This anecdote shows that, despite all the protocol which surrounds the Royal Family, Her Majesty was grounded, gentle and concerned for others.
Her life was marked by her commitment to serve her nation, to be a role model of what it means to be part of this United Kingdom and Commonwealth. From serving during the war, slipping out to celebrate VE Day in the streets, to speaking to the nation in times of crisis and showing such strength when she mourned alone her beloved husband: alone because of Covid restrictions. In an age which, during her 70 reign, saw a change in our priorities increasingly from public responsibility to personal satisfaction, Her Majesty always sought to put duty and service first: something on which perhaps we should seek to model ourselves.
The Queen’s faith was not something which she kept to herself. At her Coronation her first act, on entering Westminster Abbey, was to go to the high altar and to pray: to put herself into the hands of God. She was anointed with the Oil of Chrism, the oil used on the newly baptised and the newly confirmed – a sacred act which was hidden from the TV cameras because she felt it to be so significant. Each Christmas families across the world heard of her faith in Jesus Christ, “her anchor” which truly marked her out as “Elizabeth the Confessor”
It is worth considering that, for one who held such faith in Jesus, Her Majesty is now in the presence of her King, our King, the King of Heaven.
The next ten days will see a nation in mourning, both nationally and locally. During this period there will be prayers at midday here and the church will remain open until 10pm. Books of Condolence are in all churches across the Benefice for people to come and add their names and messages of sympathy and thanks. Please do tell your neighbours and friends. All these will be collated together by the Diocese of Exeter and then nationally.
Services during this time will reflect the period of mourning as we pray for the repose of the soul of Her Majesty and for her family. Next Sunday, 18th September, the West Devon Civic Service of Commemoration will be held here at 2pm.
So, as we mark the passing of our beloved monarch, echoing those beautiful words, “may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”, we also embrace and affirm our allegiance to our new monarch, King Charles III. God Save The King.