The 96-year-old Queen, personally through her words and actions, as well as in her formal role as ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor’ of the Church of England, makes no secret of her commitment to Christianity.
A prayer request made by the Queen in her first Christmas message as monarch in 1952 sums up Her Majesty’s Christian obligation: “Pray for me … that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.”
Her father, King George VI, had died on February 6, 1952 when Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were touring in Kenya. As next in line, she automatically acceded to the throne and was crowned Queen 18 months later on June 2, 1953 at a service in Westminster Abbey, London.
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The Queen’s Christmas broadcasts to the nation and Commonwealth are among the few speeches she writes herself.
Alongside her official role as head of the Church of England, the Queen expresses a personal faith in Jesus Christ. As she said in her Christmas broadcast in December 2000: “For me, the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.”
The Queen was crowned in a deeply symbolic church service, devised in AD 973 and including prayers and a service of Holy Communion. The orb, sceptre, ring and crown used in the ceremony each include a cross to symbolise the rule of Jesus Christ over the world. Even though the crown jewels are set with many of the world’s most valuable gems, a Bible is presented during the coronation and described as “the most valuable thing that this world affords”.
In 2008 the Queen said: “I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life. He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served.”
The Bible story the Queen refers to most often emphasises this theme of service. In her Christmas broadcasts she has frequently talked about the parable Jesus told of a ‘Good Samaritan’. In 1985 she said the story “reminds us of our duty to our neighbour. We should try to follow Christ’s clear instruction at the end of that story: - Go and do thou likewise’.”
* Two hymns are included in a list of the Queen’s top ten favourite songs. They are ‘Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven’ and the 23rd Psalm ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’. The list also features ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better’ from the musical Annie Get Your Gun; and ‘ White Cliffs of Dover’ by Dame Vera Lynn, A programme featuring Her Majesty’s favourite music - ‘Our Queen: 90 Musical Years’, broadcast on Sunday June 12 at BBC Radio 2 (7pm).