Queen Elizabeth: one of us
As well as being our Head of State, she was also one of us, and, in a sense, that's what made her so special. By Peter Shepherd
We have been reflecting on the long reign of our Queen. One thing that has struck me about her life is the very ordinary human qualities she showed. Her sense of humour has often been commented on. When much has been forgotten, we will remember her marmalade sandwich at tea with Paddington Bear earlier this year, and her departure from Buckingham Palace with James Bond at the London Olympics. Such a sense of fun, especially in someone of her age and status, was amazing, and quite unexpected.
There was something attractive and natural about the support and love that characterised her marriage to Prince Philip, and the way she spoke about it when he died was deeply moving. In the midst of ceremonial and political events of great significance, there was a personal relationship we could understand and identify with. There was clearly something special about it, given its unique circumstances, but there was also something universal about it, echoing the experience of many.
She spoke of her personal faith with humility and honesty, without any kind of pretentiousness or pride. Here was someone, we sensed, who, like Christian people everywhere, looked to Jesus Christ as a guide and inspiration.
One of the Queen's special gifts was to combine the ordinary and the special. Or rather, we probably ought to say, to make the ordinary special. We can remember her walking along the Holkham beach in Norfolk with her corgis, passing the time of day with her neighbours in Scotland, or getting excited at a race meeting. Alongside moments of national and global significance, such as the formal opening of Parliament, conversations with her Prime Ministers or royal visits around the world, there was a woman who was not so different from the rest of us.
It is, perhaps, for that reason that her death has affected so many in such a personal and emotional way, even those who would not think of themselves as particularly royalist. She was Queen, but she was also one of us.
In itself, her death is a reminder that everyone of us, like her, is destined to be born, to grow older and to die, however important or unimportant we may be in the eyes of the world. Her coffin may be draped in the Royal Standard and her funeral attended by monarchs and presidents, but her mortal remains are no different from those of anyone else.
We rightly celebrate the life of an exceptional woman who fulfilled her calling as Queen wonderfully well. As she goes to her eternal rest, embraced by the love of the God she believed in, she is essentially at one with the humblest person of her kingdom.
The words of committal spoken as her body is laid to rest for the final time are no different from those used at every Christian funeral, no matter whose life has come to an end. As well as being our Head of State, she was also one of us, and, in a sense, that's what made her so special.
Peter Shepherd is a Baptist minister and member of Cemetery Road Baptist Church, Sheffield. He is the author of several articles and two books on Baptist history: The Making of a Modern Denomination and The Making of Northern Baptist College.
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