On 26th May 2022, the House of Lords paid tribute to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee. The Bishop of Birmingham, Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am delighted on behalf of the Lords spiritual to offer profound gratitude and hearty and—to echo the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge—joyful congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee.
I may not have been aware of the events of 6 February 1952, unlike some of your Lordships, although, being born just two months later, I can claim to have been eager to participate in the new Elizabethan age. From these Benches, we reflect particularly on the solemnity of the Coronation, which happened nearly a year later, and the setting of the constitutional roles of the sovereign in the wider realm of faith. That faith has been evident, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, mentioned, in the Queen’s consistent, unstinting and prayerful support not only for the Church of England as Supreme Governor but for the Church of Scotland and people of Christian faith across the United Kingdom and the world.
The Queen’s lifelong practice of public worship and private prayer has been remarkable to witness, not just in the much-publicised Royal Maundy Services and other great occasions in cathedrals and abbeys but, week by week, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham—the place already mentioned by the Leader—or Crathie Church on Deeside. Those who have had opportunity to preach at such services are grateful not only for the hospitality that surrounds them but for the much- missed, stimulating theological discussions with the late Prince Philip.
This reign has also seen not just a remarkable contribution by one of the leading women of the world, as the Leader has already said, but, in the past decade of her reign, the inclusion of women in the leadership of the Church of England and, of course, through Royal Assent to the 2015 Act, those women Bishops come into your Lordships’ House.
The connection between our sovereign who practises her faith and the national Church is appreciated, perhaps surprisingly, especially in the interfaith communities of my own city region. Not least at times of local strife or international discord, I have found time and again people gaining reassurance and inspiration from a constitution and a sovereign that take faith and the virtues and values that spring from it seriously. As the Queen said in a speech at Lambeth Palace in 2012
“the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”
She affirmed that
“gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely.”
The expression of lived faith is no better seen and heard, as we have already heard today, in the brief and moving Christmas broadcasts, where the virtues of service and compassion, illustrated by the life of Jesus Christ, are rooted in shared, fragile humanity and wisdom accumulated over more than nine decades. It was most vivid, I think, in the Queen’s Christmas message of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, where she combined Jesus, the Light of the World—and, she was prepared to say, her own inner light—with recognition of the many faith festivals that we enjoy in this country and those Covid volunteers across the Commonwealth. She referred to a story told by Jesus, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, ending by saying that all
“put the lives of others above their own”.
As we have heard, she spoke modestly by not referencing herself—and she has exercised that virtue over 90 years —but by promoting the values, virtues and service of others.
Later this summer, we will witness the intercultural and worldwide life of the Commonwealth in the Games to be held in Birmingham and region. In 1952, let us remember, there were only a handful of nations in this movement that has now increased to some 72 today. Here we can see the Queen’s commitment to unity in diversity, courageous and sometimes difficult conversations, and the higher purposes of our common humanity. We may all trust that she enjoys the races at the Alexander Stadium as much as she does those at Ascot.
The Royal Windsor Horse Show pageant started with the first Elizabeth, if you happened to see it. Our nation and many countries in the world have been blessed beyond measure by the faithful and continuing reign of Elizabeth II. She upholds the virtues of dignity of the constitution, responsibility of duty to others and a trusted relationship with her people, all undergirded by faith. Thanks be to Her Majesty. Thanks be to God.
Extracts from the speeches that followed:
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): I thought that I might not be alone—and obviously I was not, listening to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham—in welling up when listening to Her Majesty’s broadcasts at 3 pm on Christmas Day and being inspired by her example of a life lived in the Christian faith and her commitment to unity, belief in ourselves as a nation and a common purpose.
Her Majesty can also call people to account, as when the so-called masters of the universe were left speechless following the financial crisis of 2008 when she simply asked:
“Why did no one see this coming?”
This is a question that she may very well ask again in the difficult months that lie ahead.
Lord Farmer (Con): As many have said today, it is one of the greatest privileges of my life to be able to stand in this House and honour, as her humble citizen, our extraordinary Queen. I thank God that 70 of my 77 years have been under her reign. This unprecedented period of peace and growing prosperity has, in good part, been influenced by her faithfulness to her position.
How has our Queen been able to be so consistent and gracious to all her subjects over these 70 years? I have met her only once, but I remember the kindness of her smile. Knowing our own frailties, we are all in awe of her constancy. The answer—here I follow the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham—lies in her continuous confession of her trust in and reliance on God her father and Jesus her saviour.
Her biographer, William Shawcross, said:
“Two things stand out—the Queen’s constant sense of duty and her devotion to God.”
Of this she speaks humbly but openly, especially in her Christmas broadcasts. She was clear during her first Christmas broadcast in 1952 that she would not have the strength to serve unceasingly without the prayers of the people of the Commonwealth and Empire, and humbly asked for them as she prepared to dedicate her life at the Coronation. She referred to this on her 90th birthday, saying:
“I have been—and remain—very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for his steadfast love. I have indeed seen his faithfulness.”
She is right. Millions of Christians have faithfully prayed for her to live long, for her kingdom to be at peace and for the common good. Standing back, when we see her reign in the context of the grand sweep of world history, these prayers have been answered spectacularly.
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