Fidei Defensor – Remembering Queen Elizabeth II, Defender of the Faith

On Thursday, September 8th, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II took her final journey to be with the Lord in that heavenly country, at age 96. As such, our calendar of saints will now recognize her as a most notable Christian deemed worthy of inclusion upon her heavenly birthday. She was indeed a most notable, faithful, and utterly dignified woman, her life a powerful Gospel witness, the likes of whom we shall never again see in our lifetimes. Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, was a faithful wife and mother, and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Fidei Defensor – “Defender of the Faith.”

“Today we need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right…”

Queen Elizabeth II, 1957 Christmas Message

Queen Elizabeth became Queen in February 1952, when her father, King George VI, died. She was only 25 years old. Yet the dignity and devotion which would mark her reign were already apparent. It was in 1947, on her 21st birthday, when she made this pledge: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

We cannot even begin to fully comprehend the scope of history and the vast societal change over which the Queen presided. She worked with 15 U.K. Prime Ministers, beginning with none other than Winston Churchill, and concluding with her holding audience two days before her death with Liz Truss, who took office only the previous week.

When Elizabeth ascended the throne, the U.S.S.R. was led by the brutal Joseph Stalin, and China helmed by the no less brutal Mao Zedong. Harry Truman was President of the United States when Elizabeth began her reign in 1952. Fourteen U.S. Presidents served during her time as Queen, and she met all except for Lyndon B. Johnson.

With the passing of Queen Elizabeth, we lose one of the final links in the chain of history which binds us to the storied history and tradition, and indeed the greatness of Western Civilization, blessed by God and founded on Judeo-Christian principles, to which we owe nearly every comfort and luxury which we enjoy today.

Her parents and grandparents no doubt would have told her stories of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, under whom the British Empire enjoyed the eponymous Victorian Age. It was this wisdom and faith of the ages which would inform Elizabeth’s own principled and steady tenure over one of the most tumultuous times in British history.

The Queen had this to say in her very first Christmas message in 1957, the first to be broadcast over television:

That it is possible for some of you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around us. Because of these changes I am not surprised that many people feel lost and unable to decide what to hold on to and what to discard. How to take advantage of the new life without losing the best of the old.

But it is not the new inventions which are the difficulty. The trouble is caused by unthinking people who carelessly throw away ageless ideals as if they were old and outworn machinery.

They would have religion thrown aside, morality in personal and public life made meaningless, honesty counted as foolishness and self-interest set up in place of self-restraint.

At this critical moment in our history we will certainly lose the trust and respect of the world if we just abandon those fundamental principles which guided the men and women who built the greatness of this country and Commonwealth.

Today we need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right, everything that is true and honest. We need the kind of courage that can withstand the subtle corruption of the cynics so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future.

It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult.

Does it not sound as if she is speaking of the world today, some 65 years later? These words of hers encapsulate everything which made Queen Elizabeth so exceptional – the quiet courage of her faith holding firm as an anchor against the tides of history. May we be inspired in our own Christian journeys by this fellow saint’s example of steadfast faith and courage. For we too must order our lives around our Savior Jesus Christ and be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

Fidei Defensor — Defender of the Faith

The above article is taken from the sermon of The Reverend Nathan Stomberg, September 11, 2022.

Photo Credit: Michael Garnett | Flickr | Used under Creative Commons

Image: Rafael, The Transfiguration (1516-1520), detail

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