65 years ago today, King George VI put his hand into the Hand of God, which was better than light and safer than a known way. And in that very instant, a princess up a tree in Kenya became Queen – Elizabeth II – who went on to reign into her Silver Jubilee, and her Golden Jubilee, and then her Diamond Jubilee, equalling and then surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Today, Queen Elizabeth II makes history as she becomes the first British monarch to celebrate the Sapphire Jubilee: 65 years since her accession to the Throne of the United Kingdom; 65 years as Queen of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand; 65 years as the Head of the free association of the Commonwealth of Nations, 16 realms of which she is also Queen. And 65 years as Supreme Governor of the Church of England – the longest temporal headship in the history of England’s church.
There will no bunting in the Mall, no nationwide beacons, no street parties, no fireworks and no Party at the Palace. And there’s to be no State coach, no windy trip down the Thames, and no globe-trotting tour of the world for her peoples to pay homage. The Queen intends to spend the day quietly at Sandringham, reflecting on the memory of her father, and doubtless also that of her mother, and sister, and her best friend and cousin Margaret Rhodes, who died just a few months ago.
The Queen has always looked stunning in sapphire blue. Perhaps it’s her eyes, or the pale beauty of her face. Even at 90, she radiates vitality and light: the world’s oldest monarch, the embodiment of covenant, liturgy and law, seems to possess a spirit of eternal youth. She does not represent, like Israel’s first king, a rejection of God, but rather she radiates righteousness, legitimated in her role by a prophetic anointing – ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon her..’ – only to be evermore harassed, like Israel’s royal dynasty, by prophets who claim to overrule human counsels and establishment councils with the word of God.
“My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service,” she promised in 1947 on her 21st birthday. We celebrate, too, the 70th anniversary of that solemn pledge, by which she covenanted with her peoples to live a life dedicated to flourishing together. God is the source of all created goods, but it is righteous governance which builds a human community and draws out the beauty of that order. Queen Elizabeth II has devoted 70 years of her life and 65 years of her reign to the pursuit of justice, peace and prosperity. Has there ever been a happier reign?
‘Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them,’ said Jesus. ‘But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.’ On this day of Sapphire Jubilee, let us give thanks that Queen Elizabeth II has become great by being a servant to her peoples and a slave to Christ – the Servant Queen. She governs in law and justice with mercy, and, to the utmost of her power, she maintains the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel.
God save the Queen!