“Billions of people now follow [Christ’s] teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives,” Queen Elizabeth II once said. “I am one of them.”
While never one to tip her hat on political issues, Queen Elizabeth never shied away from professing her faith in God, often pointing to the teachings of Jesus Christ as the framework for how she lived her life.
Indeed, as the “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”, she seems to have been guided by the recognition that her life was not her own, but belonged to Almighty God who had called her to live a life of dutiful service.
“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,” she said during a radio broadcast from Cape Town in 1947 at just 21 years of age, concluding with the words: “God help me to make good my vow.”
For over 70 years – from June 2, 1953 to September 8, 2022 – Queen Elizabeth upheld this vow with unswerving grace, dignity and a profound sense of personal commitment that will forever define her reign as the United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch.
She embodied what it means to “deny self”, to serve faithfully and dutifully, to lay down one’s life in loving service to others – and in doing so, gave us a glimpse of the One who laid down His life for all.
As this article from the Gospel Coalition so beautifully states: “In our era, when duty has fallen out of fashion and ‘being true to yourself’ has become the lodestar for a generation, she marched resolutely to a different beat. Hers was a life of service, not self-actualisation.”
In her honor and memory, below are some notable quotes from Queen Elizabeth over the course of her lifetime – a life truly well lived, and one in which we would do well to emulate.
“When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.” –2008 Christmas broadcast
On our responsibility to others:
“Our modern world places such heavy demands on our time and attention that the need to remember our responsibilities to others is greater than ever.” –2002 Christmas broadcast
“Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human-being is always a good first step towards greater understanding.” –2018 Christmas broadcast
On the importance of reflection:
“We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.” –2013 Christmas broadcast
“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.” –2019 Christmas broadcast
“I know of no single formula for success, but over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.” –2010 speech delivered to to the United Nations General Assembly
“[Jesus Christ] is a role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.
Sometimes it seems that reconciliation stands little chance in the face of war and discord. But, as the Christmas truce a century ago reminds us, peace and goodwill have lasting power in the hearts of men and women.” –2014 Christmas broadcast
“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” –2011 Christmas broadcast
“Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us has a monopoly of wisdom and we must always be ready to listen and respect other points of view.” –1991 Christmas broadcast
On getting older:
“Some cultures believe a long life brings wisdom. I’d like to think so. Perhaps, part of that wisdom is to recognize some of life’s baffling paradoxes such as the way human beings have a huge propensity for good, and yet a capacity for evil.
Even the power of faith which frequently inspires great generosity and self-sacrifice can fall victim to tribalism. But through the many changes I have seen over the years: faith, family, and friendship have been not only a constant for me, but a source of personal comfort and reassurance.” –2018 Christmas broadcast
“It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult.” –1957 Christmas broadcast
On the value of what you do:
“Even when your life seems most monotonous, what you do is always of real value and importance to your fellow men.” –1954 Christmas broadcast
“Over the years, those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives.” –2008 Christmas broadcast
On the measure of actions:
“The true measure of all our actions is how long the good in them lasts.” –2014 speech during commemorations of D-Day
On what we can learn from history:
“Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive…” –2011 Christmas broadcast
On working together:
“The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.” –2011 during the Queen’s Ireland State Banquet
On determination and effort:
“We know the reward is peace on earth, goodwill toward men, but we cannot win it without determination and concerted effort.” –1963 Christmas broadcast
On soundness of heart:
“In the turbulence of this anxious and active world many people are leading uneventful, lonely lives. To them dreariness, not disaster, is the enemy. They seldom realize that on their steadfastness, on their ability to withstand the fatigue of dull repetitive work, and on their courage in meeting constant small adversities depend in great measure the happiness and prosperity of the community as a whole. … The upward course of a nation’s history is due in the long run to the soundness of heart of its average men and women.” –1954 Christmas broadcast
“There are long periods when life seems a small, dull round, a petty business with no point, and then suddenly we are caught up in some great event which gives us a glimpse of the solid and durable foundations of our existence.”
“This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only Son to serve, not to be served. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.” –2012 Christmas broadcast
“The Bible tells how a star appeared in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus’s birth. Let the light of Christmas — the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope — guide us in the times ahead.” –2020 Christmas broadcast
On the teachings of Jesus Christ:
“For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.” –2000 Christmas broadcast
On serving and sacrifice:
“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.” –2008 Christmas broadcast
On the Gospel:
“None of us can slow the passage of time; and while we often focus on all that has changed in the intervening years, much remains unchanged, including the Gospel of Christ and his teachings.” –2021 message to General Synod Service and Opening Session of the Church of England
On her own life…
“I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.” –2002 Christmas broadcast
In a statement upon Queen Elizabeth’s death, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “As a faithful Christian disciple, and also Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she lived out her faith every day of her life. Her trust in God and profound love for God was foundational in how she led her life – hour by hour, day by day. In The Late Queen’s life, we saw what it means to receive the gift of life we have been given by God and – through patient, humble, selfless service – share it as a gift to others.”
Queen Elizabeth’s obituary in The Telegraph reads: “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Defender of the Faith, who has died aged 96, was the longest-serving monarch of the United Kingdom. During a period of remarkable change throughout her realms and the world at large, she proved herself one of the most effective and best-loved sovereigns the nation has known.”
*Of interest: in her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth only wrote one foreword. The book was published by the Bible Society for her 90th birthday celebrations in 2016, and it was titled: The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.