The phrase “once in a lifetime” is one of those terms that gets thrown around so often that it has lost a lot of its significance, like “hero” or “apocalypse”, applied to events by lazy journalists or over-excited commentators as a shortcut to save coming up with something original. The problem is, when those kind of phrases are applied so loosely, it means that when something comes along that actually fits the definition they just don’t seem enough.
Witnesses to History
This year, we have actually been privileged to witness a once in a lifetime event, not something kind of special that might come along again (as much as the Demons winning a Grand Final was momentous occasion for me and the first time in my lifetime, I am as confident as a Dees supporter can be that I will get to see another one before I die).
Watching the world celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, I was struck by the thought that it really was a once in a lifetime event, that I would never see anything like it again, nor likely will the world. It’s easy to just see it as another milestone the Queen has ticked off a long list of them and take her presence for granted, but when you take a step back it really is something extraordinary.
The one and only
Whether you are a monarchist or a republican, for most Australians the Queen has simply just been part of the background of our lives. Someone asked me why there were no coins bearing the monarchs before her, whether they were destroyed each time, but it’s because she has been around longer than decimal currency. Little things like that don't even cross our mind because we have never had to worry about it.
It's not just that we are unlikely to see another British monarch rule for such a span—Prince Charles is already in his 70s, and his son turned 40 this year—it’s facts such as that I will probably never see another Queen before I die, with 3 male heirs in the direct line of succession. Considering that of the past 184 years, a woman has held the throne for 133 of them (two women in fact), it isn’t hyperbole to feel that it is the end of an era.
'L'etat c'est son'
While I am confident the monarchy will endure long into the future, there is no doubt that Queen Elizabeth II is the monarchy to many people, and her character and reign are inextricably tied up in people’s perceptions and opinions and a new monarch will not be able to rely on the same sense of history and tradition, the years of being a presence and a reference point in a world that has changed immeasurably since she was crowned.
There is also a kind of accumulated goodwill that the Queen possesses, that makes even most republicans differentiate between getting rid of the monarchy and getting rid of her. There is a feeling that whatever your opinions, this is someone who has lived a life of service, who despite the occasional misstep or mistake, has always strived to do the right thing. Unlike many of those born into power or wealth, she seems to believe that you aren’t just entitled to the privileges but that they come with a responsibility.
King of Queens
It may seem a strange thing to say about one of the richest women in the world, whose life is about protocol and precedence, but she has provided one of the best examples of servant leadership you could imagine—putting her duty and her subjects and her role above her own desires and family and health. It would have been easy for her to be a mere figurehead, or live a luxurious life on the nation’s dime, but instead she has tried to always fulfill the duties of her role even when the constraints must have chafed and put far more back than she takes.
There is no doubt that this comes down to her deep, personal faith in Jesus Christ. And, it is perhaps that which will be her greatest legacy. Even though she is literally the head of a church, her faith is not just outward or institutional but internal and individual. In the end, what has been most integral to her life and reign is the idea that, like all of us, in the end she is just another sinner in need of grace. If you took away all the trappings, the pomp and ceremony, the crown and the power, what truly defines her would still remain.
On this Rock
Countries have come and gone, scandals have rocked the royal family, but no matter how the world around her has changed in seven decades, her faith has not, and that is why she is still here—and long may her reign continue. God Save the Queen!
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html