The new pound coin in the UK bears an image of the Queen’s head, surrounded by the words ‘ELIZABETH II D.G.REG.F.D.’ It stands for: ‘Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Regina Fidei Defensor.’ (‘Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith.’ in Latin). Her Majesty’s Christian faith has been the most important aspect of her life, guiding, sustaining and supporting her for 91 years. On the occasion of The Queen’s 91st birthday, let us explore the sure and certain faith of Britain’s longest-lived monarch.
We can get a glimpse of that strong religious faith in Her Majesty’s annual Christmas Broadcasts. In 2015, The Queen said: “The life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. 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.’”
As Supreme Governor of The Church of England and Defender of the Faith, Queen Elizabeth II takes her duty as a religious leader very seriously. She has been at the forefront of bringing understanding between the world’s different religions throughout her reign, without ever compromising her own beliefs and the values of a Christian monarchy.
And The Queen explained to her people why she chooses to follow the Christian religion in 2011: “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.” Her Majesty has a very positive view of religion, evangelising about its potential to transform lives and bring purpose to our existence.
Her Majesty has a very positive view of religion, evangelising about its potential to transform lives and bring purpose to our existence.
As Shakespeare repeatedly showed us, being a monarch is an incredibly demanding and difficult task. The Queen has maintained her dignity and composure for 65 years, drawing on her religious beliefs for strength.
In 2002, Her Majesty told us: “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. 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 of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God!”
And in her Diamond Jubilee year, The Queen launched a passionate defence of religion, in the face of growing atheism and the popularity of figures such as Richard Dawkins:
“We should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life.
The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated.
“Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.
“It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents.
“But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely.
“Woven into the fabric of this country the Church has helped to build a better society – more and more active co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths. Faith plays a key role in the identity of millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need.”
Indeed, The Queen’s own personal faith has been a reassuring force in the world since she inherited the throne 65 years ago.
She is never afraid of reminding people of the love they should show for others. Her Majesty has lived her whole life in the service of other people, driven by a deep religious commitment to humanity. “In difficult times we may be tempted to find excuses for self-indulgence and to wash our hands of responsibility. Christmas stands for the opposite… we need to go out and look for opportunities to help those less fortunate than ourselves, even if that service demands sacrifice.”
Parallels can even be drawn between The Queen and Jesus Christ. In her own words “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.” The Queen has lived her life in this same dedication to the service of others, she has been a model Christian and an inspiration for people of all faiths.
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has been defined by her strong Christian beliefs; her faith has driven everything she has done. “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.”
The Queen is a perfect example for all people of all faiths. She has robustly defended her own religion, whilst promoting tolerance and understanding of others. She has been a beacon of hope in times of darkness and a light of celebration in moments of joy. Long may it continue!