Kanye West blew up this year with Sunday Services and the Jesus is King album, causing internet convulsions about his Christian beliefs. But a biographer of the Queen of England’s faith doesn’t think Her Majesty would ever hit the headlines in the same way.
“You know, she might surprise us and that would be grand,” chuckles Dudley Delffs, author of recently released The Faith of Queen Elizabeth. “But I think she saves things for her annual Christmas broadcast and the charities and not-for-profits she serves as patron … [so] I doubt it’s going to be quite as theatrical as that.”
“The Queen’s has those ups and downs that force one to contend with circumstances …” – Dudley Delffs
Only days away from the latest Christmas message by the longest-reigning monarch alive, there’s no fear of her going full Kanye. She is, arguably, the most famous woman in the world, but the Queen has never been one to grandstand about what she’s about. Indeed, it is “that dignity and quiet strength and that sense of consistency” about the Queen’s personal faith that Delffs has been gripped by.
Delffs is an American author with British ancestry (he’s a descendant of King James I!). He’s also a fan of Netflix series The Crown and Helen Mirren’s Oscar-winning movie The Queen, two artistic portraits of Her Majesty that partly inspired Delffs’ desire to document a key aspect of her person.
Like many people he met while researching his book in the UK last year, Delffs is drawn to how the Queen lives out her ingrained yet no-fuss faith. “I did talk with a number of people who drew inspiration, strength and courage from her ongoing example.”
“She has lived what she believes for her entire life.”
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor has been on the throne for almost 68 years. Not only is she ruler of the United Kingdom – through all its disunity, as now – the Queen is also head of the Church of England. But behind the titles is a real person, a mother and grandmother who experiences joy, tragedy and boredom just like the rest of us.
According to Delffs, the 93-year-old monarch is much more like you or me than you may have noticed. “Like so many of our faith journeys, the Queen’s has those ups and downs that force one to contend with circumstances – and to ask those large questions about why this happened or that did not happen,” explains Delffs, who also wrote The Faith of Dolly Parton.
“[And] to then wrestle with whatever one’s purpose or calling might be in life, and the responsibility of that. Or the burden of that. And how that conflicts with our individual choices and preferences and what we might like to do.”
“I think so much of that is embodied in the Queen’s faith journey.”
Delffs isn’t sure how to distil the Queen’s personal tenets but he can single out key events which he believes have refined her faith.
“In 2002 her Majesty lost her sister, Princess Margaret, as well as the Queen Mother – that was very, very difficult,” says Delffs. “Since then, she seems more transparent about her faith and that she relies on it for her strength, guidance and sense of ongoing purpose to serve the duty she has been called to.”
As any royal watcher knows, Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas messages have increased their level of Christian expression during the past few years. But doesn’t tracing such public testimony back to the family deaths of 2002 seems to brush aside other major moments in her life? Delffs maintains that those events are most defining, while acknowledging the effect of other crises such as the divorce of Prince Charles and his wife Diana, her subsequent death, or Prince Andrew’s recent scandals.
“She did that wonderful booklet … which is just very explicit about her faith in Jesus Christ.” – Dudley Delffs
As Delffs shares how the Queen’s approach to her children has informed his own, he also notes a prominent refrain about her approach to everybody.
“It was remarkable to me that across the decades, so many people from members of staff to world leaders and everyday subjects she has encountered, all comment about the way she respects them, shows curiosity and engagement with them.”
With Delffs evidently convinced the Queen is thoroughly shaped by her Christian faith, Eternity asks the American author what he believes have been her notable contributions to the work of God’s Kingdom in our world. His answer is a fitting tribute to a monarch who knows whom she serves.
“One is her very personal involvement and support for Bible Society and Scripture Union. I open the book with her attending this 150th anniversary service for Scripture Union. She has always been very personally involved with them.”
“She did that wonderful booklet … a few years ago – The Servant Queen and the King She Serves – which is just very explicit about her faith in Jesus Christ.
“That’s something I know was used worldwide to became a catalyst for conversations about faith.”