A Life of Grace: A Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II
A new book explores the life and faith of an extraordinary monarch
London-based writer Agnes Wilson speaks to the author of a new book about the life and faith of an extraordinary monarch.
Thursday, 22 September 2022. It was a public holiday unlike any other in Australia. A national day of mourning to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
While many paid their respects that day, hundreds of others rallied in the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra to denounce the monarchy and the devastating impact of colonialism on Aboriginal Australians.
The news came through to London too.
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I watched with concern as I saw people burn the Australian flag. They shouted their anger and grief born of centuries of systemic oppression.
“I think the monarchy needs to be aware that there’s unfinished business happening here in Australia,” said Gwenda Stanley, a 49-year-old activist of the Indigenous Gomeroi people who spoke to Al Jazeera news.
“The more I thought about it, the more I realised her character reflected the fruit of the Spirit.” – Mark Greene
A week after the day of mourning, I take the tube to Oxford Circus. In the heart of the bustling, people-packed shopping district is St Peter’s Church. It’s the home of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC).
I am there to talk to Mark Greene. He is the co-author of The Servant Queen, the author of The Queen’s Way and the new release A Life of Grace: A Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. He is also Mission Champion at LICC.
For a man who has written three books on the late monarch, Mark had not been a lifelong royal watcher. He did not own a single book on the late Queen. The only royal memorabilia he had was a beautiful silver jubilee glass paperweight with ERII on it.
But it all changed in 2015.
“I wrote a book called Fruitfulness on the Frontline, which is about everyday discipleship and had six criteria: modelling godly character; making good work; ministering grace and love; moulding culture; being a mouthpiece for truth and justice; and a messenger for the gospel.
“I found myself saying to God, wouldn’t it be great if there was someone in the public eye who lived out these principles? His answer came to me with weight – the Queen.
“The more I thought about it, the more I realised her character reflected the fruit of the Spirit. Patience, self-control, joy, kindness, gentleness. Many have testified to her deeds. Look at all the stories about her care for others. We know she did not have to do it, yet there she was ministering grace and love.”
While acknowledging the pain and dispossession caused by Britain’s colonial past, Mark encourages people who accuse Queen Elizabeth II of perpetuating colonialism to do more research.
Jesus was “the bedrock” of her faith.
“Look at what she has done with the Commonwealth. These are nations we exploited. When she took over, there were eight members of the Commonwealth. Now there are 54.
“Almost all those countries are now independent nations, and instead of saying we want nothing to do with the Crown and nothing to do with Britain, the Queen managed to turn them into friends.”
As she put it in 1977, she had seen “the transformation of the Crown from an emblem of dominion into a symbol of free and voluntary association.”
In her 1952 Christmas address, the Queen said: “The Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the empires of the past. It is an entirely new conception built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace. To that new conception of an equal partnership of nations and races I shall give myself heart and soul every day of my life.”
It was reconciliation in action, according to Mark. And at its heart was her devotion to Jesus, the King of Kings.
In The Queen’s Way, Mark points out that it stems from the Queen’s understanding of God’s concern for all human beings. An understanding of “the child who was born at Christmas with a love that came to embrace the whole world.” (1995)
Jesus was “the bedrock” of her faith. From him stemmed a desire to care for people of all races, all faiths and none. And it showed. Under the scrutiny of the world’s media, during times of searing criticism and glowing praise, Queen Elizabeth II’s deeds were constant.
The Queen visited the country of my ethnic heritage in 1999. It was the first time a British monarch had visited Korea since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1883.
Her Majesty went to Andong city – to Hahoe village where they still kept centuries-old Confucian traditions. She was invited into a traditional Korean home.
It is customary to take one’s shoes off inside a Korean home. It can be a mark of disrespect not to do so. In front of the world’s media glare, the Queen
took her shoes off to honour the people who lived there and walked inside.
This year there was a memorial for the Queen in Andong where people could visit and lay their floral tributes. In the heart of Hahoe village, there was a giant banner which read, “We will never forget the day Queen Elizabeth II visited Andong in 1999.”
Her small moment of care to respect and honour another culture before her own comforts has now become part of history.
This theme of forgiveness was one that the Queen repeated.
Her public deeds were consistently different to some of the accusations hurled at her on September 22, 2022 and its accompanying media images of anger and pain.
In Mark’s latest book, A Life of Grace, published by Bible Society Australia, LICC and Hope Together, there is a chapter on “The woman who forgave the bombers.”
The opening page has a quote from the Queen:
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ … is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness …”
This theme of forgiveness was one that the Queen repeated in her Christmas addresses. In 1976, as sectarian violence killed 297 people in Northern Ireland, the Queen said:
“The gift I would value next year is that reconciliation should be found wherever it is needed. A reconciliation which would bring peace and security to families and neighbours at present suffering and torn apart.”
It was a gift she needed three years later when the IRA assassinated her family member.
In 1984, she mentioned: “Above all, we must retain the child’s readiness to forgive, with which we are all born and which it is all too easy to lose as we grow older.
“Without it, divisions between families, communities and nations remain unbridgeable. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to live up to the standards of behaviour and tolerance which we are so eager to teach them.”
In 2011, during a successful state visit to the Republic of Ireland, she shook the hand of a representative of the IRA known for his previous violent action.
The late Queen was publicly practising what she preached. And for 70 years, if not more, she served her country and pointed to Christ, who is the author and perfecter of her faith.
Agnes Wilson is a Christian wife and mother working in communications. She and her family lived in Sydney before moving to London.