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Giotto Wikipedia 220px-Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-19-_-_Presentation_at_the_TempleThe feast of Candlemas — the presentation of Jesus at the temple — is February 2.

However, a number of Anglican churches designated Sunday, February 5, 2023, as Candlemas.

Pictured at left is Giotto’s representation of the event, with Simeon holding the Christ Child and Anna the prophetess on his right.

Candlemas always falls on February 2, because it is, in the Church calendar, the 40th day after Jesus’s birth. According to Jewish law (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15), Mary would have had to complete her ritual purification prior to accompanying Joseph and Jesus to the Temple. The presence of the infant Jesus, although circumcised and formally named (January 1), was required so that the priests could conduct the ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn. In those days, Mary and Joseph would also have brought an animal sacrifice. They could only afford a pair of turtledoves.

As the Holy Family had to travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem on foot, it would have probably taken them three days one way. Therefore, it was no light undertaking.

Luke tells us that there were two holy, elderly people present: Simeon and Anna (Hannah, in Hebrew). Simeon’s prayer over Jesus became the Nunc Dimittis (or Canticle of Simeon). It can be found in Luke 2:22-40:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace; according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: to be a light to lighten the gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.

You can read more about Candlemas here.

Simeon and Anna the prophetess are the focal points in Luke’s account.

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit moved through Simeon, a devout man who had no time for worldly religion or temporal deliverance. He was, in the traditional Jewish sense of the term, ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’, the Messiah. Luke describes Simeon as ‘righteous’, meaning ‘right with God’ (verse 25).

Indeed, Simeon was so close to God that the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not die until he saw the Son of God (verse 26).

You can read more about Simeon here and here.

When Anna heard Simeon’s prayer, she knew that this infant was the Messiah.

Luke describes Anna as a prophetess. She is unlikely to have received divine revelation directly. It is more probable that she was a lay minister for women, either teaching them or praying with them. She would have had no teaching authority over men.

Anna lived at the temple and was known for her holiness. She spoke of God and Scripture, little else. She was a widow for most of her life and might have been a lay minister to women.

You can read more about her here. Anna was one of six prophetesses in the Bible. You can read about them here.

Our church was one of many Anglican churches that kept their Nativity scenes up past Christmas. Candlemas, or the Sunday when it is celebrated, is the very last day to see them until they reappear on Christmas Eve.

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Forbidden Bible Verses will appear on Monday.

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Before June 2022, the last time an ordination was shown on British television was when the first female Anglican priests were ordained in 1994.

I did not cover this at the time, as Boris stood down as Conservative Party leader. The news onslaught surrounding the contest for his successor, Liz Truss, lasted for the rest of the summer. Then the Queen died, sadly. It was not long after that when Truss had to stand down to make way for Rishi Sunak.

Having been refused ordination by the Church of England, Calvin Robinson was ordained a deacon on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at Christ Church Harlesden, a Free Church of England parish in north west London which is part of GAFCON:

The Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans — GAFCON — is a global network of conservative Anglican churches that formed in 2008 in response to an ongoing theological crisis in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Thankfully, they took in their brother Calvin and recognised his calling:

GB News was on hand to film the ceremony and broadcast it that weekend:

Calvin’s GB News colleagues offered their heartfelt congratulations, such as the Conservative life peer Baroness Foster:

Some of his colleagues attended the ceremony …

… and stayed for lunch afterwards:

Those who were unable to attend also sent their best wishes. Every one of them recognised the CofE’s rejection of a godly man called to Holy Orders:

Always evangelising, whether indirectly or, as is the case here, directly, Calvin never misses out an opportunity to exhort people to experience the truth and light of Christ Jesus, as he did with GB News contributor Dominique Samuels:

Other conservative media personalities who are Calvin’s friends also offered their congratulations for his ministry, such as the Reform Party leader Richard Tice …

… and Margaret Thatcher’s former aide Nile Gardiner:

Calvin’s friends from his radio days also wished him well:

Politicians also chimed in, from former London Assembly member and Conservative candidate for Mayor of London (2021) Shaun Bailey …

… and Conservative MP Steve Baker, who has not hesitated to mention his own faith in House of Commons debates:

I’ll leave the closing word to the head of the conservative think tank The Bow Group. Ben Harris-Quinney discusses choosing principle over power and achieving both:

As Calvin replied:

For the greater glory of God!

Indeed!

The Revd Calvin Robinson has his own GB News show every Sunday at 2 p.m.

He also appears as a contributor on several other of the channel’s programmes throughout the day and evening.

May God’s grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit continue to guide Calvin in his ministry for Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate:

Deo gratias! Thanks be to God!

December 26 in the UK and parts of the Commonwealth is Boxing Day.

The day, however, is the feast day of St Stephen, our first martyr, whose story is told in Acts 6 and 7:

St Stephen, the first martyr

The next posts have more about St Stephen’s Day and Boxing Day:

Boxing Day – a history

December 26 — St Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day and more (the money box, details on St Stephen and Good King Wenceslas (2017)

Here is a reminder that the Christmas season is not one day, but 12, as celebrated in the Church:

The Christmas season is 12 days long (2021, GB News)

GB News has done a spectacular job in discussing Christmas on its programmes, especially the Revd Calvin Robinson’s hour-long special, A Message of Hope, filmed at the Brompton Oratory this year. For the second year running, Robinson has explored the Christian faith in light of the Christ Child. This video includes excellent carol renditions:

Highlights follow.

This is part of the Anglican deacon’s introduction on the meaning of Christmas, which is one of hope and the greatest story ever told:

In these days, especially when Christianity is on a downward trend in the West, it is more important than ever that those of us who live in the developed world spread the Good News so that people really understand what Jesus came to earth to accomplish. Doctor Gavin Ashenden, now a Catholic, but formerly an Anglican priest and one of the late Queen’s chaplains, explains more:

Ashenden told Neil Oliver on Christmas Eve that it is regrettable that Christianity, based on non-violence, is seen as such an easy touch for secularists:

Nonetheless, the message of Christianity’s forgiveness and redemption still gets through. The Most Revd Robert Barron, a Catholic bishop from the United States, told Calvin Robinson how actor Shia LaBoeuf converted to Christianity. For him, knowing that God forgave his sins was a huge factor. The bishop gives a great summary of the effectual call. He says that God pursues and pursues those whom He has chosen, regardless of how awful our past trespasses were:

Religious Studies professor Dr John Milbank gave a lovely apologetic for Father Christmas, inspired by St Nicholas of Myra, a bishop, who gave anonymous gifts that saved people’s lives. By giving gifts of gold to three young women’s families, St Nicholas saved them from a life of prostitution. Milbank says it is good for young children to believe in Father Christmas and anonymous gifts. As they get older, he says, the belief in God’s gifts of grace from heaven is an easier concept to appreciate and makes more sense to them:

One of the fascinating things about GB News’s programmes over the past few days is the universality of Christmas celebrations in the UK. We are living proof that one does not need to be Christian in order to enjoy Christmas. I’m not talking about secularists but those of other faiths.

I have heard a Sikh, a Hindu — and now a Muslim — discuss how they celebrate Christmas. This imam, whose wife is from a non-Muslim background, says that their sons go to his in-laws’ house on December 25. On Eid, his parents invite them over to celebrate that feast. This interview took place on the Christmas Day morning show. He said that, afterwards, he would be going to his in-laws for the day:

Neil Oliver also had a good editorial on his show about the meaning of Christmas. He began by discussing the Penlee Disaster, a 1981 shipwreck that took place near Mousehole, Cornwall. He described the selflessness of the men from Mousehole who rushed to the ship to rescue those on board. He then explored this selflessness in light of the Nativity story. He ended with a socio-political commentary:

An excerpt from his editorial follows (emphases mine):

I think about the Penlee lifeboatmen every year at this time. They say Greater love hath no man than this, but that he lay down his life for his friends. I say there is a greater love, and that it was revealed in the willingness of those eight Mousehole men who were ready to lay down their lives for people they had never met and would never know.

I often remind myself of the Penlee lifeboatmen, in fact, throughout the year – and I think about selfless acts of courage that declare in the strongest possible terms what it truly means to be human and alive. I think about what people are capable of, how much they have to give … and how much some of them WILL give. The Penlee lifeboatmen gave everything they had.

At Christmas we think about the birth of a child – Jesus Christ. He is God’s gift to the world. Every child is a gift precious beyond description. It is also an act of immeasurable bravery by every woman who bears a child – because every child is, she knows, at the mercy of the world and every mother must understand, without needing to think about it, that her child is ultimately surrendered to life itself.

Mary gave birth to Jesus – the son of God – and even she would not be spared the ultimate loss. All our lives are forfeit – a debt that must be repaid, willingly or unwillingly.

Christmas is the time to think about all this – to think about what it means to give – and to acknowledge the meaning of the gift of the child … of every child.

The selfless courage of the Penlee lifeboatmen and the message of the Christmas story can be the antidote to much of the madness that is all around us now. It is a time to remember what we have, to value our loved ones and be thankful they are with us.

Rather than our hollow, spineless leaders, it is the courage and sacrifice of our fellow citizens that should capture and hold our attention, and not just now but all through the year.

It often feels like we are supposed to be focus all our attention on those who are not worthy. Those whose faces we see every day, the politicians in parliament, the leaders around the world, their preferred experts … whose names we hear over and over – they have nothing to give that is of any use to us now, that much as been made painfully obvious in recent years. I have long since stopped paying them any attention at all. Instead I look for heroes elsewhere.

We are supposed to believe our leaders mean to rescue us – from whatever Covid was, from the warmongers, from climate change, from the cost of lockdown crisis – but they had, and have, no such intentions as far as I can see. If they have plans to make anything better, it is certainly not our lives, or the lives of our children.

There is no cavalry coming to rescue us. If we are to be saved – and we surely will be – then we must look to one another for the necessary effort. We are more than capable of the task. We must save ourselves and each other by setting aside old broken ways, and finding new.

We should turn away from those who have failed us, lied to us, deceived us and left us to our fates and see that it is time to take the initiative, to shape and build something new, something untouched by those who have betrayed us and let us down.

Just because the help and leadership we need is not yet clearly in view … the seeds of it are there among us already, nonetheless. We must come to our own rescue in the year and years ahead because there’s no one else.

The Christmas story tells us that 2000 and more years ago, a baby boy was born into poverty and into obscurity. During the 33 years of the life of the man he became, he was recognised for what he really was, his true value, by relatively few. He died as he had lived, in obscurity. He was executed for standing up to, and challenging, the establishment, but by his actions the world was changed for ever, for the better.

Sometimes the most obvious people change the world. At other times, it’s the people the world does not notice, that the world thinks nothing of and so ignores, who end up making all the difference.

I hope and also trust that this is one of those times. I have no faith in the obvious, loud people with their hands on the levers of power. We will be saved by our own actions in defiance of those who care for us not a jot and who prioritise only those they serve – which is to say the already rich and the already powerful, the banks, the markets and the global corporations. I say we should ignore the whole lot of them.

Heres’s the thing: together, right now, we already have everything we will ever need, which is to say each other. We can share food and warmth and light.

We are free people. It’s Christmas and the Christmas message is that hope is here. Light in the dark.

Merry Christmas.

Incidentally, in 2022, December 25 is the seventh and final day of Hanukkah, which GB News also explored. It isn’t often when these two religious feasts coincide:

Moving away from GB News, the Revd Giles Fraser, the vicar of St Anne’s in Kew, west London, wrote an excellent editorial for The Telegraph. The paper has also included a list of religious belief in every county of England and Wales. Find out if yours is still Christian.

Of Christianity’s influence on Western society, Fraser says:

So what, people may ask? Christianity has had its day. But, actually, Judeo-Christian assumptions have underpinned every aspect of life in the West for roughly the past thousand years, shaping the way we think about everything – from art to law, morality to freedom. Our constitution makes no sense without it; our intellectual traditions are incomprehensible without it; even the very idea of the secular is a Christian idea. 

It doesn’t matter if you are a fully paid-up believer or not; it doesn’t even matter if you dislike religion and consider yourself an atheist – if you are European, you probably still have a broadly Christian imagination. 

But, just like the fish who ask “What is water?” in David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement address at his old college in 2005, some things can be so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible. We think in a Christian way even if we have abandoned any sort of specific belief. The very idea of human rights, for instance, is a classic example of a Christian perspective that has been secularised … 

Indeed, the very act of cultural self-criticism that drives secularism is itself a Christian speciality. There is no more robustly self-critical book than the New Testament. The pious and priestly class are subjected to constant critique for their lack of understanding. The parable of the Good Samaritan is not just an encouragement to look after the vulnerable and stranded, it is a subversive dig at the failure of those who should have been first to help. The Samaritan is the New Testament’s representative “other”, disliked for being culturally and theologically different. To make a Samaritan the hero of the story is a withering critique of the established religious order. 

The Reformation was a perfect example of this permanent revolution from below – a religious self-critique that, to its proponents, attacked abuses of heteronomous power and relocated learning and authority to the people in the pews, spreading literacy to the ploughboy and fiery encouragement to the dispossessed.

Within education, family life, capitalism, pop music, the welfare state, no area of our common life has been untouched by these cycles of Christian renewal. Christian influence on Western culture cannot be simply measured by the number of virgins on display in the National Gallery, or the fact that you can’t even begin to understand European literature without having first read the Bible.  

Nowhere will this be more evident than when King Charles is crowned next year. The Coronation is an inherently Christian ceremony. He will be anointed with oil in the same way that King David from Bethlehem was a thousand years before the first Christmas. Monarchy remains a religious business or it is nothing. The birth of the new king of Bethlehem, the king of kings, redefines monarchy as stripped of its power and glamour. Born in a shed with cattle as courtiers, this is authority without the armies. 

As the historian Tom Holland has argued in his brilliant exploration, Dominion, the story of the Christian engagement with the Roman empire is one of a clash of diametrically opposed systems. What attracted the young Holland to the Romans was all their glamour and cruelty. With Christianity, the weak triumph over the strong. The cross that was used by the Romans as an instrument of public humiliation turned into a universal symbol of human liberation. Which is why it will be the king who was crowned with thorns that will preside over the Coronation, not the history book king of the Roman eagle.

… I can only reflect that the story of God divesting himself of his celestial authority and coming amongst us as a vulnerable child has proved remarkably resilient, despite being banned, dismissed and ignored

And as the church places a small plaster representation of the baby into a pile of straw, hope is renewed. It is not hope as optimism, but hope as defiance: at the darkest time of the year, the light comes into the dark and the dark does not overcome it. No, we are not done yet. 

Christmas is not about our love for Him but His love for us. And for that, Alleluia. Glory to the new born king. Happy Christmas.

Even though the UK is now a non-Christian country, according to the latest census, Christmas 2022 brought much considered thought from those who do acknowledge and believe that Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Redeemer.

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.

We are now one week away from Christmas Day 2022.

Below are some of my posts on Christmas past and present.

The Octave of Christmas — O Antiphons

Centuries ago, it was usual for Christians to use the week before Christmas to contemplate our Saviour’s birth through the O Antiphons, every one of which begins with ‘O’, e.g. O Emmanuel. Below is each one, complete with commentary on the relevant Bible verse. Some days have a second O Antiphon:

The O Antiphon for December 17 (2013)

The O Antiphon for December 17 (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 18 (2013)

December 18: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 19 (2013)

December 19: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 20

The O Antiphon for December 21

The O Antiphon for December 22

December 22: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 23

December 23: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

Today, they are used less often, which is a pity, as they help prepare us for the wondrous Christmas miracle of the Christ Child.

However, the good news is that some Anglican churches feature concerts early in Advent with classical music that explores the O Antiphons.

One was held at Great St Bartholomew in the City of London on Sunday, December 4:

An Episcopal cathedral in the United States also held an O Antiphon service at the end of November 2022:

There is still some piety left in the Anglican Communion, after all.

Interestingly, an Episcopal priest discovered a card from decades ago that needed to be filled in, whereby church members going away had to attest to having received Holy Communion elsewhere on Christmas. Fascinating:

Christmas carols

Below are the stories behind some of the world’s most famous Christmas carols and some of the best renditions on video. I have included O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, as we are still in the final days of Advent. Carol of the Bells is Ukranian, by the way, particularly apposite for this year. May the good Lord bring them peace in 2013:

‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’

‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’

‘Carol of the Bells’

‘O Holy Night’

‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’

‘The Holly and the Ivy’

‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’

‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’

‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ (from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ‘Christmas Bells’)

‘Good King Wenceslas’ (for Boxing Day, St Stephen’s Day)

The next two posts discuss how Jesus and angels are portrayed in carols:

Jesus’s nature as depicted in Christmas carols

Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)

Christmas traditions

The next few posts discuss Christmas traditions.

Some say the candy cane is pagan, but it has useful Christian symbols which explain our Lord’s purpose in being among us on Earth:

Candy canes: useful for a Nativity lesson in Sunday School (Christian symbolism possibly unintentional — nonetheless, providential)

Christmas gifts — a history (and a Christian defence thereof)

The Christmas tree — a history (related to Christianity)

Christmas feasting and revelry (the rehabilitation of Christmas)

Christmas cards

Also revelatory is the history of the Christmas card, which will surprise readers who have not read these posts before:

Bizarre Christmas cards from the 19th century

Louis Prang — father of the American Christmas card

The Queen’s speech

For those who miss our late Queen, below are two of her Christmas messages, one from 1957 and the other from 2020, when we were in lockdown in the midst of the pandemic:

The Queen’s Christmas messages: 2020, 1957

Her Majesty is sorely missed.

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I hope that these posts give a fuller view of Christmas, which was not always the religious feast we assume it to be. By contrast, what we assume to be secular actually has Christian symbolism behind it.

A few weeks ago, a fellow Anglican and I were chatting about the peculiar archbishops in the Church of England (CofE).

‘They’re rather political, aren’t they?’ the woman asked.

I agreed and said, ‘Their job is to save souls.’

She looked at me, wide-eyed, as if this were some sort of revelation.

Apparently, it is a revelation as the results of the 2021 census show that the last time there have been so few Christians in Britain was during … the Dark Ages:

In just ten years, the percentage of British Christians has decreased from 59.3% (33.3 million) in 2011 to 46.2% (27.5 million) in 2021:

Proportionally, Wales on its own has a higher percentage of unbelievers than England:

This is an interesting video about religion in London:

Some people will rejoice at the news. However, the online editor of The Critic, Sebastian Milbank, warns of what happens in secular societies:

On Saturday, December 3, 2022, the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, wrote about the census for The Telegraph: ‘Christianity is not in terminal decline in Britain, whatever the census might say’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

He writes:

Some commentators have responded to the census data about religious affiliation released last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) by predicting the terminal decline of Christianity in our nation or declaring this as a statistical watershed moment …

Though the most common response to the voluntary question of religious affiliation remains “Christian,” there was a 13.1 percentage decrease from 2011 to 2021.

The ONS clarifies that these figures are about “the religion with which [respondents] connect or identify, rather than their beliefs or active religious practice.”

I do not find the trend in the responses to this particular question surprising: we have left behind the time when many people almost automatically identified as Christian.

Cottrell says that some British churches are very successful:

There are fewer people in the pews on a typical Sunday morning than a few decades ago but, at the same time, some of our churches – of all traditions and styles – are growing significantly …

It’s hard to know what churches he speaks of, but I would assume Evangelical ones that have nothing to do with the established church, the CofE. After all, the CofE rolled out local church growth programmes this year.

He posits that people are doing Christianity differently:

These apparently contrasting statistical snapshots inform a more complicated, though incomplete story, which is not one of terminal decline for religious faith nor Christianity, but more about how individuals in our ever-changing nation and culture choose to express their identity.

Hmm. I’m not so sure. In any case, that is a characteristically watery and woolly excuse, so prominent among today’s Anglican hierarchy.

He says:

the story that defines our identity has never been one of overwhelming numerical growth nor fear of extinction. Amid the complexities of identity, values and nation, Christians strive to live by the story of the Good News of Jesus Christ – a story notable for the absence of success by the world’s usual standards.

Yes, but, all the same, the CofE archbishops — York and Canterbury — are presiding over a diminishing church.

The Right Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, went to Ukraine last week. While many Anglican priests applauded his trip there …

… I wonder why he isn’t putting the same energy into getting those living in England back to church:

Personally, I think Welby went because it was a political mission for him.

Cottrell recounts the Christmas story, which also involves a census:

A watershed moment in that story happened when “Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The events that then unfolded will be shared by millions of people in the UK this Christmas.

They will hear the baby Jesus described as a light that shines in the darkness. His story is not a tale of linear success, but about how that light shines through the difficult realities of our lives and finally overcomes all darkness.

A baby is born helpless in a stable to a very young mother in an occupied country. The family is threatened with murder and flees as refugees.

As he grows, Jesus will reject worldly power and wealth. He will feast and celebrate. He will weep and mourn. He will sit with the lonely. He will sit with his enemies. He will be loved and hated, cherished and betrayed.

He will suffer injustice and die a criminal’s death. And – as Christians believe – he will rise on Easter Sunday, and secure light rather than darkness as the very final word.

That’s the fundamental story that shapes Christian identity.

And it is why I am full of hope …

That hope started with a census.

Hmm.

For me, the Christmas story starts with the Annunciation, with the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, telling her that she would bear a child whose name would be Jesus.

Mary then visited her ageing cousin Elizabeth, also with child. Her son was John the Baptist, the prophet who heralded Jesus and His ministry. Mary’s words to Elizabeth are known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which begins as follows:

1    My soul doth magnify the Lord :

and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

2    For he hath regarded :

the lowliness of his handmaiden.

3    For behold, from henceforth :

all generations shall call me blessed.

4    For he that is mighty hath magnified me :

and holy is his Name.

5    And his mercy is on them that fear him :

throughout all generations.

Cottrell ends by expressing Christianity in a very secular manner, although as with any wonky way of expressing it, there is always a germ of truth. Christians are the mainstay of combining practical and spiritual support:

… right now, across our nation Christians are offering practical help and spiritual support to anyone in need.

This winter, perhaps more than ever before, food and warmth and companionship are being made available by Christians.

We offer this to all – entirely irrespective of any census answers they may have given. And this dedication and service will continue, whatever the statistical trend.

Christians in our nation are part of a global faith: the largest movement on Earth, which is its greatest hope for a peaceful, sustainable future.

I can’t say that Cottrell’s article was particularly compelling. If I were an unbeliever, I certainly wouldn’t feel moved to attend church because of it.

As the Revd Marcus Walker, the rector of St Bartholomew The Great in the City of London, asks how we got here. As is so often the case, the laity offer informed answers, i.e. blaming the hierarchy:

This woman is right in saying that Anglican churches must return to focusing on God:

Advent is a great time for Anglican churches to attract converts. Most have choral concerts and quite a few offer Evensong:

For some attending, music goes straight to parts of the soul that liturgy or a sermon cannot reach:

I like Marcus Walker a lot and am glad that he is in charge of London’s oldest church that is still operating. St Bartholomew the Great was founded in 1123.

Another priest I like is the Revd Giles Fraser, who used to be the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. He is now the vicar of St Anne’s in Kew, West London.

Giles Fraser rightly objects to the CofE hierarchy telling churches not to hold their carol services on the day of the World Cup final this month:

An even worse CofE idea is to show the final in church instead. Horrible:

Fraser says that we are called to be faithful, not successful:

It does not sound as if he is big on the church growth strategy:

In an UnHerd article, Fraser gave his suggestions on how Christianity can flourish again in the UK:

Excerpts from ‘Secularisation is leading Britain astray’ follow:

The results of the 2021 census, announced this week, tell us that we are a minority Christian country, with just 46% self-defining as Christian. The humanists are gleeful. And the treasurer tells me we are again set to lose tens of thousands of pounds next year. Churches in poorer areas may not survive the coming storm. Ones set in the leafy suburbs may be able to reinvent themselves as fancy conference venues — but both will be subject to a kind of death.

Of course, the universal church isn’t in this situation. It remains the largest movement on earth, despite a little local difficulty in this part of the world. It just goes to highlight the woeful parochialism of so much of our media coverage. The narrative of secularisation, and of its inevitability, is linked to that dodgy old Enlightenment idea of progress — which is as much a matter of wilful faith as anything said from the pulpit. Numerically speaking, the 20th century was the Church’s best since its creation

Despite the success of the church worldwide, we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful. The central image of the Christian faith is of a man being strung up on a cross, mocked for his claims to royal authority. Whatever the outcome of this cosmic interruption, whatever its meaning, triumphalism has little place amongst the detritus of spears and spit that attended His gruesome end. For Christians, victory is claimed in the manner of His failing. A smaller church is not a failed church any more than a satsuma is a failed orange, as one bishop rightly put it.

He points out where the CofE has gone wrong over the decades:

Generally speaking, however, the leadership of the Church of England is still gripped by the debilitating fear of numerical decline. It nervously responds at every turn with cheesy new initiatives bent on making us relevant and popular. These often have the very opposite of their intended consequences: cathedrals … turning themselves into fun parks of crazy golf or helter skelters. “Please like us,” they plead, desperately, with all the panache (and success rate) of spotty teenagers dousing themselves in cheap aftershave in a bid to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex.

Fraser rightly thinks that people want spiritual gravitas in their lives, something that only the Church can provide:

In part, we have to meet people where they are. But nevertheless, our core mission is responding to a deeper seriousness in people. And chumminess with the divine is not the answer. Where the church is failing its parishioners is how thin our offer can so often be. People don’t want weak jokes from the pulpit — they want fire. And too often we have been short-changing people by simply reflecting back to them an undemanding slate of soft-Left progressive values that they already have.

That is true. Many agnostics have told me that.

These are Fraser’s suggestions to CofE bishops:

There are three things the church leadership needs to hear: the uppermost among them is to stop being so afraid. “Fear not,” is the message of the Christmas angel. If God is in charge then, ultimately, we cannot fail ... We will not be saved by better management, or by a more compelling social media strategy: we will be saved by God or not at all. To say this is not to give us an alibi for inaction or laziness or lack of creativity — simply, to insist that we live or die by our theology.

You’d think we’d have learnt by now that relevance is an unappealing evangelistic strategy. We should be doing the very opposite of proclaiming our faith through the lens of popular culture. A minority church has the freedom to be defiantly culturally different, more learned even. It can be unapologetically serious about those things secular culture shies away from, like death and our need for salvation. We do not need to speak to God as if he were our mate. And we shouldn’t be so scared of people sometimes being a little bored in church: the silence of the monastic cloister is terrifying to a generation weaned on the internet and video games, but it is here that something deeper can be mined. The Church has to stop trying to satisfy every fidgety urge of its visitors.

Finally, we must fight to reclaim that particular strand of English Christianity — associated especially with the Church of England — that regards belonging as preceding believing. Going to church is a little like going to the pub. People speak of “my pub” or “my local” in the way they used to talk about “my church” — or at least they used to. This is a place where you expect to feel at home, where you belong. Here you are welcome whoever you are.

He says there will always be times when the Church waxes and wanes:

… as with all churches that concede to a market model, it is forever subject to the logic of boom and bust. As the Parable of the Sower has it, some seed falls on stony ground and springs up quickly but soon withers because there is no depth of soil.

The latest census has triggered a great deal of doom-mongering. I am merely adding to this, of course. Bishops do an impossible job and mostly do it pretty well, despite all the brickbats they receive. And the church will, of course, survive despite its diminished circumstances.

Fraser concludes by saying that we have much more to fear from a Godless society:

Ironically, I think the secular imagination has far more challenges in store. For once it has finished piggybacking on the inherited deposit of faith, it will have to work out what it believes and why. Not believing in anything, which is the fastest growing position, has nothing to offer as a foundation for many of our moral concerns. As Tom Holland has observed, human rights, for instance, borrow substantially from a Christian worldview. When that worldview disappears from sight, secular culture will be walking on little but thin air. Without a meaningful moral story to underpin it, might will be right and power supreme.

I could not agree more. People will not like what’s coming down the pike in the years ahead.

Marcus Walker was the guest preacher for Evensong at Fraser’s church on Sunday, December 4:

The two priests shared dinner afterwards:

In closing, here is the 2022 welcome to attend an Anglican church this Christmas season. It traces a woman’s Christian journey throughout her life. Fictitious though it is, I am glad the CofE were honest enough to show full pews when she was a little girl and empty seats once she entered widowhood:

The message is that church members will support each other through each stage of life.

I guess it will do.

The Queen’s funeral on September 19 made a much more powerful statement, the closest glimpse of heaven that we will see here on earth. Fortunately, more than 4 billion people around the world watched it.

I hope that the music, the readings and the liturgy bring some of those billions to the light and truth of Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever.

The Prayer Book Society was founded in 1972.

Its purpose is to make sure that the liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) survives in the ever-modern Church of England, which began chipping away at it gradually until the appearance of the Alternative Service Book of the 1980s.

On October 4, 2022, Lord Moore — Charles Moore — the eminent author and past editor of The Telegraph and The Spectator, wrote an article for the former about the Society on its 50th anniversary.

Moore converted to Catholicism in the 1990s in opposition to women’s ordination.

However, he still has a fondness for the BCP and the Society’s work.

He provided a brief history of how the Society came into being, beginning with the first edition of the BCP in the 1500s, dating back to Archbishop Cranmer (emphases mine):

The Prayer Book Society is 50 years old this year. It came into being to protect the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) from the neglect and even hostility of the Church authorities. For roughly four centuries, Thomas Cranmer’s words, along with the Authorised Version of the Bible, provided the normative language of worship and religious education in England. The BCP therefore occupied the collective imagination of the English people. Then it was sidelined by modern versions – a tremendous loss to knowledge, beauty, literature and prayerfulness.

Moore tells us that he asked King Charles III — who was Prince of Wales at the time — to present the Thomas Cranmer prize to a worthy school child in 1989. The recipient had to:

best declaim a Prayer Book passage.

The then-Prince:

kindly and enthusiastically accepted.

Moore tells us:

In a speech of almost barnstorming eloquence, in St James Garlickhythe, the Prince declared that: “If English is spoken in Heaven (as the spread of English as a world language makes more likely each year), God undoubtedly employs Cranmer as his speech-writer. The angels of the lesser ministries probably use the language of the New English Bible and the Alternative Service Book for internal memos.”

He became the Society’s active Patron, and again presented the Thomas Cranmer Awards in 2019. Now that he has become King, all his existing patronages are being reviewed, but it would surely be entirely fitting for the new Supreme Governor of the Church of England to retain his commitment.

Currently:

More than 100 school pupils compete for the Cranmer Awards every year.

It is heartening to read that the BCP has support among younger laity and clergy:

Bradley Smith, the society’s current chairman, tells me that young people are the most numerous new recruits. This began in lockdown, which gave many of them their first chance to engage with the Prayer Book liturgy online. Among young clergy, support is particularly strong. At York Minster, BCP choral Matins is the cathedral’s fastest-growing service.

What excellent news!

Westminster Abbey was scheduled to hold a special service for the Society’s golden anniversary on Saturday, October 8. Unfortunately, a train strike has forced a postponement:

However, Mr Bradley assures me that the service will take place at a later date. As the Prayer Book puts it, there will be “a happy issue out of all our afflictions”.

Indeed.

May God continue to bless the Prayer Book Society and its work for many more decades to come.

For those living in or visiting London, the historic St James Garlickythe offers 1662 BCP services daily as well as on Sundays. It is located in the City of London. The nearest Tube station is Mansion House, and their website gives alternative routes by rail and bus.

The church has existed on its site since the 12th century and had to be rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Sir Christopher Wren designed the present church, known as ‘Wren’s Lantern’ for its many windows.

In the Middle Ages, garlic was sold in the vicinity, hence the name Garlickhythe.

Today’s post was supposed to be a comprehensive retrospective of what people around the world experienced this week in seeing Queen Elizabeth II being laid to rest.

However, I have information and reflections for more than one post.

Today’s will look at the religious aspects and history of Westminster and some Royal funeral traditions.

Westminster’s religious history

One thing I learned is that the area that is called Westminster, which we connect with the Abbey and the Palace (where the Houses of Parliament meet) was originally a monastery with a church on the site.

‘West’ refers to the location being to the west of where most people were settled long before the Norman Conquest in 1066.

The word ‘minster’ is the Anglicised version of the Latin ‘monasterii’, ‘monasterium’ and ‘monasteriensis’, dating back to 669.

My curiosity was piqued when I read the inscription of the four tall candlesticks immediately flanking the Queen’s catafalque. Unfortunately, I do not have the full wording, but ‘Westmonasterii’ and ‘Petri’ are on them, gold lettering on a red border, just underneath where the large, thick beeswax candles sit.

Then came the story of how the monastery became linked to St Peter, the fisherman who became a bold Apostle preaching Christ after the first Pentecost.

In 2017, Cambridge University Press published a paper by Bernhard W Scholz, Sulcard of Westminster: Prologus de construccione Westmonasterii.

An extract reads, in part (emphases mine):

Sulcard, a monk of Westminster in the eleventh century, is the author of the first history of his monastery, the unprinted Prologus de construccione Westmonasterii. In this brief tract he describes the foundation of Westminster in the days, as he claims, of King Æthelberht of Kent, and the patronage and endowment extended by various benefactors, notably Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury and King Edward the Confessor. Sulcard also records the marvellous dedication of Westminster by St. Peter, patron of the church, and two other miracles worked in Westminster by the prince of the apostles.

Of the original church, replaced by the structure we know today, the Wikipedia entry for Westminster Abbey states:

According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the seventh century at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present church began in 1245 on the orders of King Henry III.[5]

Here is where St Peter comes in. A tradition dedicated to him continues today:

A late tradition claims that Aldrich, a young fisherman on the River Thames, had a vision of Saint Peter near the site. This seems to have been quoted as the origin of the salmon that Thames fishermen offered to the abbey in later years, a custom still observed annually by the Fishmongers’ Company

Sulcard‘s entry reads:

The sole work which Sulcard is known to have produced is the so-called Prologus de Construccione Westmonasterii (“Prologue concerning the Building of Westminster”), dedicated to Abbot Vitalis of Bernay (c. 1076—?1085) and hence datable to about 1080.[2] It relates the history of the abbey, beginning in the time of Mellitus, bishop of London (604—17), with the foundation of its first church on what was then Thorney Island by a wealthy Londoner and his wife. It concludes with the dedication of a new church erected by King Edward the Confessor (r. 1042–1066) for the monastery. In the dedication to Vitalis, Sulcard writes that he intended his work to serve as a ‘commemorative book’ (codex memorialis) for his house. He was primarily interested in promoting the cult of St. Peter, the abbey’s patron saint, who is said to have miraculously appeared in the early 7th century to dedicate the church in person. Two copies of the history are extant, the earliest being a chartulary from Winchester (c. 1300), BL, Cotton MS Faustina A.iii, fols. 11r—16v. The other copy is in BL, Cotton MS Titus A.viii, fols. 2r–5v. The title is not contemporary, but derives from the heading in the former chartulary, to which it serves as a prologue.[3]

Apart from relating local traditions about St. Peter’s miraculous involvement, the narrative of Sulcard’s prologus is relatively free of embellishments.[1]

It does not appear that the monks had an easy time of it on Thorney Island:

Thorney Island was the eyot (or small island) on the Thames, upstream of medieval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (commonly known today as the Houses of Parliament) were built. It was formed by rivulets of the River Tyburn, which entered the Thames nearby. In Roman times, and presumably before, Thorney Island may have been part of a natural ford where Watling Street crossed the Thames,[1] of particular importance before the construction of London Bridge.

The name may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon Þorn-īeg, meaning “Thorn Island”. [2]

Thorney is described in a purported 8th century charter of King Offa of Mercia, which is kept in the Abbey muniments, as a “terrible place”. In the Spring of 893, Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, forced invading Vikings to take refuge on Thorney Island.[3] Despite hardships and more Viking raids over the following centuries, the monks tamed the island until by the time of Edward the Confessor it was “A delightful place, surrounded by fertile land and green fields”. The abbey’s College Garden survives, a thousand years later, and may be the oldest garden in England.[4]

Since the Middle Ages, the level of the land has risen, the rivulets have been built over, and the Thames has been embanked, so that there is now no visible Thorney Island. The name is kept only by Thorney Street, at the back of the MI5 Security Service building; but a local heritage organisation established by June Stubbs in 1976 took the name The Thorney Island Society.

In 1831 the boundaries of the former island were described as the Chelsea Waterworks, the Grosvenor Canal, and the ornamental water in St James’s Park.[5]

Thorney Island is one of the places reputed to be the site of King Canute’s demonstration that he could not command the tides, because he built a palace at Westminster.

In 2000, the politician John Roper was created a Life peer and revived the name of Thorney in Parliament by taking the title Baron Roper of Thorney Island in the City of Westminster.[6]

Royal traditions at Westminster Hall

The Daily Mail has an excellent article on Westminster Hall’s history from 1087 to the present, beginning with William the Conqueror’s son, William II, or William Rufus.

The Queen’s lying in rest was another historic milestone. By September 15, just four days before her funeral, someone described it as a:

piece of history that will never be repeated.

Before the public viewing started, Westminster Abbey’s clergy and the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a 20-minute service, accompanied by the Abbey choir.

Although the Hall is unconsecrated ground, it nonetheless felt as if it were a church.

The hundreds of thousands of people who filed past over four days, until 6:30 a.m. on the morning of Monday, September 19, 2022, also respected it as such. The continuing silence was overwhelming in its beauty.

Although there are traditions relating to monarchs long ago, the Westminster Hall visitation is a relatively new one, as The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley tells us:

The modern lying-in-state was invented in 1910, for the funeral of Edward VII. No tickets were issued; rich and poor queued in torrential rain. As the doors opened at Westminster Hall, a work girl was heard to cry, “They’re givin’ ’im back to us!”

When the ceremony was repeated for George V in 1936, cynics sneered at its elitist “pomp”. The writer G K Chesterton advised them to open a history book. In aiming to modernise royalty by bringing George’s body closer to the people, he said, the court turned the clock back to the Middle Ages, to when kingship was more personal and tangible. The coffin of a medieval sovereign was generally topped with a waxwork effigy, so that even the lowliest subject could see what he looked like.

The body of a monarch was, in a sense, sacred, transformed by coronation into an instrument of God. But, like Doubting Thomas, we need to see to believe. Hence even as monarchy became more absolutist over time, better convinced of its divine rights, the principal actors still felt the need to put on a show.

France’s monarchy was even more open than ours. The public could watch Louis XIV and his family at Versailles:

Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, rose every morning, washed, shaved and dressed in front of an audience of around 100 people. Anyone could come to see him at Versailles; all you needed to get in w[ere] a hat and a sword, and the concierge did a nice sideline in selling both. Tourists could watch the royal family going to chapel, eating, even playing cards – you could say Versailles was the Center Parcs of its day, though reviews were scathing about the pickpocketing and the smell. The palace did not benefit from modern plumbing. People relieved themselves in the corridors. There’s a story that Marie Antoinette once stepped out for a walk and a woman in the window above emptied a chamberpot over her head.

Returning to Westminster Hall last week, Stanley says:

Let’s call it what it is: a pilgrimage. The body has been returned to the people; the people have come to see it, drawn by belief, by spectacle or raw instinct. When I entered Westminster Hall, I saw at once that it was a shrine, marked by candles and shrouded in silence. Phones were banned.

Alone at the coffin, some bowed, some curtsied, some crossed themselves. These ritual gestures, observed Chesterton back in 1936, are “not only more serious but more spontaneous” than the “ghastly mummery of saying a few words” … The poverty of the 21st-century imagination betrays the dead and the living. Tradition honours with awe, and it provides those left behind with the language and actions to articulate the inexpressible.

The person who willingly submits to the ritual of the lying-in-state, argued Chesterton, “may not be an exceptional person but at least he understands what is meant by an exceptional occasion.” By contrast, the bright spark who stands above it all forfeits the wisdom of the crowd, and by rejecting history, discards a part of themselves, too – so that they are ignorant even of their own identity. Worse, they are without hope. If you believe, as we are encouraged to believe today, that death is it, the funeral is a “goodbye” that can’t even be heard by the deceased. But if you believe, as the late Queen did, that there is a life after this one, then the rite is a demonstration of faith that things will continue.

To inhabit a tradition means not only to participate in it but to pass it on. Its survival is a tribute to the perseverance of life itself. We will be told that all we’ve seen is old hat; we’ll be told that even if it was grand, Queen Elizabeth was its last shout. Well, they’ve said that a million times before, and yet here we are lining the streets, or crowding around the television, bearing witness to an ancient institution that has the audacity to claim its origin from King Solomon.

Bemusement? It renders clarity. Despair? It offers hope.

I will return to faith in a moment.

Also writing for The Telegraph, Christopher Howse described the ‘sacred mysteries’ surrounding royal ceremonies:

The lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth, her coffin covered by the royal standard upon which rested the Imperial State Crown, made an argument hard to reduce to words. It argued for a constitutional monarchy and the ancient conventions surrounding it. Millions of people this week have quietly taken part in recognising that reality.

In religion, an old saw says: lex orandi lex credendi – the law of prayer is the law of belief. In other words, prayers and liturgy express implicit meanings behind them. Perform the rites and you learn what you believe.

Something similar operates in state ceremonial. I know that traditions are reinvented, and that the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall is little over a century old. But it incorporates remarkably old elements. In the Imperial State Crown, for example, is the sapphire of St Edward, said to have been part of the coronation ring of King Edward the Confessor, who came to the throne in 1042.

It is not too soon now … to consider the coronation of King Charles. There is antiquity here too, the inheritance of which should not be thrown away. The motet Zadok the Priest, for example, has been sung at every coronation since 973, for King Edgar. The words are based on the First Book of Kings (1:38): “Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king. And all the people rejoiced and said: God save the King! Long live the King! God save the King!”

… Some of my fears have been assuaged by the words of King Charles. He had once spoken of being the defender of faiths, rather than the faith of the Church of England implied by the abbreviations found on our coinage: FID DEF – fidei defensor. In his first address on coming to the throne, King Charles called the Church of England “the church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted”.

The Coronation takes place within the service of Holy Communion (even if films from 1953 omit images of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh receiving the Sacrament, as they did).

And, no matter what, we are better off with an established church in England than without one, precisely for these reasons:

Sometimes I find the Church of England annoying. Who doesn’t? But I’d rather have it as the Established Church than not … as the godly anointing of the head of state and supreme governor of the Church of England, the Coronation must retain the Christian elements that define it.

The only noise we heard was during the changing of the guard, which took place every 20 minutes. Unless one does it as a job, i.e. in front of one of the palaces, it is difficult to stand completely still in one place for much longer.

Lucy Denyer wrote an article for The Telegraph describing what an honour it was for her to see her husband as part of that guard:

My husband is – imperceptibly, infinitesimally – swaying. Backwards and forwards he goes, gently, so, so gently. Blink and you’d miss it; to all intents and purposes he is standing stock still, eyes front, unsmiling, upright. You’d only catch the tiny movement if you were looking very intently.

The rocking – forwards and backwards from the heel to the ball of the foot – keeps the blood flowing; stops him passing out. Watch really carefully and they’re all at it. 

The Queen herself also did that when standing for long periods of time. It does work.

She, too, commented on the silence:

Inside, under the bright lights hanging from the mediaeval beams, it is silent, bar the tapping of feet, the discreet click of an official photographer’s lens and once, the wail of a baby.

Suddenly comes the bang of sword on stone, the signal for the guard to change. It is precisely 12:20am and the four on the corners swing their swords in a graceful arc in perfect time, before making their careful way down the steps of the dais on which the late Queen’s catafalque stands …

My husband tells me afterwards that all he could think of, at this point, was not to trip, fall – and become a global meme.

She discussed the power of ritual and solemnity of a vigil:

A vigil can at once be grand or simple, awe-inspiring or strangely intimate – or all of those things – and Queen Elizabeth II’s is no exception. Ignore the velvet ropes and the electric lights – and the anoraks, trainers and clutched plastic bags – and this could be a moment from another time; it is timeless.

Soothing, too; the endless river of people filing by the coffin. Most slow, some bow, others curtsey, some blow kisses. Many linger after they have passed by, reluctant to leave this sanctuary that it has taken them so long to reach. Exhaustion is etched on faces; there is the odd dazed-looking child stumbling along between its parents.

Among this stream of awkward humanity, the officers on guard stand in marked contrast – statues, doing their duty. They have been practicing all week: their entrances and exits, their synchronised sword drills run through at home in spare half hours with umbrellas. Standing orders have been dusted off, breastplates refitted, helmets adjusted, boots polished. I have seen the pomp and ceremony hundreds of times, yet never carried out so silently; there is no shouting of orders in here.

The sword bangs once more; it is time to leave. On top of the coffin, the Black Prince’s Ruby suddenly flashes red. I pause, bow my head, say a prayer of thanks – for Her Majesty’s life, but also, in her death, to have been able to see this, to watch my husband carry out this enormous honour.

Returning to Windsor — and to God

After the Queen’s committal at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Tim Stanley wrote a moving tribute for The Telegraph:

The Committal was a homecoming. To Windsor and to God.

This is one of England’s holiest spots, burial site of kings, church of the Order of the Garter, it once hosted a splinter of Christ’s cross. Its slender pillars are like the trunks of ash trees. 

Beneath its canopy of silver lattice, the coffin was borne to the quire and rested at the catafalque, to a setting of Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills.”

Then the choir sang the Russian contakion of the departed, also performed at the Duke’s funeral, a nod to the family’s Orthodox heritage. Absent a eulogy, it was the music that expressed Her Majesty’s character and convictions, including a motet arranged by Sir William Henry Harris who, it is believed, taught the young Princess Elizabeth how to play the piano. As a child, she could often be found in the organ loft listening to him play for the services down below, especially at Christmas.

The words by John Donne crystallised the message of the readings: “Bring us, O Lord God… into the house and gate of Heaven”, where there shall be no darkness “but one equal light”, no noise “but one equal music” and one “equal eternity”.

Put another way, Elizabeth II lived as a queen but, in death, she is a soul equal to any other, returned to God. In an age of atheism, when Christians are persecuted across the world, it’s remarkable that perhaps history’s largest ever TV audience was given over to a statement of unafraid Christian belief – and over the course of the Committal, one cleric after another expressed the vision of their church with utter clarity.

There is the reality of mortality, as described by the Dean of Windsor in Psalm 103: “The days of man are but grass… As soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.”

There is the certainty of life after death, as stated in the prayers: “We rejoice at thy gracious promise to all thy servants, living and departed, that we shall rise again at the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” And there is the vision of triumph at the end of times, as the Dean quoted from Revelation: “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying.”

This passage was read at the funerals of the Queen’s grandparents and father, casting us back over an unbroken line of succession.

There was no qualification in any of these words, no Thought for the Day “some might say, others will feel differently”, but instead pure hope rooted in unshakable faith. The Queen has died, but her story does not end. That’s true for the monarchy, as well

Finally, the coffin lowered into the ground as the Dean continued: “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul.” The Garter King of Arms proclaimed the late Queen’s titles; a bagpiper played a lament from the North Quire Aisle, slowly walking into the distance, till the figure and his tune became a ghost in the ash forest. You might say that physically we were in England, but spiritually we were in Balmoral.

And the congregation awoke from its reverie into a new era …

Later, of course, the family would say a very private farewell to Queen Elizabeth, and she would be laid next to her beloved husband – concluding a set of rites that, like Russian dolls, grew smaller and more precious in form

For the public, the emotional journey to this moment was intense. Over 10 days, the lying in state allowed us to participate in the Queen’s farewell and, let’s be honest, make it a little bit about us. How British were the queues, we said, how democratic the whole thing.

But at the Abbey and the Chapel, we saw what this was really all about: namely the late Queen, her precious traditions and the principles they exist to pass on. Ultimately, the Committal articulated love – for country, for family, for horses and dogs, all the things that make a life worth living.

The Church of England is preoccupied by church growth programmes.

They do not need that at all.

What they need is a continuous replay of the Queen’s four days in Westminster Hall, her funeral at Westminster Abbey and her committal service at St George’s Chapel.

My message to Anglican clerics is: build it and they will come.

————————————————-

It is not too late to send the Royal Family a message of condolence:

My better half and I were in London yesterday. Friends told us that floral tributes were still being laid in the relevant parks and at Windsor Castle.

It is good to see that mourners are still remembering our late monarch, especially as the Royal Family now have a chance to grieve in private for the next few days.

May God bless them on that difficult journey.

Long live the King.

Reflections on the Queen continue next week.

Shall we not call our late Queen Elizabeth the Good?

While everyone has been calling her Elizabeth the Great, historian David Starkey was right to point out last week on GB News that ‘the Great’ belongs to rulers who won great wars.

Our Queen has also been referred to as Elizabeth the Dutiful and Elizabeth the Faithful.

Yet, it seems we should find a monosyllabic word.

Therefore, Elizabeth the Good seems fitting.

Someone on GB News suggested that very briefly, and only once. It is a good suggestion.

Yesterday’s post was about the Queen’s state funeral in London, the first since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.

Monday, September 19 concluded with her committal service at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The funeral cortege left London for Windsor, where the public viewing area was full of mourners. You could hear a pin drop.

The procession was smaller and made its way up the Long Walk to the castle.

The Queen’s favourite pony stood quietly on the side to watch his mistress pass by one last time. Her two corgis were nearby and able to watch it. They were very well behaved. Do animals sense death? It would seem so.

Prince Andrew is now the keeper of the corgis.

The Times reported (emphases mine):

The Queen’s corgis waited in the Quadrant at Windsor Castle as the funeral procession made its way to St George’s Chapel.

Muick and Sandy — one on a red lead and one on a blue lead — were brought out on to the steps by two pages in red tailcoats for the arrival of the Queen’s coffin.

Emma, the Queen’s fell pony, was standing in a gap in the floral tributes lining the Long Walk as the procession moved towards the castle. Emma was among the Queen’s favourites and is said to be still going strong at 24 years old.

The two corgis will now be looked after by the Duke of York and his ex-wife Sarah, Duchess of York.

Muick (pron. ‘Mick’) is named for one of Prince Philip’s favourite places in Scotland, Loch Muick.

This video shows the crowds, the procession and her favourite animals:

The pallbearers carefully carried the Queen’s casket, which, as it is lined with lead, weighs around 700 pounds. An even procession upwards mandates that all the pallbearers be the same height. The officer in charge gave them instructions on negotiating the steps of St George’s Chapel as they progressed:

Around 800 invited mourners filled the chapel. That said, this was a more private service for those who live and work on the estate as well as for foreign royals, other dignitaries and for members of the military.

The Order of Service for the Committal is here:

The service began at 4:08 p.m., eight minutes later than scheduled. The procession in London took slightly longer than anticipated.

Senior members of the Royal Family, including young Prince George and Prince Charlotte, processed behind the casket in the chapel.

The full service is below. Access it via their tweet:

My far better half preferred the Committal Service to the one in the Abbey because it dealt with her instruments of state and her being lowered into the vault at the end.

I immediately noted the more modern English used in the prayers and the spoken readings.

Highlights of the service follow.

The pallbearers brought the Queen’s casket up in front of the altar, over the lift that would take her down into the vault at the end. This also happened at Prince Philip’s funeral:

The minister from Crathie Kirk near Balmoral joined the Chapel clergy and the Archbishop of Canterbury:

The service will be conducted by the Right Reverend David Connor, Dean of Windsor, with prayers said by the Rector of Sandringham, the Minister of Crathie Kirk and the Chaplain of Windsor Great Park and the blessing pronounced by the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby.

The Choir of St George’s Chapel will sing during the Service, conducted by Director of Music James Vivian.

The choir sang Psalm 121:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills: from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh even from the Lord: who hath made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
and he that keepeth thee will not sleep.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel: shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord himself is thy keeper: the Lord is thy defence upon thy right hand;
So that the sun shall not burn thee by day: neither the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
yea, it is even he that shall keep thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in:
from this time forth for evermore.

Then the choir sang The Russian Kontakion for the Departed, also sung at Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021. He had been raised Greek Orthodox.

The musical arrangement was the Kiev Melody, in a nod to Ukraine.

These are the lyrics:

Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy Saints:
where sorrow and pain are no more; neither sighing but life everlasting.
Thou only art immortal, the Creator and Maker of man:
And we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return:
For so thou didst ordain, when thou createdst me, saying,
Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
All we go down to the dust; and, weeping o’er the grave we make our song:
Alleluya, alleluya, alleluya.
Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy Saints:
Where sorrow and pain are no more; neither sighing but life everlasting.

The Dean of Windsor recited the Bidding Prayer:

We have come together to commit into the hands of God the soul of his servant Queen Elizabeth. Here, in St George’s Chapel, where she so often worshipped, we are bound to call to mind someone whose uncomplicated yet profound Christian Faith bore so much fruit. Fruit, in a life of unstinting service to the Nation, the Commonwealth and the wider world, but also (and especially to be remembered in this place) in kindness, concern and reassuring care for her family and friends and neighbours. In the midst of our rapidly changing and frequently troubled world, her calm and dignified presence has given us confidence to face the future, as she did, with courage and with hope. As, with grateful hearts, we reflect on these and all the many other ways in which her long life has been a blessing to us, we pray that God will give us grace to honour her memory by following her example, and that, with our sister Elizabeth, at the last, we shall know the joys of life eternal.

The Dean of Windsor, who is also the Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, for it is at St George’s Chapel where the Garter ceremonies are conducted, read Revelation 21.1-7:

I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

The minister of Crathie Kirk participated in the clergy prayers. These included one for the Royal Family and another for the Queen and her fellow Companions of the Order of the Garter:

Lord God Almighty, King of creation, bless our King and all Members of the Royal Family. May godliness be their guidance, may sanctity be their strength, may peace on earth be the fruit of their labours, and their joy in heaven thine eternal gift; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

God save our gracious Sovereign and all the Companions, living and departed, of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. Amen.

The choir sang the prayer from John Donne that was also part of the Westminster Abbey service.

Then the drama began. I cannot think of a better word, so, please excuse me.

The Telegraph describes how the Queen’s instruments of state were ceremonially removed from her coffin and placed on the altar. This was written beforehand, hence the future tense:

Queen Elizabeth II will finally part company with the Imperial State Crown, orb and sceptre as the final hymn is sung at her committal ceremony, in what is likely to be one of the most moving moments of today’s funeral

They will only be removed in the final moments before the public sees its last images of the monarch’s coffin.

Before the final hymn is sung in St George’s Chapel during the ceremony that begins at 4pm today, Mark Appleby, the Crown Jeweller, will remove the crown, orb and sceptre from the coffin, with the help of the Bargemaster and the Serjeants-at-Arms – royal servants who guard the regalia during state occasions. They will pass them one by one to the Dean of Windsor, who will place them on the high altar.

While the crown represents the sovereign’s power over her subjects, the orb, made up of a cross above a globe, represents Christ’s earthly dominion and symbolises the monarch’s status as God’s mortal representative. The sceptre, which holds the world’s largest cut diamond, the Cullinan I, represents equity and mercy. They will be presented to the King at his coronation in 2023.

They are now back safely at the Tower of London.

Watching this ceremony, I was reminded of 1 Timothy 6:7:

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

Each instrument of state had its own purple cushion on the altar. The orb has a golden spike on the bottom to keep it anchored. Its cushion is specially designed with a metal recipient in the centre.

King Charles then had a role to play. He was sitting where the Queen used to sit.

He rose and stood before his mother’s coffin to:

place a military flag on top of the coffin which, according to the Army, will be placed inside her coffin before she is interred.

The Grenadier Guards Queen’s Company Camp Colour – a small flag which normally adorns the Company Captain’s bunk designating his place of work – is unique to each sovereign and ceases to be used when they die

The Grenadier Guards are the most senior of the Foot Guards regiments, and the Queen was their Colonel in Chief.

The full-sized version of the flag was draped at the foot of the Queen’s coffin as she lay in state.

After that took place, the King took his place and the Lord Chamberlain, the Royal household’s most senior member, broke his wand of office and placed it on top of the coffin. The wand is designed such that there is a break point in the middle, surrounded by metal on either side.

The Lord Chamberlain broke his wand because, with the Queen’s death, his work has now ended — unless the King decides to reappoint him.

Here are photos of the instruments of state, King and the Lord Chamberlain:

The Queen’s coffin was then lowered into the vault (see the 1:42:00 point in the Royal Family video). The complete lowering is never shown to the public.

While that took place, the Dean of Windsor recited Psalm 103:13-17 in traditional language:

Like as a father pitieth his own children:
even so is the Lord merciful unto them that fear him.
For he knoweth whereof we are made:
he remembereth that we are but dust.
The days of man are but as grass:
for he flourisheth as a flower of the field.
For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone:
and the place thereof shall know it no more.
But the merciful goodness of the Lord endureth for ever and ever
upon them that fear him:
and his righteousness upon children’s children.

He then recited a committal prayer, again in traditional language:

Go forth upon thy journey from this world,
O Christian soul;
In the name of God the Father Almighty who created thee;
In the name of Jesus Christ who suffered for thee;
In the name of the Holy Spirit who strengtheneth thee.
In communion with the blessèd saints,
and aided by Angels and Archangels,
and all the armies of the heavenly host,
may thy portion this day be in peace,
and thy dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Amen.

Then, the Queen’s Piper, Pipe Major James M. Banks — the one who played the lament at Westminster Abbey — appeared in a side aisle to play another lament.

As he was ending, viewers could see him pass the doorway near the altar and vanish as the pipes faded away into silence.

You won’t want to miss this:

The service was about to end but not before the Dean prayed for the King:

Let us humbly beseech Almighty God to bless with long life, health and honour, and all worldly happiness the Most High, Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch, our Sovereign Lord, now, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. God Save The King.

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave the blessing:

Go forth into the world in peace;
Be of good courage, hold fast that which is good,
render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted,
support the weak, help the afflicted, honour all people,
love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

The congregation sang one verse of the National Anthem.

They then processed out in order:

All remain standing as The King and The Queen Consort, preceded by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York and accompanied by the Dean of Windsor, move to the Galilee Porch. At the Galilee Porch the Archbishop of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Windsor take their leave.

Other members of the Royal Family, escorted by the Canons of Windsor, move to the Galilee Porch, where the Canons, the Archbishop of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Windsor take their leave.

Members of Foreign Royal Families, Governors Generals and Realm Prime Ministers, escorted by Gentlemen Ushers, move to the West Doors.

The Choir and Succentor leave the Quire by way of the Organ Screen. The Clergy leave by way of the North Quire Gate. The Congregation sits.

His Majesty’s Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms and The King’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard move by way of the Centre Aisle, the North Nave Aisle and the North Quire Aisle to the Cloisters.

The Congregation will be asked by the Stewards and the Ushers to leave the Chapel.

However, the day was not yet finished for the Queen’s children.

At 7:30 p.m., they returned to enter the tiny King George VI Memorial Chapel, which holds only six people maximum, to inter their beloved mother and father:

whose coffins will be moved from the royal vault to be interred alongside the Queen’s parents and her sister Princess Margaret.

According to Royal experts, George VI often said to his wife and daughters before the Queen married, ‘It’s only the four of us’.

Here is a family portrait of them with the Duke of Edinburgh:

With the interment came the end of Operation London Bridge, which went brilliantly. It is likely to have been the first and the last occasion of its kind.

Well, the Queen was the first and last of her kind, too:

The Royal Family have another week of mourning. Until now, they have had no chance to grieve privately:

Visitors to Royal palaces should be aware that some exhibitions and tours will be closed, some for the rest of the year:

In closing, many of us will feel like this corgi, rather bereft:

My next post will analyse the significance of the funeral services and the past two weeks.

On Monday, September 19, 2022, the United Kingdom held its first state funeral since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.

The public viewing of the Queen’s casket at Westminster Hall ended at 6:30 a.m.:

I am certain that more than 250,000 people filed past in four days in London, because in 2002, 200,000 filed past her mother’s coffin in three days. I was one of them. It was an unforgettable experience.

The Sky News article had more numbers before the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey began:

The Mayor of London’s office said an estimated 80,000 people were in Hyde Park, 75,000 in ceremonial viewing areas and 60,000 on South Carriage Drive.

Overall numbers will be much higher as crowds formed on virtually the entire route to Windsor, where Thames Valley Police said 100,000 people had turned out.

The Telegraph reported much higher numbers for Westminster Hall. These seem more realistic to me:

The four-day lying-in-state ceremony has seen more than a million mourners packing the banks of the Thames, waiting in a queue which, at its peak, took 24 hours and stretched 10 miles, beyond London Bridge to Southwark Park.

On the final day, Westminster Hall was attended by dozens of foreign leaders and royals who have arrived in London ahead of the state funeral, which starts at 11am.

They included Joe Biden, the US President, Emmanuel Macron, the French leader, Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and his wife Michelle, King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain, and King Phillipe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

On Sunday morning, the Government warned people not to travel to the queue “to avoid disappointment”.

Another Telegraph article had more statistics about the Elizabeth Line (emphases mine):

At an average queueing time of 12 hours – perhaps even more – they had clocked up a total of 4.8 million hours between them as they shuffled forward, uncomplainingly, in the sunshine, and in the cold, and in the dark. It means that since the late Queen’s lying in state began last Wednesday, her people had spent a cumulative 550 years saying their final thank you.

And if each of them entered the winding, folding queue at its end in Southwark Park, they would have walked 4 million miles between them, the equivalent of 153,846 marathons.

The fact that all of them knew how arduous the wait would be, having been given ample warning, is an even more reliable measure of how much Queen Elizabeth meant to them.

From children in push-chairs to pensioners and even global celebrities, they patiently waited their turn to spend only a few minutes in the presence of the late Queen’s coffin, almost all of them pausing to bow or curtsy, many of them turning away in tears.

As one of my readers, dearieme, pointed out, this shows the trust our Queen had in her subjects and foreign visitors:

How often in the history of civilisations would governments, here or elsewhere, have allowed – even encouraged – huge mobs of the public to congregate, and trust largely to their natural instincts to keep themselves in order?

I think the answer might be “rarely”.

Douglas Murray pondered all of the above in his Telegraph article: ‘Our late Queen’s final act was to bring her nation and the world deeply together’.

Excerpts follow:

The passing of Elizabeth II is remarkable for many reasons. But just one of them is the way in which the Queen’s final act seems to have been to bring her nation deeply together.

There is the literal way in which that has happened, with the mini-nationalists across Britain ceasing – for a moment at least – their relentless task of trying to tear our country apart. The Scottish nationalists observed the death of our monarch without a series of “buts”. Even Sinn Fein paid tribute and passed condolences to the Queen’s son and heir – an act that would have been unthinkable beforehand.

People have rightly remarked on the way in which hundreds of thousands of people have queued to pay their own personal respects to the late Queen. But almost as remarkable is the way in which other nations around the world, as well as their media, have mourned her death

The Queen leaves behind a Commonwealth that has been united in mourning – hardly the expected reaction if she had been the cruel tyrant of the New York Times’s imagination

What is more, although the dissenters have received an extraordinary amount of attention, more extraordinary by far is how united the world’s response has been.

France, for instance, is not a country known for its love of monarchy. But on the death of Queen Elizabeth the French political and media class were united in paying tribute to her. She was honoured on the cover of almost every French magazine and periodical, as she was across the European and world media.

This reaction is largely a tribute to a reign of unparalleled length and dignity, a life given to the service of the country and the deepening of alliances with our friends and allies. But it also serves as a reminder of the way in which Britain is regarded around the world. With the exception of a few raucously noisy malcontents, we find that most people do not regard Britain as some terrible tyrannical power, either now or in history. Most see us, rightly, as having been among the fairer, certainly more benign, world powers

This is the Britain that is still influential both in its impact abroad and also in the lives of its citizens. I doubt that there has been a figure in history whose death has led to such a voluntary outburst of feeling. There may have been despots whose death had to be mourned by their citizens and subjects, but there can have been few, if any, who have ever produced such willing devotion.

And there is a lesson in this for our institutions, and for institutions and nations around the world: people are loyal to institutions that are loyal to them. Break any part of that pact and you break the whole; sustain it and you sustain the whole.

Queen Elizabeth II swore an oath to this country as a young woman, and it was an oath she kept until her dying day. That loyalty is what is being honoured and mirrored today: the respect of people around the world for a life of service and duty. Something to remember, certainly. But something to emulate and live up to as well.

On the subject of tributes from abroad, a Belgian created this inspired photo montage of the Queen:

The next two short videos are well worth watching. The first is about Elizabeth II’s ‘Queenhood’, probably written by the poet laureate with footage from her coronation. The second is a film montage of her entire life from beginning to end:

Operation London Bridge — the Queen’s funeral plan — was now in its final phase in the capital and at Windsor Castle.

A military procession arrived at Westminster Hall to take the Queen for her final time to Westminster Abbey.

A new bouquet of pink and purple flowers with foliage and herbs — rosemary for remembrance and myrtle from the plant which supplied the sprigs for her wedding — replaced the white wreath for her lying in state:

Eight pallbearers from the military carefully placed her coffin onto a gun carriage. Naval ratings holding onto ropes in front and in back guided the gun carriage on its way.

This tradition began with Queen Victoria’s funeral, which took place in January 1901. Horses were supposed to transport the gun carriage, but part of it snapped off in the cold, thereby making it impossible. Prince Louis Battenberg, who was Prince Philip’s grandfather, came up with the solution, which, he said, had operated satisfactorily during the Boer War:

If it is impossible to mend the traces you can always get the naval guard of honour to drag the gun carriage.

The tradition continued throughout the 20th century:

The gun carriage is part of the materiel of the King’s Troop, commanded for the first time by a woman, Captain Amy Hooper. She told The Telegraph that she was in Canada when the Queen’s death was announced:

“BRIDGE, BRIDGE, BRIDGE,” the text stated. “Operation LONDON BRIDGE has been activated. Initiate telephone cascade. All personnel are to return to camp”

She was in Calgary when the news broke, along with soldiers exercising alongside Canadian mounted units. The British party was flying back to the UK within five hours

Soldiers as far away as Turkey and America had to cancel their family holidays and return to the UK

On Monday, she will be leading the gun team in Hyde Park for the Queen’s funeral.

King’s Troop, a unit of about 160 soldiers with an equal split of men and women, has one of the most important ceremonial roles in the British armed forces.

Their six 13-pounder quick-fire guns, built between 1913 and 1918, all of which have seen active service in the First and Second World Wars, are used regularly for royal salutes in Hyde Park, Green Park or Windsor Great Park for State Occasions and to mark royal anniversaries and royal birthdays …

The gun carriage is known as the George Gun Carriage, and carried King George VI’s coffin from Sandringham Church to Wolferton Station in February 1952. It was also used in the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002.

Queen Elizabeth’s funeral had more troops and regiments than had ever been gathered at one time.

These included troops from around the Commonwealth, particularly Canada and Australia:

The soldiers walked at a 75 beat per minute pace, which is slow and difficult to sustain.

The Times reported on the use of a metronome, mimicked on the day by drum beats to ensure proper timing:

Military chiefs have been told to “up their game” for the Queen’s funeral today and listen to a metronome at 75 beats per minute to ensure the right pace during the procession.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the defence staff, admitted to nerves but said an enormous amount of planning for the event had gone on for “a very long time”. He said more than 10,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women would perform their “last duty” to the Queen during the day’s events.

Queen Elizabeth wished to have her funeral at Westminster Abbey because she had been married and crowned there.

The last monarch to have a funeral at the Abbey was George II on November 13, 1760. The other monarchs had theirs at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Queen’s children along with Princes William and Harry walked in the procession to the Abbey.

Meanwhile, heads of state and dignitaries took their places inside. Charity workers also were seated.

The Queen Consort and the Princess of Wales arrived with Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7:

The procession arrived at the Abbey and the pallbearers carefully carried the Queen’s coffin inside:

You can find the Order of Service here:

The Times has an excellent article on the service.

You can see the procession from Westminster Hall and the full funeral service. As with the other Royal Family YouTube links I have posted, if you get a message saying it cannot be viewed, click on  ‘Watch on YouTube’ or this tweet:

The Queen chose the music, which held particular significance to her and to the Abbey:

Pardon the irreverence, but this is an aerial view of the seating plan in the transept. Look how far back Joe Biden was. Apparently, his Beasts and motorcade got caught up in traffic, although he arrived before the service began. By contrast, the dignitaries who took the white coaches in the ‘podding’ system got there on time. Even if he hadn’t been late, he would still have been seated in the same place.

The altar is to the left and, out of shot, to the right are more seats for guests:

https://image.vuukle.com/7e30ba7f-4b3a-4ae2-b29a-1c92f7219cf8-4544ff54-d68d-45f4-a999-a193e9dbf19b

Likely sitting out of shot was, ironically, The Guardian‘s editor, Kath Viner:

Guido Fawkes has a quote from one of her recent editorials. I cannot bear to cite it in full, so here are the first and last sentences:

Royal rituals are contrived affairs meant to generate popular attachment to a privileged institution and to serve as reminders of a glorious past … How much Britain will be changed once this moment floats past the country is as yet unknown.

Guido commented (emphasis his):

Of course that didn’t stop the Guardian’s editor Kath Viner accepting a ticket to the funeral from the “privileged institution” herself. Maybe she’s sentimental…

Another hypocrite turned up, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, she of the second independence referendum.

The Times has a photo of her and her husband, Peter Murrell, along with a few quotes:

Nicola Sturgeon has said it was an “honour to represent Scotland” as leaders from across the world joined the royal family and other mourners at the state funeral.

The first minister was among some 2,000 mourners at Westminster Abbey along with leaders of the other main Scottish political parties. She spoke of a “final and poignant goodbye to a deeply respected and much-loved monarch”.

As I listened to the liturgy, I could not help but think that this is the last time we will hear language from the King James Version of the Bible and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer at a service for the Royals. How I will miss it. I hope I am wrong.

There was one prayer from an even earlier version of the Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Cranmer’s, from 1549. This was put to music. The choir did it full justice:

THOU knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears unto our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee. Amen.

This was the Bidding Prayer:

O MERCIFUL God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who hast taught us, by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our sister doth; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which thy wellbeloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our mediator and redeemer. Amen.

The entire liturgy was a lesson about faith and salvation. Even an unbeliver could not miss it.

I pray that it works on the hearts and minds of those in attendance who are indifferent.

The Queen always liked Psalm 42 for its reference to the hart, which reminded her of Scotland:

LIKE as the hart desireth the waterbrooks : so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God : when shall I come to
appear before the presence of God?

My tears have been my meat day and night : while they daily say unto me, Where is
now thy God?

Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself : for I went with the
multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;

In the voice of praise and thanksgiving : among such as keep holyday.

Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul : and why art thou so disquieted within
me?

Put thy trust in God : for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his countenance.

Prime Minister Liz Truss read the second Lesson, John 14:1-9a:

LET not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.

After Psalm 23 was sung, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon followed:

Near the end, clergy from the main Christian denominations recited their own prayers in thanksgiving for the Queen’s long reign of service.

The Abbey’s Precentor then recited a prayer from John Donne (1573-1631):

BRING us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.

After the blessing, the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry sounded The Last Post:

The congregation sang two verses of the National Anthem.

The funeral service closed with a poignant military lament, Sleep, dearie, sleep, performed by the Queen’s Piper, Warrant Officer Class 1 (Pipe Major) Paul Burns. He stood on a balcony overlooking the congregation. Words cannot describe it.

This video has brief highlights from the funeral:

After the funeral ended, the Queen’s coffin resumed its place on the gun carriage for a procession past Whitehall, down The Mall, then past Buckingham Palace, finishing at Wellington Arch on Constitution Hill.

A gun salute also took place:

The Royals walked with the military, as before. This was a long walk.

Every person in this procession has seen active military service. I put that in bold, because some living overseas think that these are ‘toy soldiers’, as it were. They are anything but.

Here they are in front of Buckingham Palace. Note that the Queen’s household are standing in front of the gates in their normal working clothes to pay their respects:

The horses leading the procession were gifts to the Queen from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), or the Mounties. The Queen was their honorary commissioner.

The Times reported:

George, Elizabeth, Darby and Sir John are the latest in a long line of horses given by Canada to the Queen and ridden by senior royals, including King Charles and the Princess Royal, during the annual ceremony of Trooping the Colour …

In 1969, the RCMP presented her with Burmese, a seven-year-old black mare who went on to become the Queen’s favourite horse.

She rode her at Trooping the Colour for 18 years, including in 1981 when Marcus Sarjeant, then 17, shot six blank rounds at the Queen as she was travelling down The Mall to the parade that marks her official birthday.

Although Burmese was briefly startled, the horse won praise for remaining calm due to her RCMP training, in which she had been exposed to gunfire.

Burmese, who died in 1990, was the first of eight horses given to the Queen by the Mounties. George was given to her in 2009. Now 22, he has been ridden each year at Trooping the Colour by Charles.

Elizabeth, now 17, named in honour of the Queen Mother, was a gift to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 …

Sir John, 14, was a 90th birthday present for the Queen and is ridden at Trooping the Colour by Princess Anne, a former Olympic equestrian.

Darby, a 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding, was one of two horses received by the late monarch in 2019.

[Sergeant Major Scott] Williamson is one of four RCMP officers who will ride at the front of tomorrow’s funeral procession after the Westminster Abbey service.

It will travel up Whitehall and along The Mall, passing Buckingham Palace before ending at Wellington Arch. Here, the Queen’s coffin will be transferred from the state gun carriage to a hearse for her final journey to Windsor.

I will cover the committal service at Windsor in tomorrow’s post.

My two previous posts about the Queen’s death in Scotland are here and here.

Thanks to the Queen’s and Princess Anne’s Operation Unicorn plan for the monarch’s death in Scotland, we saw their capital and the monarchy depicted magnificently.

Unicorn ticked all the boxes, especially at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.

A filmmaker could not have done better — and that was the Queen’s intention.

History of St Giles’ Cathedral

The Times has an excellent history of St Giles’ Cathedral, the High Kirk: ‘Beauty and peace of St Giles’ make it a fitting place to lie at rest for Queen Elizabeth II’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, High Kirk of the Church of Scotland, where the Queen will lie at rest, has been at the centre of Scottish history for more than 800 years. It has seen war, violence, rebellion and desecration, never more so than during the Reformation, when it was stripped to the bone by the firebrand Calvinist John Knox.

Kings and queens have left their mark on it down the ages. From it, Elizabeth’s Stewart forebears in particular have tried at various stages to impose their religious beliefs on an unwilling and recalcitrant Scottish people.

Charles I gave it cathedral status in 1633 but when he insisted on introducing a common prayer book, based on the English order of worship, he provoked a riot, famously culminating in a tirade from a market trader called Jenny Geddes, who hurled a stool at the dean, forcing him to end the service abruptly.

It is also a place of beauty, its architecture lovingly restored, its 15th-century crown steeple one of Edinburgh’s most distinctive landmarks — described by a historian as “a serene reminder of the imperial aspirations of the late Stewart monarchs”. Here, in 1416, a graceful pair of storks made their nest, an event hailed as a portent of peace at a time of civic strife. Not until March 2020, when three birds nested at the Knepp Estate in Sussex, would storks return to Britain.

No one quite knows why the church, as it originally was, took its name from St Giles, the patron saint of lepers, but in its early days it was seen as a place with healing powers. The arm bone of the saint was brought as a relic from France, and at one stage the church had no fewer than 50 altars for those who came to pray for salvation. In the aftermath of the disastrous Battle of Flodden in 1513, when most of the Scottish nobility, and their king, James IV, were killed, Bishop Gavin Douglas held a requiem mass, a powerful act of mourning and renewal.

Knox was less forgiving. He ordered workmen to clear stone altars and monuments from the church. Precious items used in pre-Reformation worship were sold. The church was whitewashed, its pillars painted green, and St Giles’s arm was hurled into the Nor’ Loch. In 1558 Knox published his First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, a polemical work attacking female monarchs, and arguing that rule by women is contrary to the Bible

The Queen will lie at peace in a place of singular beauty, close to the elegant Thistle Chapel, with which she was so familiar. Created by the great Scottish architect Robert Lorimer in 1909, it was the place where she, as senior member of the ancient Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s equivalent to the Order of the Garter, welcomed new members, 16 in number, appointed on her personal recommendation.

The cathedral’s interior is now a place of colour, its crown steeple is gilded with gold, its stained glass windows filter in the daylight, thanks to a renewal appeal, headed by the late financier Sir Angus Grossart, which led to the conservation of the medieval tower, the restoration of the stained glass windows, and the moving of the altar to the centre of the building. A thanksgiving service in the presence of the Princess Royal in January 2011 marked the conclusion of the project.

September 12, continued

In covering the events of Monday, September 12, 2022 in Edinburgh, I left off with the service at St Giles’ Cathedral.

Afterwards, mourners were already queuing to pay their respects:

The Guardian reports that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an interview to the BBC’s Fiona Bruce that day. She asked him what his final meeting with the Queen at Balmoral on Tuesday, September 6, was like:

Johnson said: “In that audience, she had been absolutely on it. She was actively focused on geopolitics, on UK politics, quoting statesmen from the 50s, it was quite extraordinary.

“She seemed very bright, very focused. She was clearly not well. I think that was the thing that I found so moving when I heard about her death on Thursday, I just thought how incredible that her sense of duty had kept her going in the way that it had, and given how ill she obviously was, she could be so bright and so focused. It was a pretty emotional time.”

Johnson gave a memorable tribute to the Queen in parliament on Friday, the day after her death. He told the broadcaster that her death was a “colossal” thing for him and that he felt a “slightly inexplicable access of emotion”.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m., the King and Queen Consort arrived at Holyrood, Scotland’s parliament, not far from the Palace of Holyroodhouse (emphases in the original):

King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort have processed into the Scottish parliament in Holyrood, as trumpets played in the background.

They had met political leaders from Scotland beforehand, including first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, and leader of the Conservative party, Douglas Ross.

Presiding officer, Alison Johnstone, opened the session and paid tribute to the Queen, who was there for the assembly’s first session in 1999.

Two minutes’ silence is now being held. Sturgeon will shortly move a motion of condolence.

Nicola Sturgeon, who appears to have ambivalent views about the monarchy, gave an address, excerpted below:

In an everchanging and turbulent world, Her Majesty has been our constant, she has been the anchor of our nation. Our personal recollections are often intertwined with memories of her reign. I was nineyearsold when I first saw the Queen. She visited Irvin, my hometown in July 1979 to open the Magnum leisure centre, I was one of hundreds lining my streets with my mum, and by luck we ended up close to her car as it passed by. Nine-year-old me was absolutely convinced I had caught her eye.

That nine-year-old girl could not have imaged nearly 35 years later being in the front passenger seat of another car, this time with the Queen at the wheel, driving through the Balmoral estate. In recent days other leaders have shared stories from Balmoral, of barbecues cooked by Prince Philip as the Queen laid the table. These are memories I treasure too.

She recounted an amusing anecdote from one of her visits to Balmoral:

I did, however, experience one rather tense moment at Balmoral. My husband and I were with the Queen before dinner when the drawing room light started to flicker. To my great alarm … my husband suddenly leapt up and darted across the room. Peter had spotted the cause of the flickering light, one of the Queen’s young corgis, a beautiful pup called Sandy was eating through a lamp switch. Thankfully tragedy was adverted, not before a ticking off from his mistress.

Sturgeon, the woman who refused to deliver a message of loyalty on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee, then waxed lyrical:

I deeply valued the time I spent alone with the Queen. Her words of wisdom, counsel, and humour will stay in my heart for the rest of my life

The Queen has been intrinsic to the story of modern Scotland, from the opening of the Forties oil pipeline, to the Forth bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, three Commonwealth Games, she was present at so many of our iconic moments. She was a true and steadfast friend of this parliament.

Our nation is in mourning today for a Queen whose loss we have not yet begun to come to terms with. We are deeply honoured by the presence today of His Majesty King Charles III and the Queen Consort. Your Majesty, we stand ready to support you as you continue your own life of service and build on the extraordinary legacy of your mother. Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Scots, we are grateful for her life, may she now rest in peace.

After Sturgeon spoke, the other Party leaders had their turns: Douglas Ross from the Conservatives, Anas Sarwar from Labour and Patrick Harvie from the Greens.

Patrick Harvie’s remarks once again revealed how far left he is. He praised all the social advances made during the Queen’s reign — more than enough for most people — then said that much more needed to be done. He sounded ungrateful.

Harvie evidently did not want to meet the King. He sent the Greens’ deputy leader Lorna Slater instead.

The session concluded with an address from the King:

Wearing a kilt, he stands and says:

I know that the Scottish parliament and the people of Scotland share with me a profound sense of grief at the death of my beloved mother. Through all the years of her reign, the Queen, like so many generations of our family before her, found in the hills of this land, and in the hearts of its people, a haven and a home.

My mother felt as I do, the greatest admiration for the Scottish people, for their magnificent achievements and their indomitable spirit. It was the greatest comfort for her to know, in turn, the true affection in which she was held. The knowledge of that depth and abiding bond must be a solace as we mourn the life of incomparable service.

If I might paraphrase the words of the great Robert Burns, my dear mother was the friend of man, the friend of truth, the friend of age, and guide of youth. Few hearts like hers with virtue warned, few heads with knowledge so informed.

While still very young, the Queen pledged herself to serve her country and her people and to maintain the principles of constitutional government. As we now mark with gratitude a promise most faithfully fulfilled, I am determined with God’s help and with yours to follow that inspiring example.

The title of Duke of Rothesay and the other Scottish titles which I have had the honour of carrying for so long, I now pass to my eldest son, William, who I know will be as proud as I have been to bear the symbols of this ancient kingdom.

I take up my new duties with thankfulness for all that Scotland has given me, with resolve to seek always the welfare of our country and its people, and with wholehearted trust in your goodwill and good counsel as we take forward that task together.

The King and Camilla, Queen Consort, then leave the chamber while the bagpipes are being played.

By the time that the Holyrood session ended, mourners were entering St Giles’ Cathedral to pay their respects.

The Vigil of the Princes took place that evening, with the Royal Family returning to St Giles’ from Holyroodhouse.

The Vigil of the Princes was devised for George V’s funeral in 1936. His four sons stood at his casket for a short time. It took place in Westminster Hall at 12:15 a.m. on January 28 that year, after it closed to the public.

In 2002, the Queen Mother’s grandsons participated in a similar vigil in Westminster Hall.

For the first time, this silent ceremony included a woman. The Princess Royal, being one of the Queen’s four children, participated in it at St Giles’.

This time, the public were able to see them in their solemn ten-minute vigil:

They have chosen not to be armed with swords, as they have the right to do so.

Charles stands at the head of the coffin, the crown behind him on top of it. He and his siblings, facing outwards, bow their heads. They are stood next to the Royal Company of Archers. Camilla is sat off to the side alongside Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

Prince Andrew and Princess Anne can be seen with their eyes closed.

Members of the public are still filing past the coffin.

It was incredibly moving. Two videos follow:

The Royals then returned to Holyroodhouse to spend the night.

The Queen lay at rest in the cathedral until early Tuesday afternoon, at which point staff and the military prepared for her casket to be put in the hearse for the journey back to London.

People queued all night. By the time the viewing closed on Tuesday, 26,000 people paid their respects. They were of all ages and included quite a few children, some dressed in their school uniforms.

The Guardian had a report on the mourners at the close of Monday:

Many thousands of people are waiting for hours in long queues through central Edinburgh to see the Queen lying in rest at St Giles’ Cathedral, with some facing a wait until early morning before they pass the coffin.

Mourners queueing in George Square, an early Georgian square now part of the University of Edinburgh, have been waiting for over three hours, with the line six to eight people abreast in places.

The Scottish government responded by increasing the number of lines at the security checkpoint on George IV Bridge, dramatically increasing the numbers of people being cleared to move on to the cathedral. Officials estimate that up to 6,000 people per hour were being allowed through.

Aaron Kelly, 32, a psychotherapist originally from Belfast, who lives close to George Square, had been timing his wait on iPhone. It had clocked up three hours and five minutes by about 8.15pm. He felt it was essential to be there.

“This is a moment in history and I think the Queen has done so much for the nation; it just felt it was apt to come and pay our final respects,” he said.

Behind him stood Corey Docherty, 14, and his mother, Mary, and their friend Janis. After travelling from the Glasgow area, and with school tomorrow, he faced getting home after midnight. Docherty has visited Balmoral, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, the king’s former residence in London.

“It’s just the most famous royal family in the world,” he said. Of the new king, he said: “He’s the king. We must support him. He has waited 73 years.”

Norman Davenport, 68, who recently retired after 18 years as an officer in the RAF reserve and before then 20 years as an army reservist, began queueing for the cathedral at 2pm on Monday, in good time for it to open to the public at 5.30pm, and arrived there by around 7pm. By 8.30pm, he was in George Square for a rest and a sandwich.

The queen was honorary air commodore of his RAF reserve unit, 603 (City of Edinburgh) Sqdn. He had met her twice. “I have a huge connection with her, from that point of view, as a personal thing. She was my sovereign, my commander in chief, my honorary air commodore.”

The City of Edinburgh Council’s website had a helpful list of guidelines for mourners.

The Guardian‘s Murdo MacLeod has an excellent photo compilation of the long queue as it grew throughout the night.

September 13

On Tuesday morning, September 13, The Guardian had an update on the mourners:

Tens of thousands of people, including royalists, “soft republicans” and the plain curious, have queued through the night in Edinburgh to view the Queen’s coffin lying at rest.

The queues stretched several kilometres from St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile – with the route winding past security checks, Scotland’s national museum, Edinburgh university’s student union and library on George Square, then on to The Meadows, a tree-lined park on the city’s south side – in an event without modern parallel in Scotland.

Over Monday night, the queues were eight to 10 people abreast in places, with mourners and well-wishers – helped by dry and temperate weather – waiting more than five hours to reach the Queen’s coffin.

At 5am on Tuesday, they queued in the open for more than hour to view the coffin, which was guarded by four green-garbed members of the Royal Company of Archers, each holding an upright bow, and four police officers wearing white gloves.

The Scottish government expects the queue – remarkable in its size – to grow again on Tuesday morning, before public viewing ends at 3pm. At about 5pm, the Queen’s coffin will be taken by hearse to Edinburgh airport, accompanied by Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, then flown by military aircraft to RAF Northolt, before being driven to Buckingham Palace

Victoria, 53, an artist, and her daughter Grace, 20, an art and philosophy student, woke up at 3.45am to come from Linlithgow, West Lothian, by train. Both women said they had an emotional response to the Queen’s death, which contradicted their republican sympathies.

“We’re not royalists but it has been a very strange thing, to be affected by the Queen dying,” Victoria said. “And Grace was very affected too, so we thought: ‘Let’s go.’

“From a political point of view, I’m just a bit confused because it’s what I’m against politically, but I just felt an emotional desire to come. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way”

Brian Todd, 51, who had joined the Royal Navy at 16 before serving as a fire fighter, and his partner, Allison Pearson, 55, a property manager, travelled from Livingston, West Lothian, getting up at 3.30am. They said they were monarchists, born to monarchist parents

For Todd, originally from County Durham, the three days of events in Scotland attached to the Queen’s death at Balmoral – events which began with the funeral cortege’s slow 170-mile drive through eastern Scotland to Edinburgh on Sunday – were significant and resonant.

Scotland needed this as well,” he said. “Everything seems to be London-centric and set down south. It’s not great that the queen has passed away, but it has been great for Scotland. At least we can say we did her proud. It’s not just about London.”

Meanwhile, at Holyroodhouse, the King and Queen Consort were preparing for a day in Northern Ireland while Princess Anne steeled herself to accompany her mother’s casket on a flight back to London to rest overnight at Buckingham Palace. Her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, accompanied her.

The plan was for the King and Queen Consort to arrive at Buckingham Palace in time to meet his mother’s casket.

At 12:15, the Scottish Government reported on the visitors at St Giles’:

The queue was still long, but by the end of the viewing, everyone was accommodated at St Giles’:

The King and Queen Consort touched down in Belfast shortly after noon that day:

At 12:30 p.m., the King and Queen Consort had arrived at the official Royal residence in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle, which had a huge crowd waiting to greet them.

The Royal couple did a walkabout before viewing an exhibition about the Queen’s long association with Northern Ireland.

The Guardian reported that the crowd chanted ‘God save the King’:

He and the Queen Consort Camilla were greeted by delighted crowds. He went along the line smiling and laughing and receiving flowers for over five minutes.

“I spoke to him and he spoke back!” yelled one woman in delight as he passed.

The Daily Mail has a video of well-wishers, including a corgi:

The floral tributes were many.

Just before 1:30, the King met the new Northern Ireland Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, inside the castle.

The Northern Ireland Assembly, which meets at Stormont in Belfast, gathered at the castle to present official condolences to the monarch. This took place a short time after the King’s meeting with the Northern Ireland Secretary.

The Assembly’s speaker, Alex Maskey MLA, opened proceedings:

Maskey, a Sinn Féin member of the assembly, directly addressed the political context of the changes in Northern Ireland during Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime, saying:

On the walls of parliament building in Stormont are images from two of Queen Elizabeth’s visits during the coronation year 1953 and the second for the diamond jubilee in 2012. It is extraordinary to consider how much social and political change Queen Elizabeth witnessed in the time between those visits, and indeed throughout her long reign. Yesterday an assembly of Unionists, Republicans, nationalists met to pay tribute to the late Queen. When she first came to the throne, no one would have anticipated an assembly so diverse and inclusive.

Also:

It was notable that neither the speaker of the Northern Ireland assembly, Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey, nor the new King, shied away from talking about the history of Northern Ireland or the long years of conflict, and Maskey alluded to the current stalemate.

Maskey said that at one point it would have been unthinkable for someone “from my own background and political tradition” being in the position to deliver this address. He said:

… Queen Elizabeth was not a distant observer in the transformation and progress of relationships between these islands. She proudly demonstrated that individual acts of positive leadership can help break down barriers and encourage reconciliation. Queen Elizabeth showed that a small but significant gesture – a visit, a handshake, crossing the street or speaking a few words of Irish can make a huge difference and change attitudes and build relationships. Her recognition of both British and Irish citizens as well as the wider diversity of our community was undoubtedly significant.

Of course, such acts of leadership do not come without risks, or the need for courage and determination to see them through. I represent the elected assembly of a society which has struggled with the legacy of our past and how to move on from it without leaving those who have suffered behind.

During her visit to Dublin, Queen Elizabeth said that whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing that load. Let us all pay heed to that. As we remember Queen Elizabeth’s positive leadership, let us all reflect that such leadership is still needed. And let us be honest with ourselves enough to recognise that too often, that leadership has been lacking when it has been most required.

Maskey’s reference to ‘a handshake’ recalled the time she shook Martin McGuinness’s hand in 2012. She was wearing gloves. McGuinness was a pivotal figure in the IRA, which was responsible for assassinating one of the Queen’s relatives, Lord Moutbatten, in 1979.

The King responded to Maskey’s speech:

Charles says that his mother, the Queen, was aware of her own role, saying:

My mother felt deeply the significance of the role she has played in bringing together those who history had separated, and extending a hand to make possible the healing of long-held hurts.

He said he would dedicate himself to a similar role, saying:

At the very beginning of her life of service, she made a pledge to dedicate herself to her country and her people and to maintain the principles of constitutional government.

This promise she kept with steadfast faith.

Now with that shining example for me, and with God’s help, I take up my new duties resolved to seek the welfare of all the inhabitants of Northern Ireland.

He recalled Lord Mountbatten’s death:

King Charles thanked Northern Ireland for the condolences, and said that his mother never ceased to pray for the best of times for its people, “whose sorrows our family had felt”, in a reference to the death of Lord Mountbatten in 1979.

Here is the video:

Then, the King met Northern Ireland’s political leaders. The Guardian has photos of him with DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Northern Ireland Assembly speaker Alex Maskey, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill, who is the most senior member of the Assembly.

At the end of the Royal couple’s visit, the King experienced pen problems once more as he signed the visitors’ book. This time, it was more than a misplaced tray of pens. His fountain pen was well and truly leaking. The Queen Consort helped to dry it with a handkerchief, which ended up soaked with ink. Sky News has a subtitled version:

The Daily Mail‘s description reads:

‘Can’t bear this bloody thing!’ King Charles frustrated by leaking pen, but Queen Consort Camilla saves the day. This is the moment King Charles blasts a leaking pen that threatens to ruin his mood just hours after the new monarch was warmly embraced by the people of Northern Ireland during his inaugural trip as monarch. King Charles III, sitting inside the royal residence of Hillsborough Castle appeared visibly frustrated as he tried wiping off dripping ink during a book signing towards the end of his visit. Charles complained about the faulty instrument he was using to sign his name, pronouncing he ‘can’t bear this bloody thing’ as he briskly turned on his heels and left the room flanked by aides. The leaky pen was swiftly replaced by flustered courtiers before Queen Consort Camilla sat down to sign the book herself from inside the historic residence.

Afterwards, the Royal couple returned to Belfast for a Service of Reflection at St Anne’s Cathedral (Anglican).

It was very moving, as have been all the religious services for the late Queen. You can find the Order of Service here.

Clergy representing Northern Ireland’s main Christian denominations all participated.

Alex Maskey MLA read Philippians 4: 4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Also notable was the prayer before the sermon for its use of ‘felicity’, a word I have not heard in decades:

O Lord, our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings and Lord of lords, the only ruler of princes, who from your throne beholds all who dwell upon earth; grant to us understanding of your will and thankfulness of heart for the life and reign of our most beloved Queen, and to her everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Most Reverend John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland delivered the sermon, which was gentle in tone yet hard hitting in content when it came to reconciliation.

To me, this was the best sermon of all from the Services of Reflection.

Excerpts follow:

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In anim a Athair, agus a Mhic agus a Spiorad Naomh. Amen.

For many of us in the United Kingdom there were two people whose deaths we could never imagine. Our own and the Queen’s. I think that is one of the reasons why the death of Queen Elizabeth was literally felt so keenly by so many people when the news broke on Thursday afternoon. It was as though the nation’s collective grief was gathered up in those remarkable words of Christopher Marlowe’s:

“If I had wept a sea of tears for her, it would not ease the sorrow I sustain”.

And if that was how those of us felt who were her adopted family through her coronation oath, how much more profound must that feeling of loss be to those of the Queen’s blood family; those who knew her best and loved her most; Your Majesty, our prayers will be with you and your family for a long time to come.

St Paul could be a bit of a gloomy old moralist at times and some of the injunctions contained in his letters are far from easy to put into practice. It is pretty difficult to “have no anxiety about anything”. But I would dare to suggest that for the family of the late Queen and for millions of others, there will be no difficulty whatsoever, when she comes to mind, in following St Paul’s command to think on “whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious and whatever is worthy of praise”.

There were many other words used about the late Queen during her long reign. Faithfulness, care, dutifulness, love and devotion. All of these could be employed to describe her relationship with Northern Ireland (with patience binding them all together) but paying attention especially to what she said most recently, the word which I think will be most associated with Queen Elizabeth and Ireland, north and south, is reconciliation.

It is a great New Testament word and it is a great civic word; and it is a hard word. So hard in the religious sense that it was beyond the power of humanity to achieve, and God himself had to give it to us as a gift in his Son. And as a disciple of Jesus Christ, Queen Elizabeth followed where Jesus led as women often have in the elusive and unfinished work of reconciliation here in Ireland.

For where the Master is, there will his servant be also.

It has always been love’s way that in order to rise, she stoops; so the bowing of her head in respect was far more powerful than much grander gestures would have been. Love listens far more than she speaks, so a few words in an unfamiliar language and a judicious sentence or two of heartfelt regret and wisdom said far more than ceaseless volubility. Love never rushes into anything for fear of overwhelming the beloved, but when the moment is right she walked the few steps between two Houses of Prayer in Enniskillen alongside the beloved, in encouragement and affection. Although love is easily injured, she keeps no record of wrongs and extends the open hand of sincerity and friendship, with courage, to create an environment and an atmosphere where reconciliation has a chance.

And love never fails; for where the Master is there will his servant be also.

Reconciliation is about the restoration of broken relationships. And the word should never be cheapened by pretending it is an easy thing to achieve. By and large in the work of reconciliation most of our victories will be achieved quietly and in private: and most of our humiliations will be in public.

Reconciliation requires the greatest of all religious virtues, love; and it requires the greatest of all civic virtues, courage. But as the great apostle of reconciliation says: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you”

It is only an impression, but it seemed to me that in the last years of her reign the tone and content of the Queen’s broadcasts became more overtly religious and perhaps a little more personal. On Christmas Day 2017 she said this:

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness and greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher or a general, important as they are; but a saviour with the power to forgive. 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.

At her baptism Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was signed on her forehead with the sign of sacrifice; the cross. And for 96 years in a life which was a prodigy of steady endeavour she offered herself, her soul and body, as a living sacrifice to the God who loves her with an everlasting love.

So, I want to finish by reminding you of those final words spoken by Mr Valiant for Truth in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, some of which the Queen herself used in her very first Christmas televised broadcast in 1957:

Then he said, I am going to my Fathers, and though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him who shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, that I have fought his battles who will now be my Rewarder. When the Day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the riverside, into which as he went he said, Death where is thy sting; and as he went down deeper he said, Grave where is thy victory? So he passed over, and the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.

All these words I have offered from an unworthy heart.

God save the King

Oecumenical prayers followed.

Two verses of the National Anthem followed:

God save our gracious King,

Long live our noble King,

God save the King.

Send him victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Long to reign over us;

God save the King.

Thy choicest gifts in store

On him be pleased to pour,

Long may he reign.

May he defend our laws,

And ever give us cause,

To sing with heart and voice,

God save the King.

The service closed with a Celtic blessing.

The Belfast News Letter has a collection of photos from the service, leading with one of Prime Minister Liz Truss sitting next to Ireland’s Taoiseach (pron. ‘Tee-shuck’) — Prime Minister — Micheal (pron. ‘Mee-hull’) Martin.

According to television reports, various politicians, including Truss and Martin, spent a long time in the cathedral talking after the service.

The Daily Mail reported that Truss and Martin will meet after the Queen’s funeral on Monday, September 19:

Liz Truss is expected to hold talks with Irish premier Micheal Martin about Northern Ireland’s Brexit political impasse when he visits London for the Queen’s funeral.

They are expected to meet after the Taoiseach represents Ireland at the Westminster Abbey ceremony on Monday …

It comes after Mr Martin suggested the Queen‘s death was an opportunity to ‘reset’ relations between Britain and Ireland following bitter Brexit disputes.

Northern Ireland is currently gripped by heightened political tensions at Stormont and between the UK and Irish governments over post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland. 

Sinn Fein became the largest party at the assembly in May’s election but the DUP has refused to restore the power-sharing executive until the Northern Ireland Protocol of the UK/EU Brexit deal is replaced.

Ms Truss is also threatening to push ahead with legislation at Westminster to scrap key elements of the Protocol if negotiations with the EU on revamping trade rules continue to stall.

This has caused a furious response from both Dublin and Brussels, with the bloc launching fresh legal action against the UK.

After greeting clergy and other dignitaries, the King and Queen Consort returned to Belfast Airport to return to RAF Northolt in north west London.

The Daily Mail has a video showing the amazing crowds in Belfast and Hillsborough:

Back in Edinburgh, the military attending during the Queen’s lying in state at St Giles’ carefully placed her coffin in the hearse to go to Edinburgh Airport.

Princess Anne and her husband were there to accompany it.

People lined the roads on the way to the airport.

The Daily Mail has an article with many photographs showing the Princess and her husband making the sorrowful six-hour journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh on Sunday. Undertakers William Purves, which have been operating since the 19th century, provided the service. They followed up with a second article with more photos.

At least the ride to Edinburgh Airport was much shorter.

The number on the RAF aircraft, a C-17 Globemaster — also used to transport our military home from Afghanistan — was ZZ177, or Liz. Note that the Scottish Crown was removed, as it stays in Scotland:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-1976cd21-639b-462d-82e4-30956f22bff5

As Princess Anne and her husband prepared for takeoff, the King and Queen Consort arrived in London.

Crowds gathered around Buckingham Palace to welcome them.

The flight with the Queen’s casket landed at RAF Northolt just after 7 p.m. Liz Truss and a senior Anglican clergyman, who offered a blessing, were present.

Crowds lined the route on the way into the capital. Rod Stewart’s wife Penny Lancaster was outside RAF Northolt as a special constable, keeping order. You could not make this up:

The 51-year-old, who is married to crooner Rod Stewart, began working as a special constable last year and earlier confirmed she would be working during the Queen’s funeral on Monday.

On Tuesday evening she was pictured engaging and marshalling expectant crowds and helping a wheelchair user.

The cortege arrived at Buckingham Palace an hour later:

The Queen’s casket rested in the Bow Room of the palace overnight before moving to Westminster Hall on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, September 13, the Mail reported on the statement the Princess posted online after she reached London on Tuesday evening:

The Princess Royal has paid tribute to her mother and said it had been ‘an honour and a privilege’ to accompany the Queen on her final journeys as she travelled with the monarch’s coffin back to London.

Princess Anne, the late monarch’s only daughter, told how she was ‘fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest mother’s life’.

She said the love and respect shown to the Queen on her journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh and onto London had been ‘both humbling and uplifting’.

Anne also thanked the nation for the ‘support and understanding offered to my dear brother Charles’ as he takes on his duties as King.

She ended her statement with the words: ‘To my mother, The Queen, thank you.’ 

More will follow beginning next Monday, continuing on with Wednesday’s events in London, Friday’s trip to Wales and the Queen’s funeral.

This has been an incredible period not only in British history, but also the world’s.

We are experiencing the end of an era.

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