On 13th September The Fulham Boys School held a whole-school remembrance service to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, which included two minutes of silence and a singing of the national anthem. As we come to the end of the national period of mourning we are posting two talks that were delivered at that service; on the Queen’s enterprising legacy and the Queen’s faith. As Mr Smith said in the service, we wanted to honour the Queen because of everything she did and meant for the country, but also because she represented a lot of what we hold dear at FBS, including our founding pillars.
The Queen’s enterprising legacy (Sam Johnson, Deputy Headteacher and teacher of History & Politics)
“Over the last seven decades, the Queen has been a symbol of stability and resilience. She ruled Britain for 70 years, longer than any other monarch in our history. We’re used to leaders coming and going, but the crown is different, and the Queen was different. For all of us in this hall, the Queen has been ruling for our entire lives. The youngest of you have seen 4 or 5 Prime Ministers during your life so far. I’m on my 8th Prime Minister. Queen Elizabeth had 15 Prime Ministers in total during her reign.
As a school, our word of the week is ‘significant’. So when I was preparing this talk I reflected on what made Queen Elizabeth II significant. Historians judge how significant a historical figure is through whether they will be remembered in history, if their actions have resulted in change and if their life was remarkable. Queen Elizabeth is significant for all of these reasons.
Like her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II ruled during a period of tremendous social and political change. She was a towering figure in global affairs whose life spanned an era of change across the world. Her reign lasted from the industrial age to the internet age during which time she met generations of global leaders and helped steer Britain through the loss of its empire, huge societal changes and its emergence as a multicultural nation. Her success in maintaining the monarchy through such turbulent times is even more remarkable given that, at the time of her birth, she was not expected to be Queen.
She assumed the crown at a time when society was notably uncomfortable with the idea of women in power. The first female Prime Minister would not be elected in the Commonwealth until 1960 and not in the UK until 1979. The young queen now had to balance her royal responsibilities with the expectations faced by wives and mothers of her generation as she raised her 4 children.
Over the course of her reign, the Queen blended tradition with modernity, presiding over a monarchy that was both timeless and receptive to a rapidly changing world. She did some quite remarkable things. It began when she allowed her 1953 coronation to be televised, making a ceremony that was first designed for the Anglo-Saxon King Edgar in 973 accessible to the public in their homes around the world. This was followed by the first televised Queen’s speech in 1957. In 1969 she allowed a documentary about the royal family at home and in 1976 she sent the first ever royal email, 2 decades before emails became a ‘normal’ thing” In 2013 she also changed the rules of succession so that male heirs no longer overtake their female relatives in line to the throne.
All of these actions gradually brought the monarchy into the modern era and undoubtedly secured its future, for this generation at least. She wonderfully embodied two of our enterprise skills: ‘game changing’ and ‘boundary pushing’. Another is ‘teamwork’, and the Queen showed an incredible ability to work with leaders and people from all over the world. Through her personal and heartfelt commitment to the Commonwealth, she helped promote the ideals of friendship and cooperation among nations. As well as political leaders and celebrities she was seen by – it is calculated – more than 2 million more “ordinary” people. She was easily the most travelled monarch in world history visiting over 100 nations in her lifetime.
Some of those visits were extraordinary. In the 1960s she visited the Federal Republic of Germany (or West Germany), which was the first official visit there by a British royal since before WWI. In 1986, she became the first British monarch to visit the Chinese mainland.And just ten years ago, in June 2012, Queen Elizabeth became the first monarch to meet the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness. The historic handshake was a symbol of the Queen’s determination to pursue reconciliation in Northern Ireland, and it was a handshake that made headlines around the world.
Her dedication to public service and her commitment to a shared humanity will remain an example of moral decency. She will remain an inspiration to all those who seek to build bridges in the pursuit of progress, peace and human dignity.
This year marked her platinum jubilee which was celebrated around the world. And once again, she showed her desire to bring the monarchy into the modern world by having a rather chaotic afternoon tea with Paddington bear!
She was everything FBS understands about being enterprising; she threw herself into the role, and she worked tirelessly to make a difference to the world we live in.”
The Queen’s faith (Sam Brown, Director of Christian ethos)
“The Queen’s faith wasn’t just a part of her role. As a committed Christian it influenced everything she did, and she spoke publicly about how her beliefs made a real difference to her daily life. I want to briefly highlight two ways her faith shaped her.
The first is the way she followed Jesus’ example. We talk at FBS about a number of Christian values, including community, thankfulness and compassion, all of which the Queen demonstrated brilliantly. But perhaps the value that has been mentioned the most in the last few days in relation to Queen Elizabeth is our value of ‘serving others’.
She gave her life to serve others. She set this out in a speech she made when she turned 21 years of age, almost 80 years ago. She said, “All my life, whether long or short, should be devoted to service.” It turned out to be a very long life, and right up until the very end she served, even meeting a new Prime Minister, her 15th Prime Minister, just a few days before her death.
When she was a young girl she wasn’t expecting to become Queen, and she was thrust into the role. The role of being a monarch may look glamorous but it comes with a huge amount of responsibility. When she was anointed with oil as Queen in Westminster Abbey this key part of the coronation ceremony was influenced by the anointing of Israel’s kings in the Old Testament, such was the sacred understanding of it. And the crown she had put on her head was heavy (as the Queen would later remark), representing in part the weight of the role.
For 70 years she had to do things none of us will ever have to do. And she wasn’t able to do lots of other things. There’s a story about her looking out of the windows of Buckingham Palace and telling someone that she watched people passing by, going here and there, living their lives as they chose. And she wondered who they were and what they were doing, knowing she could not joining them. She would have crowds watching and cheering her at every visit, but she could never be part of the crowds. But she knew her role was very important for the country, and so right until the age of 96 she served. Even when she was tired or elderly or probably wanted to do something else. She served.
She was also really humble. It would be so easy for someone in her position to become unbearably proud or arrogant. Think about it. She was the most famous woman in the world.
Presidents and Prime Ministers and other kings and queens visited her and said afterwards it was one of the greatest moments of their lives. Every police officer and soldier in the country swore allegiance to her. She had her picture on every stamp. She had a cruise liner named after her. She even had a tube line named after her. They said that she was very used to the smell of fresh paint, because everywhere she went people had just repainted rooms and corridors, getting ready for her visit.
And when she walked into the room everyone stood. She was the Queen.
And all of that could have made her really arrogant and full of herself. But a lot of people who knew her have said she was humble. She didn’t think too much of herself. She knew her weaknesses. And she was ready to meet people and listen to people. I like the story of a footman at one of the palaces, who was walking down a corridor late one night and suddenly bumped into the Queen. She was going around the palace turning off the lights, to save electricity. She didn’t think “That’s not my job. I’ve got servants for that.”
Over the weekend I heard the Queen described as the world’s greatest public servant.
And in those things she really, really follows the example of Jesus. Jesus, the Queen believed, was the Son of God come into the world. He was the king of the world. But he put the world first. He said – I’m going to go to the cross to take the sins of the world. Even though it will involve me suffering. The Bible says King Jesus ‘humbled himself to death, even death on a cross.’
He is the servant king, and the Queen is a brilliant example of what it means to follow his example. In her 2008 speech the Queen said this:
‘I hope that like me you will be comforted by the example of Jesus, who often in circumstances of great adversity managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life. He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving, more in serving than in being served.’
Boys, probably none of you will ever be king of a country. But you can be like the Queen in the way she acted and put others first.
And here’s the second thing. The Queen didn’t just follow Jesus’ example. She trusted in him as her king and savior. The Queen was the supreme governor of the Church of England. That was part of her role. But her faith in Jesus was also very personal to her.
This is what the Queen said in her speech in 2011.
‘Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.’
The Queen believed that she, as an individual, needed to trust in Jesus to save her. Even as Queen she couldn’t save herself. But Jesus was her saviour.
And Jesus was her king. There’s a famous series about the Queen on Netflix, called the Crown. It’s got one really striking scene, which I’m sure is based on something that happened regularly in her life. The Queen has had a really hard day, and she gets to the end of it and she gets into her bedroom. And then she kneels down next to her bed. And she prays. She prays.
The Queen kneels down and prays to her king. To God. She knows that as famous as she is, as important as she is, as rich as she is, she’s not the king of the universe. Jesus is. And she kneels before her king.
And King Jesus is the only king who will reign forever. Every other king or queen, ruler, prime minister or president, we’ve been reminded this week, will pass away, but Jesus is king forever.
Where was the Queen’s home? She had lots of homes. Buckingham Palace. Windsor Castle, which she loved. Sandringham. Balmoral in Scotland where she died. But the Bible says her ultimate home was in heaven. And last Thursday King Jesus welcomed Elizabeth the Second home.”