For most people throughout the whole world, the death of Queen Elizabeth II comes as a profound shock. Not unexpected, of course, after so long a reign, but cataclysmic in its emotional and social impact. Few people in the Commonwealth have lived their lives under the reign of any other sovereign. I am one of the few who remember my own very tearful reaction at the age of seven when King George died.
Her life has been inspirational. As a Christian woman, she made a promise on her accession to serve her people. She kept her word faithfully to the very end.
It is extraordinary to recall that Elizabeth saw service during the Second World War. Throughout all these years that followed, amidst unprecedented social and political changes, she did her duty with energy and style and now lays her crown at the feet of her Redeemer.
Australian readers will be aware that a newly-elected senator this year demurred over the taking of the oath of allegiance, altering the wording with the phrase “this colonising Queen.” Nothing could have been more absurd.
Queen Elizabeth reigned over and personally celebrated the liberation from colonial bonds of hundreds of millions of people in many nations, all of which freely became members of the Commonwealth of nations, friends and equals of their partner nations. Nothing of this sort has ever previously happened in the history of the world.
So popular is this free association of peoples that South Africa, once expelled for its policy of apartheid, sought under Mandela's administration to rejoin it and was warmly welcomed back. Another nation, Mozambique, never previously connected with the old British Empire, applied for and was granted membership.
A Sovereign’s Duty and ServiceWhen Franz Josef, the last Emperor of Austria, died in 1916, his funeral procession was taken to the crypt of the Capuchin Church in Vienna. The chamberlain hammered on the iron door, demanding admission for “His Royal and Imperial Majesty.” The reply from within was, “we do not know him,” and the door remained firmly closed. The same demand was repeated and again refused.
Then the chamberlain knocked for the third time. “Who is there?” came the question from within. This time the chamberlain simply replied, “Franz, a poor servant of God and a sinner, begs admission.” Then, and only then, the door was flung open, and Franz Josef was welcomed in to sleep in the company of his fathers.
That lovely story reminds us that human kingship is all about duty and service, that all men and women are equal in the grave, and that a sovereign's chief purpose is to do justice and play his or her part in bringing the people to redemption.
Charles is now Head of the Commonwealth and King of Australia. Whether he remains so is a matter for the Australian people, but in the meantime, he is our sovereign and deserves the goodwill and prayers of his people everywhere.