Sixty years a Queen, with unflinching grace and steadfast devotion to duty

On April 26th, 1947 at Cape Town, Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, pledged : “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”

We celebrate today the sixtieth anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s accession. Those of my fellow citizens who, like I, throughout the Commonwealth, have had the privilege of being her subjects for our entire lives must often—out of habit and, perhaps, a very English need for understatement in all things, especially the more important ones—have taken our Sovereign for granted. Yet I think it appropriate today to reflect on what we owe Her Majesty as a nation, as does the vibrant community of countries whose unity she has symbolised for all these years.

This is because anyone with even a summary knowledge of our history, with all its vicissitudes, will know in his or her heart how deeply fortunate we have been in our Queen, in the midst of the unprecedented change that has unfolded in these islands since that cold winter morning in 1952 when the world learned that George VI, that brave, shy yet unstintingly dutiful monarch, had passed peacefully away in his sleep. The beautiful young woman who succeeded him inherited every bit of her father’s sense of duty and simplicity and has made good the vow she made, before God, to the Commonwealth, on her twenty-first birthday: more, perhaps, than any of her glorious predecessors, she has acted devotedly and modestly, for six decades, towards the common good of her subjects throughout the world. Her Majesty has never let us down, even in the most trying of situations. Indeed on countless occasions—including last year on her state visit to Ireland—she has found the words to express what was right and honourable for us as a nation, without regard for her own personal circumstances.

I am certain all will wish to join me in paying tribute to our beloved Sovereign in the prayer composed, with Her Majesty’s participation, and published by the Church of England on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of her accession:

God of time and eternity,
whose Son reigns as servant, not master;
we give you thanks and praise
that you have blessed this Nation, the Realms and Territories with Elizabeth
our beloved and glorious Queen.
In this year of Jubilee,
grant her your gifts of love and joy and peace
as she continues in faithful obedience to you, her Lord and God and in devoted service to her lands and peoples,
and those of the Commonwealth,
now and all the days of her life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.