The second season of The Crown debuted on Netflix today. In honor of this biopic series’ continuation, we’re revisiting and updating our article from two years ago about Queen Elizabeth’s long (longer now!) reign. Hope you enjoy!
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On October 13, 2016, King Rama IX of Thailand died in a hospital in Bangkok after seventy years on his throne. When he breathed his last breath, the title of “longest-reigning living monarch” passed from his possession into the white-gloved hands of Elizabeth II of Britain. Just over a year prior, she had taken her place as the longest-reigning monarch in the history of the United Kingdom; she’s been on her throne a long time.
Oh, and forgive my crass American-ness; she’s not just “the Queen of England.” Her full title and styling is “Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
We Americans have a lot to learn about pomp and circumstance from the British.
Happy Are Your Men
Of course, Queen Elizabeth’s rule is largely just pomp and circumstance in the British political sphere. In most speeches and news about her milestone, she’s described as “serving” or maybe “leading” her subjects, rather than “ruling” or “reigning over” them.
But she is certainly beloved by them. If you insult the Queen in a British pub, be prepared to take a fist to the jaw for it. Be it for her grace, her wit, or her determination to serve the nation she loves, the people love her back. As the Queen of Sheba observed to King Solomon, “Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!”
Solomon was truly beloved, too. He led his people kindly and bravely, brought great wealth and riches to Israel, and held council freely in which he gave of his wisdom. When the Queen of Sheba toured his lands, she marveled at his wealth, at his buildings, at his extravagance and servants – but she most praised the fact that his subjects were happy.
Why is this such a great praise for a leader? Because any despot can bring money into the nation’s coffers on the backs of his people. It takes real wisdom and leadership to lead well with love and kindness. As writer David Mathis explains, “The height of a leader’s glory is the happiness of those in his care.”
Our God (whose title as “King of the Universe” is shorter but frankly more impressive than Elizabeth II’s) pursues the joy of His subjects with love and care, as well as with His limitless resources and power. His citizens experience true happiness and joy; and since we’re all made to experience that joy, when we see good rulers like Solomon and Elizabeth, we’re unconsciously reminded of His goodness and mercy, and long for the joy He offers.
The Year of Jubilee
That joy is not fleeting, but we often experience brief times in which we experience it more than others. Almost three years ago, Elizabeth II threw a very large party in celebration of her 60th year on the throne; called the “Diamond Jubilee,” the celebration was a national holiday, bringing parades, concerts, and other fun events to celebrate her long reign.
The word “Jubilee” has a deep Biblical connection, too. And it’s one of my favorite parts of the Old Testament.
Amid the ceremonial and social laws of Leviticus, God commands a beautiful event: The Year of Jubilee.
Intended to happen every 50 years, it was to be observed by resting, rejoicing, and celebration. But most importantly, it was to be marked by a massive restoration. Property pawned for the repayment of debts was to be returned to its original owner; slaves and servants were to be set free; the whole nation was to come together in love for God and one another and generosity for their neighbors. What a beautiful year!
And while it’s possible that the Israelites may never have observed this celebration (maybe they kept putting it off… “we’ll just do it next year”), it points us forward, along with the Diamond Jubilee, to the glorious festival yet to come: the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. As the Israelites were restored to their original lands, so we will be restored to our original story: as the sons and daughters of God!
On that day, we will be set free from our slavery to sin completely and brought into eternal rest; rejoicing and celebrating, we will enter God’s Kingdom.
Elizabeth marked her 23,226th day, the day she broke the British record, by simply doing her job. She rejected the idea of making a fuss about her milestone; in doing so, she’s probably represented her legacy better than any party could. She’s been a stable and constant leader since her coronation, despite reigning throughout the second half of a tumultuous 20th century.
And it is the long-lasting stability that I think we resonate with the most here. Psalm 46:6 says of God, “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.” No matter what twists and turns happen in our lives, God is unmoved. Christ remains on the throne. That stability and consistency makes our turbulent, twisted hearts sing longingly.
And Christ the King – who will rule “yesterday and today and forever” with the same joy, restoration and stability – answers that song. He answers it daily, for the next 62 days, years, centuries, millennia, and eons. And He answers it with an infinite and intimate love that we could only ever dream of outside of Him.
Long Live the King!
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