I think it was at my very first meal after moving to England that a new friend taught me this about Queen Elizabeth: She owns all the swans.
Yes, all the swans. In the country.
At least that’s what I was told as we had a picnic in a park on the banks of a pond filled with the large white birds. I wondered if they knew they belonged to royalty. What a crazy concept. It would be as if every goose in the U.S. belonged to the president, or every golden retriever in Alabama belonged to the governor — but even better for the swans, because Elizabeth is the queen.
That was my introduction to the idiosyncrasies that come along with living in a country with a monarch.
There were plenty.
But the thing about it, as far as I could tell as an American living there: They were all endearing.
Rallying around the Queen
One of my favorite memories of my two years in England was in the summer of 2012 as the whole country celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Queen Victoria was the only other monarch who had ever done it — she celebrated hers in 1897 and made it to 63 years, a mark Queen Elizabeth more than passed with her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year.
That Diamond Jubilee summer, as my whole town gathered in the park (the same park where I learned about the swans) for a fair and fireworks, was a foreign feeling. Basically, the entire country gathered in their respective swan parks to celebrate the same leader, the only monarch most had known in their lifetime. As Americans, if we’re honest, that’s not a feeling we understand. It was happy. Light. Peaceful. Not that England doesn’t have its problems, but they could all rally around Queen Elizabeth, the woman who had stood steadily at the helm of the country for 60 (and now 70) years.
It showed that night in the park, and it showed every year at 3 p.m. on Christmas Day, when people all over the British Commonwealth gathered around their TVs to watch the Queen’s Christmas Message. Queen Elizabeth used that message to share her Christian faith with a large part of the world, as she did often on other occasions, too. Over the years in different places, she talked about how her faith in God affected how she spent her days, how she planned for the future and how she got through hard times. She called the Bible a “treasure house” of truth. In her message delivered on Christmas Day 2021, she called the teachings of Jesus the bedrock of her faith.
‘Treasure house’ of truth
And when she died Thursday, Sept. 8, her faith became sight. I’m sure that’s what she would tell us this year in her Christmas Message if she could — that the “treasure house” of truth she leaned on day after day, year after year, has led her to the moment when she stood in the presence of Jesus. I’m sure she would want the same thing for each of us.
And she would want us to know that belonging to real Royalty — to the Father through Jesus Christ, our King — is the only way to live.
— Editor’s Note: Grace Thornton served two years in England as part of a missions media team.