Confession: I am still paying next to zero attention to American telly when it comes to rites linked to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. I’m tuned into BBC World and, via YouTube, streaming Sky News.
The few times I’ve flipped over to the major U.S. networks left me with the same impression as before — that the Royal Family is viewed as kind of a cleaned-up version of the Kardashians, with the queen as a sad, nobel celebrity matriarch. See this earlier post: “Elizabeth the Great: Why do many journalists choose to edit faith out of her Christmas talks?”
I think the big gaps (other than details about her faith) have been any sense of (a) the gravitas added by her World War II service, including her work driving an Army ambulance. Also, it’s poignant that, (b) until the stunning abdication of King Edward VIII, she was raised with zero expectation of becoming queen. This relatively normal childhood (until age 10) created tight ties to her parents and shaped her views on family.
Yes, the BBC has had a very heavy emphasis on the admiration for the queen seen in mainline, establishment churches and minority faiths. At some point I would like to know if the admiration for Elizabeth II common among American evangelicals also exists in the UK. Click here for a roundup of that, including these typical remarks from Bishop Andrew Forster of the Church of Ireland:
“Throughout her life she set Christ, and his message and his teaching, as the primary thing that has helped her and blessed her and I think made her into the incredible monarch, sovereign that she was.”
Bishop Forster described the late Queen as the “grandmother of the nation”.
“Maybe it was because people understood that she had an understanding of some of the issues that we might face behind closed doors, some of the issues of increased frailty, of family strife — there was that sense of a grandmotherly figure who understood the challenges of life,” he said.
In my previous post, I noted that a Washington Post feature about the queen’s “most memorable remarks” that said her public appearances were “peppered with words of wisdom, faith and occasionally personal reflections.” There was content about her Christmas messages, while omitting any faith content.
However, the religion desk — veteran Sarah Pulliam Bailey (a former GetReligion contributor) — went in depth on one of the most interesting religion-news angles from the queen’s long life: “Fact checking ‘The Crown’: Queen Elizabeth’s faith and her close relationship with preacher Billy Graham.”
First, note this:
Several writers have pointed out how “The Crown” took more liberties with historical fact and chronology in its second season. So did the show take some liberties in depicting the queen’s faith and her relationship with the evangelist?
Let me note that in my previous post, I noted how “The Crown” had emphasized the rumors — never confirmed — that Prince Philip had been unfaithful to the queen. Was this part of the background the reports that she questioned Graham about the need to forgive others?
Bailey’s Post piece has another totally valid theory about those scenes in the Netflix hit. First, there is this intro:
“The Crown” shows the queen sipping her tea while watching the evangelist on television preach to a packed stadium. Even though several of her family members seemed befuddled by Graham, his fiery preaching style piqued the queen’s curiosity, and she asked for a private meeting with him. “I think he’s rather handsome,” the queen tells her husband.
“You do speak with such wonderful clarity and certainty,” Elizabeth, played by Claire Foy, tells Graham. After he delivers a sermon for the royal family at Windsor Castle, the queen says that she felt “a great joy” to be “a simple congregant, being taught, being led … to be able to just disappear and be…“
“A simple Christian,” Graham replies.
“Yes,” Elizabeth says. “Above all things, I do think of myself as just a simple Christian.”
Here is the crucial material on the forgiveness angle:
In the show, the royal family struggles with its relationship to former King Edward VIII, Elizabeth’s uncle who abdicated the throne to marry a divorcée and became the Duke of Windsor. That familial struggle becomes increasingly tense as the queen learns the family’s dark secret: Her uncle had become friendly with the Nazis during World War II, plotted to overthrow his brother and encouraged Germany to bomb England.
After learning the shocking details about her uncle, the queen asks Graham open-ended questions about forgiveness. Played by actor Paul Sparks, Graham tells the queen that she should pray for those she “cannot forgive.”
By contacting the Rev. Franklin Graham, Bailey reported some additional background. The evangelist and the queen remained in touch, although “not necessarily a pen pal relationship where they’d write to each other regularly. Billy Graham spoke several other times in her private chapel and he was knighted in 2001. Also:
Graham delivered a sermon for the queen on Easter Sunday in 1995 in the royal family’s private chapel.
“Good manners do not permit one to discuss the details of a private visit with Her Majesty, but I can say that I judge her to be a woman of rare modesty and character,” he wrote in his autobiography “Just As I Am.”
Yes, the piece raised a valid question about the “Billy Graham Rule” and the one-on-one meeting between the queen and Graham in “The Crown.” Would the evangelist have met with the queen, alone?
Historian and Graham biographer William Martin says Billy Graham began the practice in 1948, and it encompassed lunches, counseling sessions, even a ride to an auditorium or an airport because the pastor believed it helped keep him from “even the appearance of evil.”
Martin says, however, that there’s not much chance that the queen would have been left truly alone even if no attendant was in the room. But if the queen asked for this, Martin and fellow Graham historian Grant Wacker both believe he probably would’ve made an exception.
“Graham always meant for the rule to be observed with common sense,” said Wacker, who is a historian at Duke Divinity School. “The point was to prevent candlelit dinners far from home.”
Graham never discussed what happened during his contacts with Elizabeth II. However, the Post piece included this interesting observation.
… Queen Elizabeth has made several public comments about the role of forgiveness in her life.
“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith,” she said in 2011. “It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”
Read that whole piece. And, please, send GetReligion URLs if you see any significant faith-news coverage (really good or really bad) leading up to the queen’s funeral.
FIRST IMAGE: Uncredited photo with this feature at the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, “How Billy Graham Once Reflected on His Friendship With Queen Elizabeth II.”