Barring the unexpected, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 9, 2015, will become the longest reigning British monarch, overtaking Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. These historic 63-year reigns are separated by four kings who reigned for a combined total of only 51 years.
The majority of people living today have never experienced the sometimes national anthem, “God Save the King.” In fact, since 1837, “God Save the Queen” has been the national anthem over 70 percent of the time.
It would seem that the British have had their prayers answered, the prayers included three times in that national anthem: “Long live our noble queen!” “Long to reign over us.” “Long may she reign.” The anthem recognizes that the ultimate hopes of the British people are fixed on God, not on their queen, and that they are dependent on Him for His choicest gifts. The middle verse focuses on Britain’s enemies, and includes that memorable line, “Frustrate their knavish tricks,” which is just as relevant today as ever in British history, though they are facing a new type of threat.
The Queen’s family members are certainly products of the 20th century, and have faced many of the same struggles that the rich and famous have faced in our own country. Nevertheless, Queen Elizabeth herself has continued to be a symbol of stability and strength to royal followers around the globe.
I had a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh many years ago, and I cannot fathom the realities of their public life. Yet, in many ways, my middle-class 21st century life is more similar to that of Queen Elizabeth than Queen Elizabeth’s life is akin to Queen Victoria’s.
Granted, the queens have had huge staffs of butlers, bakers, gardeners, dishwashers, chauffeurs, maintenance workers, and accountants. Nevertheless, as I take advantage of the technological advances of recent decades, Queen Victoria’s life of ease pales in comparison to my own.
I can communicate with my friends around the globe more quickly and more easily than Queen Victoria could communicate with Balmoral. With a simple adjustment to my thermostat, I can avail myself of either central heating or central air. I can heat my food in a “Quick Minute.” My showers are temperature controlled, with multiple jet-massaging shower heads. My bodily functions are removed with a simple flush. I have a life expectancy approaching 80, and the physicians have an array of antibiotics to fight off most nasty bacteria. Queen Victoria never had it so good; she might think that I am king for a day (or a month, or a year).
My 80-year old father-in-law, who doesn’t always appreciate the computer gadgets in his tractors and combines, nevertheless is awed by the technological advances he has witnessed in his lifetime. He regrets that his life expectancy will not permit him to see the next 50 years. Technological change continues at a rapid pace, in a way that is affordable to the middle class.
All things considered, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and this lowly commoner all share the reality that we are creatures made by a holy God, and all of us, whether royalty or commoner, are dependent upon Him. God save us all.
Dr. Gary L. Welton is assistant dean for institutional assessment, professor of psychology at Grove City College, and a contributor to The Center for Vision & Values.