Archbishop of Canterbury's video on The Queen's Diamond Jubilee
Friday 1st June 2012Speaking in a short film produced by Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury talks about The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the significance of the 60 year reign ‘in which nationally and internationally so much has shifted’.
He praises Her Majesty’s profound commitment to understanding and working with the flow of the changes that have taken place in society in this time, saying ‘To have [a monarch] who has been a symbol, a sign of stability through all that period is really a rather exceptional gift.’
In the video, he speaks about the strong support he has received personally from The Queen during his time as Archbishop, ‘I’ve always found it really refreshing to be able to talk with her…to get her perspective’.
“Part of the regular rhythm of life as Archbishop is that I see the Queen privately, just one to one, perhaps once or twice a year. I’ve really valued those meetings because she’s always extremely well informed about issues concerning the Church - extremely supportive and full of perception. She’s seen lots of archbishops come and go, she’s seen prime ministers come and go, so she knows something of the pressures of the job.”
Dr Williams, who will deliver the sermon at the national service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday 5th June, also praised The Queen’s ability to ‘help us as a society to keep our heads collectively, not to be panicked by change. She has very gently steered that cultural process in her own way.’
“I think we’ve been enormously fortunate in this country to have as our head of state a person who has a real personality – a personality that comes through more and more, I think, in her public utterances. Someone with insight and judgement, and with immense stamina and a depth of commitment that I think is immensely impressive to all of us.”
A full transcript follows:
We’re celebrating this year 60 years of the Queen’s reign. It’s only the second time in British history that we’ve had a Diamond Jubilee for a monarch, so that in itself is pretty important. But I think this particular 60 years, even more than Queen Victoria’s 60-plus years, is significant simply because of the kind of 60 years it has been – the rate of change in society, the way in which nationally and internationally so much has shifted.
Since the 16th century, every English monarch has been Supreme Governor of the Church of England, which doesn’t mean that the Queen or the King is the head of the Church of England. It simply means they’re the final court of appeal. They’re the person who makes the final decision about what the Church can do and can’t do in law. One of the Queen’s other titles is Defender of the Faith. We still see it on our coins in Latin: Fidei Defensor. It’s tied up with the Queen’s role as the senior layperson of the Church of England. But I think that the Queen has made something quite fresh of it. She has, in effect, said that by being the guardian of the Christian faith as held by the Church of England, she establishes a real place for faith in public life. And the Queen has been amazingly affirming in recent years of the presence of other religions as part of the tapestry of British life. So I think we’ve seen a transformation in the meaning of that term in the last few decades, and a transformation that has done nothing but good to our society.
Westminster Abbey has been the scene of the coronation of the English monarch for very nearly 1,000 years now. The architecture of the Abbey reflects the need to have a big open space where you could have a great public ceremony like the coronation. The coronation ceremony, which is in itself a very ancient ceremony, is set in the context of a service of holy communion, according to the rites of the Church of England. Obviously, it’s difficult to go into detail about how the Queen would have felt about all this. What I do know, though, is that the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Fisher, wrote a special book of prayers for her to use every day in the months leading up to the coronation. She still has that book – I know she treasures it; I’ve seen it in Windsor Castle. And I think it does make it very clear that she approached this with great seriousness, with a lot of prayer, a lot of reflection – really seeing it as a call, a gift from God.
It’s an enormously complex, varied ceremony – not only the placing of the crown on the monarch’s head, but also the anointing of the new King or Queen with consecrated oil. That’s a very significant part of the ceremony, and it looks back to biblical antecedents, to the stories in the Bible of prophets and priests anointing the kings of Israel in ancient times. It also relates to the fact that priests and bishops are anointed with holy oil at their ordination or consecration. When the coronation was televised in 1953, the Queen was very unwilling to have the cameras on her at that moment of anointing, because that was somehow the central moment for her. It’s not only about the calling and the consecration of an individual, it’s also about that individual making promises to the whole community. It’s a covenant occasion, if you like – an occasion when people make a promise to each other.
It seems to me that what her importance has been for most people in this country has been as a sign of stability, a sign of some kind of security. And that wouldn’t have happened had she not been so profoundly committed at every point, so intelligently committed to understanding the society she was in, working with the flow of the changes that have taken place. To have someone who has been a symbol, a sign of stability through all that period is really a rather exceptional gift. Her role in the Commonwealth is not the least important part of that. I think she has reminded us that we in the United Kingdom are part of a worldwide fellowship. That’s not the least of the lessons she has shared with us, and again, the change that she has helped to happen from Empire to Commonwealth while yet retaining that sense of fellowship and family between nations.
Part of the regular rhythm of life as Archbishop is that I see the Queen privately, just one to one, perhaps once or twice a year. I have really valued those meetings because she is always extremely well informed about issues concerning the Church – extremely supportive and full of perception. She’s seen lots of archbishops come and go, she’s seen prime ministers come and go, so she knows something of the pressures of the job. And I’ve always found it really refreshing to be able to talk with her about these questions, to get her perspective – purely personally, I’ve felt very strongly supported there. I’ve felt she’s understood the difficulties when there have been quite trying events and episodes in my own life as Archbishop. She has been unfailingly kind, understanding and supportive, and I value that enormously.
I hadn’t had any contact at all with royalty before coming into this job. I didn’t know what to expect, really. I found in the Queen someone who can be friendly, who can be informal, who can be extremely funny in private (and not everybody appreciates just how funny she can be), who is quite prepared to tease and to be teased, and who, while retaining her dignity always, doesn’t stand on her dignity in a conversation.
I think we’ve been enormously fortunate in this country to have as our head of state a person who has a real personality – a personality that comes through more and more, I think, in her public utterances. Someone with insight and judgement, and with immense stamina and a depth of commitment that I think is immensely impressive to all of us. And in living that out as our head of state, she has, I think, genuinely helped us as a society to keep our heads collectively, not to be panicked by change. She has very gently steered that cultural process in her own way, and I think we owe a very great debt to her for that and many other things.