The Grave of the Unknown Warrior

Services and acts of Remembrance have been severely restricted this year, but last week Queen Elizabeth went to Westminster Abbey for a deeply personal service at the grave of the Unknown Warrior. The Queen laid a floral tribute based on her wedding bouquet on the grave. After their weddings both she and her mother had laid their wedding bouquets on the grave.

The Grave of the Unknown Warrior was inspired by the Rev. David Railton, who, while serving as a chaplain on the Western Front during the First World War, saw a grave marked by a rough cross and a pencil-written note saying: ‘An Unknown British Soldier.’ After the war he wrote to the Dean of Westminster, Herbert Ryle, proposing that a memorial to the fallen with no known grave should lie among the kings and national heroes in the Abbey. King George V and the Prime Minister David Lloyd George supported the proposal. The body was chosen from unknown British servicemen who had been exhumed from four battle areas, the Somme, the Aisne, Arras and Ypres. On 11 November 1920 the coffin, draped with a Union Flag, was taken to Westminster Abbey where, as it was buried, King George V dropped a handful of earth from France on it.

The grave was topped with a tombstone in black Belgian marble. The inscription on the tombstone reads, “Beneath this stone rests the body of a British Warrior unknown by name or rank brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day 1920. Thus, are commemorated the many multitudes who during the Great War of 1914-1918 gave the most that man can give, life itself, for God, for King and country, for loved ones, home and empire, for the sacred cause of justice and the freedom of the world. They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.”

Around the main inscription are four verses from the New Testament. “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” “Greater love hath no man than this.” “Unknown and yet well known, dying and behold we live.” “In Christ shall all be made alive.” These verses remind us that no-one is unknown to God. Tragically, some great and celebrated people seem to give little thought to God. But apparently insignificant of people, from all nations, who call on him will one day hear the King of kings say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”


Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee

The Diamond Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II is a very special occasion. She came to the throne on 6 February 1952, at the age of 26, following the death of her father, King George VI. Her Coronation took place on 2 June 1953. Throughout the past 60 years the Queen has reigned with great dignity and wisdom. She has been a good example to her subjects. Many people around the world are glad to live under the reign of Queen Elizabeth. In addition to the UK, there are 15 Commonwealth Realms of which Elizabeth is the Queen. She is also Head of the Commonwealth of Nations which brings together 54 independent nation states. This week millions of people around the world will express their love and affection for the Queen.

Some people are, however, fiercely opposed to privilege and wealth which have not been earned. They are opposed to the monarchy and favour republicanism. They want the right to chose their leaders and, if they wish, to be able to remove them. Behind this lies the demand for autonomy, so that we are free to do anything we wish. We don’t want anyone to tell us what to do, especially if we didn’t give them that right by electing them.

There is, however, an awesome reality that all of us must face. This world and our personal lives are governed by God. He is King over all human monarchs. His rule is a great blessing to those who gladly acknowledge him. He invites us all to live under his care and protection. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to establish a Kingdom to which people of all nations may belong. All Christians gladly confess “Jesus is Lord!”

Many early Christians died for this profession. Every citizen of the Roman Empire was required once a year to burn a pinch of incense and say, “Caesar is Lord.” Christians, who were loyal citizens and prayed for the Emperor, refused to do this because they knew only Jesus was truly Lord. They were punished very severely and many died in the arena where they faced wild animals. The spectators, seeing how the Christian men protected the women and the woman protected the children, said, “See how these Christians love one another!” In their darkest hour these Christians knew that, because Jesus really is Lord, even though they died they would live with him forever in his heavenly Kingdom.


The Servant Queen and the Servant King

King George VI died on 6 February 1952 and his daughter Elizabeth acceded to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. I was a young boy at the time and remember the day because normal radio programmes were cancelled, including Listen with Mother! That day I did not hear the familiar words, “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.”

Queen Elizabeth has now reigned for 60 years, the second longest reigning British monarch in history. She has won the love and respect of her own people and many people around the world. In 1999 Australians were offered a choice between Queen Elizabeth and becoming a Republic and voted for the Queen!

At the beginning of her Diamond Jubilee year the Queen thanked people for their wonderful support and encouragement and wrote a message to the nation. “In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope that we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign.” She said she was looking forward to the future “with a clear head and a warm heart.”

In the New Testament we are exhorted to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” This is remarkable when you remember that many Christians, including the apostle Paul who wrote those words, died at the command of the Roman Emperor! Paul taught that “the authorities that exist have been established by God” and are “God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” Queen Elizabeth is an excellent example of a monarch who has whole-heartedly served her people. We thank God for her and pray that he will continue to bless her.

Even the best of earthly kings and queens reign only for a time, but Jesus Christ is the King of kings and reigns forever. He came into the world “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Living under his gracious reign brings true freedom and unmitigated blessings. His commands are always for our good. He loves us and protects us from all harm. We are glad to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen!”