September 16, 2022

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Elizabeth II’s life a reminder of the role of family in instilling timeless values

Sean GallagherAlthough Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain held no political authority like monarchs of old or like today’s governmental leaders, her death on Sept. 8 drew immediate heartfelt reactions from people low and high around the world.

That was because, more than simply the head of state of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth had shown herself from before her 70-year reign began in 1952 to be a true leader of the peoples of the British Commonwealth spread around the world.

When she turned 21 in 1947, knowing that she would succeed her father King George VI as monarch, she said in a speech to the British people, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

She fulfilled that promise in the long life with which she was blessed, not just in words, but also in the loving care for her people that she showed in so many actions.

In this, Elizabeth built on the strong foundation of service and solidarity she had been given in her parents. She was a teenager when Great Britain was under massive attack from the air in the early years of World War II.

The royal family could have sought refuge in Canada or other countries of the commonwealth far away from the fighting. But her parents were determined to remain with their suffering people and not abandon them in their time of need.

So, though only a young 25 when she began her reign in 1952, Elizabeth had received a baptism of fire for leadership in the harrowing years of the war.

Other aspects of her life that shaped her leadership were her strong Christian faith and her dedication to her family, which she received so well from her parents.

Selfless leadership rooted in faith and family—these are timeless qualities that many of the people of the United Kingdom and many others in western society increasingly devalued or outright abandoned in the second half of the

20th century and into the 21st century.

But while changes swirled around her in society and in her own family, Elizabeth remained steadfast in those values that had served her and her people so well for so long.

Her son, the new King Charles III, who has experienced his own self-inflicted difficulties in family life, called on the example of his mother in his first speech as monarch when he said, “As the queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation.”

Charles may have somewhat of a checkered past. But, as a student of history, I know that more than a few of his predecessors on the British throne make him look saintly by comparison. I think most notably here of the 16th-century King Henry VIII with his six wives and the horrible actions he took against the Church and its faithful in his country.

So, I take Charles at his word in his pledge to carry on the selfless duty so well lived out by his mother for 70 years.

The last three British monarchs—King George VI, Elizabeth II and King Charles III—are a reminder to us writ large of the importance of family in instilling timeless values to each new generation and the great good that can come about in the faith-filled carrying out of this primary duty of parents.

May God strengthen King Charles in continuing to help form his son and heir apparent, William, Prince of Wales, for dedicated service rooted in faith and family.

And, please God, may this blessing come upon all of our families so that they, with the help of your grace, usher in your eternal kingdom of peace.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter for The Criterion.)

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