by Charles Gardner
As the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has already testified, the Queen’s affection for the Jewish people ran deep. But it was her faith in Jesus, the Jew, that proved the light and strength of her long life and reign.
The Queen’s mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Greece, was honored with the title of ‘righteous among the nations’ for her bravery in hiding a Jewish family during the Holocaust and is buried on the Mount of Olives. In 2018, significantly 70 years1 after the rebirth of Israel, British royalty ended their ‘exile’ from official visits to the Holy Land when Prince William, the Queen’s grandson (now the Prince of Wales and first in line to the throne) toured the country.
The Queen’s eldest, now King Charles III, had already visited Israel twice to pay respects at state funerals as well as fulfilling a longstanding wish to visit his grandmother’s grave, but these were not considered official tours. However, in what was seen to contribute to a positive new era in British-Israeli relations, Charles then attended the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem in January 2019. Charles has shown constant support for Holocaust survivors over the years, regularly inviting them to lavish teas, as one of them has shared with me.
But most significantly of all, the Queen has based her entire life, and her extraordinary 70-year reign, on Jesus, the Jew, the rock and guide of her long reign. Yet though she has travelled the world more than most, she never set foot in Israel, the land which gave birth to the Christian faith she so devoutly followed.
Every year at Christmas, in a broadcast to the nation watched by millions worldwide, the Sovereign shared her personal Christian faith as key to all she does.
Some years ago, for example, she quoted a verse from a well-known carol, In the bleak midwinter: “What can I give him, poor as I am, If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb, If I were a wise man, I would do my part, Yet what I can I give him, give my heart.” As a true evangelist in the spirit of Billy Graham, she encouraged millions of viewers to give Jesus their heart. This was our Queen, and we are all so proud of her! Very recently I heard of a conversation she held with an acquaintance in which she is said to have stated: “I wish Jesus would come back in my lifetime.” Asked why, she reportedly replied: “Because I would place my crown at his feet.”
Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada via Flickr (cc)
In his sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said she was “someone who has been able to serve our nation faithfully because of her faith in Jesus Christ”. And then he added this challenge: “Perhaps there is no better way of celebrating her Platinum Jubilee than by doing the same ourselves.”
On this point, it is truly exciting to witness how the entire nation, led by the secular media, is being taken up with the wonder and reality of our late Queen’s faith.
Referring to the Apostle Paul, the Archbishop said he was only worth following because he was following Jesus, adding: “For me, the best leaders – like Paul, like Jesus – are those who know how to be led.”
Representing Britain’s Jewish community, Rabbi Mirvis said: “I recall how, on one occasion, she showed me and my wife items of Jewish interest and value in her private collection at Windsor Castle, including a Torah scroll rescued from Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust. Her affection for the Jewish people ran deep, and her respect for our values was palpable.”
The long exile from the modern Jewish state by British royalty is perhaps complex, but seems to reflect Foreign Office policy, which generally amounts to appeasement of the surrounding Arab nations. In 2017, a rumoured visit by Prince Charles was reportedly cancelled by the Royal Visits Committee on the grounds that it would “upset Arab nations in the region who regularly host UK royals”.2
The Queen’s late husband Prince Philip’s only trip was in 1994 to attend a ceremony commemorating his mother, Princess Alice who, as Princess of Greece, hid Jewish widow Rachel Cohen and two of her five children in her home. Rachel’s husband had in 1913 helped King George I of Greece, in return for which the king offered him any service he could perform, should he ever need it. When the Nazi threat emerged, his son recalled this promise and appealed to the Princess, who duly honoured her father’s pledge.
Caption: Church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem where Princess Alice of Battenberg is buried.
As I watched Charles’ beautiful tribute to his mother shortly after she died, I found myself praying the prayer of William Tyndale as he was about to be martyred for daring to translate the New Testament into English: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
We know the new king has been less vocal and precise about his faith than his mother, but I pray that God will also open his eyes to the uniqueness of Christ and his gospel. God save the King!
Charles Gardner is the editor of CMJ UK Prayer Focus and was on the editorial board of ProphecyToday.uk for seven years.
- 70 years was the length of the Jews' exile in Babylon, Jer 25:12, Dan 9:2.
- Daily Mail, 2 March 2018