In Netflix series The Crown, Queen Elizabeth takes a liking to a then young evangelist Billy Graham and invites him to preach at the royal family’s private chapel at Windsor.
Later, over a cup of tea, the Queen tells the American preacher that her great joy during his sermon was to feel as a “simple congregant” and that she “thinks of herself as a simple Christian”.
“It is the value of Christian living that guides me and defines me,” she says.
While the specific conversation is a Hollywood invention, the Queen did like Billy Graham, she did invite him to preach at her home and she spoke to him regularly through her life.
It also accurately portrays two aspects of the Queen’s character and leadership style that endear her to millions.
The first has been well documented.
The Queen walked humbly while still exercising authority.
The most common description this past week from those who met her is how she made people feel so comfortable and at ease in her presence.
The second has been almost unremarked.
The Queen was a committed Christian and took her title as “Defender of the Faith” seriously. That role was not originally an Anglican one.
The title “Defender of the Faith” was bestowed by Pope Leo X on King Henry VIII after he defended the sacrament of marriage and the supremacy of the Pope.
Later Henry would divorce multiple wives and split with the Catholic Church on the issue of marriage.
No matter, the subsequent kings and queens of England kept the title.
The Queen did not preach her Christianity, but she did express it often, mainly through her Christmas broadcasts, which regularly mentioned Jesus Christ.
On the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s birth she said: “For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.”
It is hard to explain the global outpouring of sadness, from Hong Kong to Brazil, on the Queen’s passing.
At least some of it is because deep down we know that her humble Christian leadership may have departed with her in our postmodern, uber-materialistic world.
The Queen’s reign overlapped with enormous technological and social change.
She was the first monarch to deliver Christmas broadcasts by television.
In her first television address in 1957 the Queen recognised that many felt “lost” with the speed of the changes.
She warned that the “trouble is caused by unthinking people who carelessly throw away ageless ideals as if they were old and outworn machinery”.
“They would have religion thrown aside. Morality in personal and public life made meaningless,” she said.
“Honesty counted as foolishness and self-interest setup in place of self-restraint.”
We have ignored Queen Elizabeth’s prophetic warning and tossed aside old values and principles at the altar of progress.
We have an unyielding faith that new things must make things better.
Hence, we naively fall for the new fads of gender fluidity or empty slogans like “love is love”.
This is all while family breakdown, drug use, domestic violence and sexual assault increase.
The spontaneous, nostalgic response of the past week is emotional.
But we should also think rationally about why this reaction has occurred.
There is a longing to return to Christian values of loyalty, duty and sacrifice.
In her 1957 Christmas broadcast the Queen said: “We need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right, everything that is true and honest.”
Next week the Queen will receive a Christian burial.