Sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Service to celebrate the Sixtieth Anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s Coronation, 1953

‘And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all’ (Mark 10:44)

A nation watched. It was the first time the whole nation had watched anything as it happened. But this they saw. Pomp and ceremony on a rainy, June day, wrapped in time and custom – very British. At its beginning was a moment of deepest meaning we have all almost forgotten. The figure at the centre of events, the new Queen, goes alone, not to the Coronation Chair, but past it: to kneel at the altar in prayer. Before her on the High Altar the words “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and Christ.”

We do not know what was prayed. Her Majesty knelt at the beginning of a path of demanding devotion and utter self-sacrifice, a path she did not choose, yet to which she was called by God. Today we celebrate sixty years since that moment, sixty years of commitment.

There was a trumpet fanfare as today as the Queen arrived with her supporters, but let us resist the splendour of the spectacle for a moment, and focus on what was meant: “Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.”

And following her giving of allegiance to God, others – especially, with such equal and dedicated commitment, the Duke of Edinburgh – pledged their allegiance to her.

And here, in the grace and providence of God, is the model of liberty and authority which our country enjoys. Liberty is only real when it exists under authority. Liberty under authority  begins, as the Book of Common Prayer puts it, with our duty to God, “whose service is perfect freedom”.

We live in a hierarchy of liberty under authority that ascends to God’s limitless love. As we see in the life of Jesus, with God justice and mercy are perfectly joined, wisdom is unlimited, generosity is unstinting, and love pours out to the whole world in an overwhelming embrace that is offered universally and abundantly.

A nation that crowns its head of state with such a model of liberty under authority expresses commitment to the same glorious values for itself.

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