Oniontown Pastoral: God Rest the Queen–and Our Weary World

Oniontown Pastoral: God Rest the Queen—and Our Weary World

We knew it was coming. Queen Elizabeth II was 96. Her obituary should not read, “Her Majesty died unexpectedly at Balmoral Castle.” No, Elizabeth had a great run. That she inched toward 100 and was conversant, ambulatory and taking nourishment up to the end ought to salve the world’s grief, if not her family’s.

I’ve never given Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor much thought, actually. Embarrassing as it is to confess, she always struck me as so thick with façade as to seem vacuous. Clearly I was wrong and ungenerous as well in writing off King Charles III as a buffoon. But events have a way of enlightening an unkind spirit and confronting harsh misconceptions. So it was that I found myself watering up during coverage of Elizabeth’s death. As ever, no tear running down my cheek escapes interrogation. Why was the passing of a woman with a cherubic face and a wardrobe my mother would have called “loud” choking me up? 

I’m no fan of a monarchy or any other institutional colossus that hoards wealth on a planet where continents of children wear not crowns, but distended bellies. And like normal human beings, my heart swells at genuine patriotism and pageantry. Can any nation beat the Brits at “Pomp and Circumstance”? At the same time, excessive fanfare is falderal. 

Queen Elizabeth in 2006. (Credit: Encyclopedia Brittanica)

As it happens, though, my ambivalence toward kings, queens, princes, princesses, processions and tawdry palace intrigue overlooked a priceless quality possessed by the late Queen: dignity. To my American ears, admittedly, the British accent in itself is edifying. Deportment is also vital, manners and restraint, too. 

Queen Elizabeth had a public presence that was so refreshingly, well, dignified. Of course, those teeth shining with every smile chomped down behind closed doors, where her offsprings’ excesses were taken by the scruff. Buckingham Palace must have order. Charles, meanwhile, has conducted himself with authentic, if somewhat worn, stoicism in his hour of mourning. Has His Highness shamelessly used royal privilege to enrich himself? Indeed, but if we’re going to sort out public figures on this basis, we best get busy on the threshing floor.

My point is, in an era gone mad with contradictions, falsehoods, deceptions, dalliances, dismemberment and Faustian bargains, we can learn from Queen Elizabeth’s way of addressing and interacting with her subjects—an unsavory but accurate term. Noblesse oblige is benevolent at its best.

So, yes, I teared up listening to a young Elizabeth say to the Commonwealth, “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.”

King Charles III (Credit: Marca.com)

My report would be lacking, however, if I didn’t confess that my eyes are leaking over more than an elderly monarch’s passing. I’m also world-weary, fatigued along with everyone else. The Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor experienced “compassion fatigue” as an Episcopal parish priest, which lead her to accept an endowed chair in religion at Piedmont College in 1997. A celebrated preacher still, she published a memoir, Leaving Church, in 2006, describing at length how tiring it is to care deeply and intensely for parishioners. (Thankfully, I’m not suffering in this way as a pastor.)

Then there’s “decision fatigue,” a malady I stumbled upon over 10 years ago, long before COVID-19 put a strain on bandwidths one and all. The American Medical Association website now defines this weariness in terms that will surprise nobody: “A state of mental overload that can impede a person’s ability to continue making decisions.” The condition can especially hamper those in poverty, as they have to fret over every last cent, but I’ll wager everybody has been deflated by choices that need to be made in times of stress.

And now we have “hope fatigue,” so named by Brooklyn psychotherapist Leslie Alterman as the burden of anybody paying attention to the societal and medical landmines buried under today’s every footfall. Among her patients, “There’s an unspoken recognition that the chaos we are experiencing might be with us for a long time.” For me, the chaos is conjured by those who engage in the impolite, cruel, brutal, deceitful, downright wicked behavior that scars our day. Attorney Joseph Welsh’s 1954 question of renown to Senator Joseph McCarthy is laughably naïve in 2022: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Any response is sure to include an expletive. 

Queen Elizabeth in 1959. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Now I’m humming “God Save the Queen.” For all of royalty’s folly, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor knew how to behave herself—thereby sparing a world of already languishing innocent bystanders the ordeal of indecent nonsense. Neither Great Britain nor any other nation can spare her example. Now she is gone. Her repose is worth a few tears.

3 thoughts on “Oniontown Pastoral: God Rest the Queen–and Our Weary World

  1. Once again it seems you are reading my mind. I have found myself disliking the concept of “royalty” in the 21st century, but admiring the British royals (especially Elizabeth) as a shining example of genuine caring on the part of our leaders.

  2. Thank you for this, John. This post was much needed. I wept for two days when Queen Elizabeth died and still can’t explain the reason. I think I’m suffering from “compassion fatigue,” “decision fatigue,” and “hope fatigue.” (The compassion fatigue is, of course, not because I’m a pastor, but because I was a caregiver for a succession of family members from early 2017 until about a year ago.) Your post has encouraged me to re-read the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor’s book.. I am personally acquainted with her, as she lives near me and was the founding rector of the Episcopal parish of which I am a member. Her books have provided great comfort and encouragement to me over the years.

  3. I find it difficult forgiving her for the marriage between Charles and Diana. When things didn’t work out she threw Diana to the hyenas (paparazzi) in other words, withdrew the ring of protection all of royalty enjoys including Andrew in spite of his, uhm, wayward ways. Their treatment of Megan Markle is equally unforgivable.

    I also can’t unsee a photograph of her inspecting hoards of gold bars, stacked shelf upon shelf – all hers.

    I made particular effort, one had to there was so much of it, to miss the entire to-do.

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