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Ian Bradley: God Save the Queen, John Hall: Queen Elizabeth II and her Church

Ian Bradley

God Save the Queen

ISBN: 7981 4411 9367 4

Continuum, 2012, 299pp, £12.99

&

John Hall

Queen Elizabeth II and her Church

ISBN: 9781 4411 2072 4

Continuum, 2012, 176pp, £12.99

These books were made available for the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, although one of them is a revision of a book that was first published in 1999. The two books are very different from one another in contents and style. The first is a very scholarly history of the monarchy and its place within the Christian tradition. The second is concerned with the Queen’s Church, i.e. Westminster Abbey, and its activities. It is written by John Hall, who is currently the Dean.

Ian Bradley traces the Christian concept of monarchy back to its foreshadowing in the Old Testament, noting the tensions between those who regarded the king as in some ways usurping the kingship of God and those who taught that the monarchy was itself of divine origin. Turning to the English scene, he calls attention to the different emphases at different periods of history, as for example the medieval ideal of the king being a valiant knight fighting for the right and the post-Reformation idea of the divine right of kings. He notes that the contemporary doctrine of the king or queen personifying the ideals of dedication and service owes a great deal to Queen Victoria, whose long reign was marked by her Christian commitment.

The author points out that during the 60 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign there have been massive changes in British culture, and the new attitudes have led many to lose respect for both the Monarchy and the Church. He writes a great deal about the popularity of Princess Diana, giving the impression that many people in our nation are looking for a less traditional form of royalty, and there is speculation about the form which the next coronation will take.

It is a fascinating study, well written, in addition to being well researched and documented (as the 18 pages of notes testify).

John Hall’s book is a very personal book. Although it begins with an account of the Coronation service of 1953 (which he remembers watching on TV when he was a child of 4 years old) most of the book is about the special services in Westminster Abbey that have taken place there during his time as Dean. It includes descriptions of the visit of Pope Benedict in 2009, and the Royal Wedding in 2011. Due emphasis is given to the day-to-day liturgical worship as the pivot point round which everything else revolves.

It is a deeply spiritual book, but unfortunately the production is rather poor. The collage of colour photographs on the cover is attractive, but all the pictures in the book itself are in black and white. The format is unusual, consisting of small print in double spacing. But please don’t let this detract from the real worth of the book, for you will enjoy reading it.

Martin SSF