Queen Elizabeth II has been the monarch of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth since her accession to the throne in 1952.
She is the longest-reigning British monarch in history, celebrating her Platinum Jubilee in 2022 after 70 years on the throne. Her personal religious views and practices have been a topic of interest throughout her reign.
A Life of Faith
The Queen is a devout Christian and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Her strong faith has been a constant throughout her life and reign. She has spoken openly about the importance of her beliefs, saying “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad.”
Her dedication to the Church of England is evident, as she holds the title ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. She takes her role as head of the Church very seriously and has remained steadfastly committed to her faith.
The Queen’s faith was shaped from an early age under the guidance of her family. Her parents, King George VI and the Queen Mother, were devout Christians who instilled those values in Elizabeth and her sister Margaret. The royal family would attend church regularly, and say prayers together each night.
Young Elizabeth’s education also reinforced her Christian faith. She was tutored in constitutional history and law so that she could understand her future role as Supreme Governor. Bible study and learning catechisms of the Church were central to her curriculum.
This instilled in her a deep knowledge of the Scriptures and Anglican doctrine that she continues to draw upon today.
The Queen takes an active part in the life of the Church as a lay member. On Sundays she attends services, either at the chapel in Windsor Castle when she is in residence or at Crathie Kirk near Balmoral when in Scotland. At Christmas she broadcasts a message to the nation reflecting on the year and reciting prayers.
She also plays a formal role in major Church events, bestowing honors upon deserving clergy and laity. The Queen appoints bishops, archbishops, and deans of the Church on the advice of the Prime Minister. She also approves the appointment of parish priests by Church authorities.
Priesthood in the Family
In addition to her own devout practice, the Queen has many family members who have joined the clergy. Her paternal great-grandfather was a prince of the Anglican Church, and her cousin served as Bishop of Bradford.
The Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999, who later became the Countess of Wessex. Their daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, has expressed interest in becoming an Anglican priest someday.
So while the royal family must remain politically neutral, their faith clearly remains an important guiding force in their lives. The Queen in particular sees it as providing stability and perspective amidst the pressures of her duties.
The Queen’s Relationship with Other Faiths
As monarch, the Queen holds the title ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. While this clearly establishes her own Anglican identity, she recognizes her role requires impartiality towards other belief systems.
During her reign she has worked to be understanding and respectful of the diverse religious makeup of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.
To foster interfaith dialogue and cooperation, the Queen has entertained leaders of many faith communities at Buckingham Palace. She has also visited significant sites like mosques, temples, and gurdwaras to better understand the worship and customs of other religions.
The Queen has supported initiatives to protect religious liberty worldwide. In 2013, she hosted a multifaith reception to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Convention alongside other fundamental human rights.
Royal Visits Abroad
When the Queen conducts state visits abroad, she always respects the prevailing religious culture of her host countries. On trips to the Middle East she has worn attire deemed appropriate for entering mosques.
In India she has been gifted headscarves as a sign of respect when visiting Sikh gurdwaras. And she has called on the counsel of religious advisors like the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth when visiting Jewish sites.
This sensitivity and willing adaptation has helped foster warm ties between the Crown and faith communities beyond her own for decades.
The Queen’s Relationship with the Pope and Catholicism
The history between British monarchy and the Papacy has often been tumultuous. However, during Elizabeth II’s reign her relations with Rome have greatly improved to become cordial and cooperative.
In recent history, the Queen has welcomed three Popes – Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis – to the United Kingdom. This continues the legacy begun by her father King George VI who hosted Pope Pius XII in Edinburgh in 1950.
Elizabeth greeted Pope Benedict at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland during his 2010 visit. She gave Pope Francis a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle in 2014. And she hosted Pope John Paul II in London and at Buckingham Palace in 1982.
These cordial receptions demonstrated the mutual respect between the Crown and Holy See. The Queen recognizes the importance of productive collaboration between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.
Conversely, the Queen herself has attended significant events at the Vatican several times. In 1951, before she became Queen, Princess Elizabeth was among the royal representatives at the Vatican for the canonization ceremony of Pope Pius X.
Later during her reign, she visited Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1980 and 2000. This makes her the first British monarch to travel to the Vatican. She has also sent royal envoys to attend ceremonies like the inauguration of Pope Francis in 2013.
While Constitutional law prevents her from being Catholic, the Queen has shown a personal willingness to engage with the Papacy.
At the root is a shared dedication to Christian values and promoting the common good. The Queen’s focus on interfaith harmony aligns with the Catholic Church’s efforts towards ecumenism in modern times.
While differences still exist between the Churches, her time as Queen has seen relationships transform into what Pope Benedict XVI called the “ diplomats of God.” This spirit of cooperation is a remarkable achievement.
The Queen’s Role as Supreme Governor
As Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Queen has a symbolic spiritual role and formal constitutional duties. While not the same authority as the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ borne by the monarch before Henry VIII, it is still highly significant.
As Supreme Governor, the Queen is designated as the spiritual head of the Church of England. She serves as an exemplar of the Christian faith for the whole Anglican communion. Her piety, moral uprightness and dedication to her beliefs provide inspiration and guidance.
The Queen takes this symbolic role seriously. In 2002 for her Golden Jubilee she said, “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad.” This gives British Anglicans spiritual reassurance to have steadfast leadership even in turbulent times.
The Supreme Governor title also confers formal responsibilities relating to the structure and governance of the Church. Parliament has granted her the authority to oversee certain affairs of the Church.
For instance, she appoints archbishops, bishops and deans who serve the Church in positions of leadership. However, recommendations for these appointments are made by the Prime Minister after input from Church officials.
She also approves changes to Canon Law and liturgy in the Church of England. So ultimately she ensures proper order and procedure are followed in the functioning of the Church at all levels.
The Queen’s Unique Position
Queen Elizabeth II occupies a unique position as both a political monarch and religious leader. While roles as Head of State and Supreme Governor are distinct, they do interact in subtle ways that have defined her reign.
Balancing of Roles
As sovereign the Queen is intended to remain politically neutral and avoid undue influence in governance. However, as Supreme Governor she also has a duty to defend the interests of the Church when appropriate.
This requires careful discernment of when to speak and act in each capacity. Through her wisdom and experience, the Queen has balanced these dual roles admirably for over 70 years for the wellbeing of both State and Church.
Yet the Queen does not view her duties as Head of State and Supreme Governor as being contradictory or in competition. Instead, she sees them as united in service to the whole British nation and the Commonwealth.
This unity of identity undergirds the Queen’s life and reign. Her political neutrality does not diminish her faith, nor does her faith infringe upon the impartiality required of a Constitutional monarch. She instead strives for her Christian virtues to positively shape her leadership.
The unique yet well-balanced dynamic between Crown and Church exists due to the long Constitutional history of England and later the United Kingdom. The settlements of this relationship following the upheavals of the Reformation and Restoration periods laid the foundations for the system seen today.
The Queen stands as a living symbol of this centuries-old tradition that remains integral to the legal and cultural fabric of Britain and the Commonwealth Realms. As UK society becomes more pluralistic, her dedication to this historic compromise provides stability and continuity.
Queen Elizabeth II’s lifelong commitment to the Church of England and Christianity more broadly has shaped her reign for 70 years. While expected to remain politically neutral as monarch, her steadfast personal faith has provided her inspiration and guidance.
She has adapted to leading an increasingly multi-faith nation and Commonwealth with grace and discernment. The Queen’s unique role as both Head of State and Supreme Governor of the Church of England continues an ancient Constitutional tradition that defines British heritage.
Through her dignified service to both institutions, she has provided constancy and wisdom to the nation through times of tumultuous change.
Frequently Asked Questions about Queen Elizabeth II’s Religion
What denomination of Christianity is Queen Elizabeth II?
Queen Elizabeth II is a member of the Church of England, which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The British monarch also serves as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Has Queen Elizabeth II ever changed religions?
No, Queen Elizabeth II has been a lifelong and devout member of the Anglican Church. She has remained steadfast in her Christian faith during her more than 70 years as monarch.
Is Queen Elizabeth II very religious?
Yes, the Queen is known to be very religious in her personal life. She openly acknowledges her deep Christian faith and its importance in guiding her through her duties as monarch. The Queen regularly attends Anglican services and has a deep knowledge of the Bible.
What role does the Queen play in the Church of England?
As Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Queen has a symbolic spiritual role and also certain formal duties. These include appointing senior clergy, approving liturgical changes, and generally overseeing the governance of the Church.
Does the Queen favor any particular denomination?
No, as monarch the Queen must remain impartial towards all faiths. She had demonstrated respect for all religions and denominations, not just her own Anglican church. But her personal faith remains Christian and Church of England in denomination.
Has Queen Elizabeth II met with the Pope?
Yes, during her reign the Queen has had several cordial meetings with the Pope in Rome and also hosted three Popes – John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis – on visits to the UK. This reflects the friendly ecumenical relationship between the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church.
What evidence is there of the Queen’s faith?
The Queen regularly references God in her annual Christmas broadcasts to the nation. She has spoken openly of praying nightly, believing God has protected her, and relying deeply on her faith. Her steadfast belief has been apparent even as the Church and nation have secularized.
Is Queen Elizabeth II ordained as a priest?
No, as monarch the Queen holds the title Supreme Governor but she has not been ordained as a priest. However, other members of the Royal Family such as the Queen’s cousin and granddaughter Lady Louise Windsor have expressed interest in ordination.
How does the Queen balance her faith and role as monarch?
The Queen has had to carefully balance her responsibilities as a faith leader and politically neutral Head of State for over 70 years. Her conduct has shown that she does not see the two roles as contradictory but rather as complementary service to nation and faith.