On September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, as well as the longest reigning female ruler in all of world history. She surpassed the previous record held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years and 216 days until her death in 1901.

For fans of the Royal Family, the milestone was a cause for celebration. However, those who wouldn’t describe themselves as fans might be tempted to ask, “Why does it matter?” After all, they’d argue, isn’t the Monarchy just a symbolic vestige of a bygone era? Nowadays, political power resides not in the Crown but in elected officials via Parliament. What, then, is the significance of the event, other than to mark the happy fact that the Queen has enjoyed a long life?

To be sure, much has changed for the Monarchy, especially over the last century or two. Queen Victoria presided over a realm of 400 million people spanning a quarter of the globe, the largest empire in history. In comparison, Queen Elizabeth holds a ceremonial role as head of state for the UK plus 15 Commonwealth nations, including Canada, with a combined population of about 138 million.

An era of stability and sweeping change

But beyond the numbers and borders, several other factors have offset the current monarchy from its predecessors. Earlier reigns were invariably punctuated by wars and political strife of one sort or other. By contrast, Elizabeth’s long rule has been marked by such lengthy stretches of peace and political stability as have rarely, if ever, been seen before.

Most noteworthy of all, the present monarchy has been witness to some of the most sweeping social and technological changes in history. Television, nuclear power, commercial air travel, the end of colonialism, the sexual revolution, modern youth culture, civil rights, feminism, the moon landings, multinational corporations, the beginning and end of the cold war, personal computers and the internet, all were born or came to flourish during the time of Queen Elizabeth II.

It’s something of a paradox that such momentous cultural changes have taken place during the longest and most stable rule of any British monarch in history. And although the scope of the Crown’s authority no longer extends beyond the ceremonial, it’s still a visible reminder of the Biblical concept of kingship, a concept that has otherwise disappeared from the modern Western mind.

A reminder of the ultimate Sovereign

And therein lies arguably the truest value of the Queen’s record-setting reign. It points beyond itself to the ultimate Sovereign, whose eternal rule is sure and untroubled, even in the midst of the most rapid and jarring cultural shifts that human history has ever known.

According to the Scriptures, the heart of a king (or a queen) is like a river in God’s hands, to direct as He wishes (Proverbs 21:1). God is also the one who sets up rulers and removes them, in His good time (Daniel 2:21; Psalm 75:7).

This is naturally true of all human leaders, hereditary or elected. However, it is perhaps most vividly pictured by the long, happy reign of one of the last remaining traditional monarchs in the modern world.

God Save the Queen.

To mark Queen Elizabeth’s milestone, BBC News offered a concise overview of the significant points of her reign, with links to further reading on various related topics of interest. It can be accessed here.

© 2015 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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