A service of reflection and prayers to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II


Many of us came together at St Swithun’s Martyr Worthy on Friday evening for a service of reflection and prayers to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II.  Knowing how to respond to the death of our monarch a constant companion on our national journey for all of our years, was a challenge.  But Tim Clapp, Sara Mason and Simon Ffennell led us in a beautiful and touching service which responded beautifully to the sense of loss which so many of us feel.

Simon read the poem Queenhood by Simon Armitage the poet laureate (which follows) chosen by Tim Clapp after he heard it read on the radio early one morning.  Sara led us in prayers. We then had a moment of silence to pray and lit candles by families, before stepping out into the churchyard.

Thank you Father God for our wonderful Queen.  God save the King.

Queenhood by the Poet Laureate

An old-fashioned word, coined in a bygone world.

It is a taking hold and a letting go,

girlhood left behind like a favourite toy,

irreversible step over invisible brink.

A new frock will be made, which is a country

hemmed with the white lace of its shores,

and here is a vast garden of weald and wold,

mountain and fell, lake, loch, cwm.

It is constancy and it is change:

the age of clockwork morphs into digital days,

but the song of the blackbird remains the same.

Queenhood: a long winding procession

from the abbey door to the abbey door.

Queenhood: vows taken among bibles and blades,

beneath braided banners and heralding horns;

the anointment of hand, breast, head, with oil

of cinnamon, orange, musk and rose; promises

sworn in secret under tented gold

so daylight won’t frighten the magic away,

too sacred by far for the camera to see.

It is an undressing first then a dressing up,

a shedding of plain white cloth then the putting on

of a linen gown and the supertunica – dazzling gold foil

lined with crimson silk. Man will walk

on the moon, great elms will fail and fall.

But a knife’s still a knife. A fork’s still a fork.

So the emblems and signs of royalty are produced:

the gilded spurs; the blued steel sword – like a sliver

of deep space drawn from the scabbard of night –

to punish and protect; bracelets to each wrist,

sincerity and wisdom – both armour and bond.

Love is still love is still love, and war is war.

And indestructible towers will atomise in a blink.

The God particle will be flushed from its hiding place.

The sound barrier will twang with passenger planes.

Civilisation will graft its collected thoughts

onto silicon wafers, laureates will pass through court . . .

But Taurus, the bull, on its heavenly tour,

will breach the same horizon at the given hour.

Queenhood: it is the skies, it is also the soil

of the land. It is life behind glass walls

and fortified stones. Robe and stole are lifted

onto your shoulders – both shield and yoke.

Motherhood and womanhood will be taken as read.

‘Multitasking’ will be canonised as a new word.

It is an honouring, but also an honour.

In the flare and blur of an old film

ghostly knights and chess-piece bishops deliver

the unearthly orb, with its pearled equator

and polished realms, into your open palm;

and pass you the sceptre and rod of mercy

and justice, one bearing the cross, one plumed

with a white dove; and load your fourth finger

with a ring that makes you the nation’s bride;

and offer the white kid glove with its scrollwork tattoo

of thistles and shamrocks, oak leaves and acorns;

then finally furnish your head with the crown –

jewelled with history, dense with glory –

both owned and loaned at the same time.

Do those burnished relics still hold

the fingerprints of a twenty-seven-year-old?

A priceless freight for a young woman to bear,

but, draped and adorned, a monarch walks forward

into the sideways weather of oncoming years.

And the heavy cargoes of church and state

lighten with each step, syrupy old gold

transmuted to platinum, alchemy redefined.

Queenhood: it is law and lore, the dream life

and the documentary, a truthful fantasy.

For generations we will not know such majesty.

By Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate


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