The Mandate of Dignity: Queen Elizabeth II and the Missing Element of Modern Leadership

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Louisville, Kentucky

September 29, 2022

What a great joy to welcome you to the campus and to be here with you and we are just thrilled that we’re able to be in a room and able to be with such friends and meet new friends and to just get underway with thinking about leadership. This Briefing has a venerable history as we think about the calling of what it means to be a leader, the substance of what it means to be a leader, the challenges that leaders face, and a part of the fun of what we do is often to look to a leader from history in order to learn, to glean, and oftentimes to be inspired. And some of you know it had been my intention, and I’d been holding this for some time, to use this occasion to talk about the leadership legacy of President Ronald Reagan. And it was even advertised and I appreciate people who responded to that, but the death of her majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, represented an historic opportunity and I think really an opportunity not to be missed.

And I just want to step back for a moment and ask you to contemplate the strangeness of it all. I mean, after all, we’re Americans. We are not monarchists. We are Republicans as in committed to a constitutional republic. Not only that, but history records that we rebelled against a monarchy, and not just any monarchy, but the very monarchy that we have been so admiring and appreciative of and seemingly indebted to over the course of just the last several days and weeks. I’m going to talk about that a little bit even in the historical sequence, because if you were back even in the 19th century, you would not have predicted that Americans would feel as we feel toward the British crown. And I’m going to argue there’s a particular reason why we are drawn not only the to watch, it is a spectacle, it’s intended to be a spectacle, but to admire the British crown, the British monarchy.

The state funeral was one of the most watched events in modern history. And, by the way, that follows a long line of royal events in London that had been some of the most watched back when television viewership was the main way of measuring interest. And now, of course, with streaming video and all the rest you just put together how many people were watching the state funeral and it’s one of the largest audiences in human history ever drawn to watch anything as a common event or a common experience. Among the viewers of the Queen’s funeral were two little boys in Washington D.C. who happen to be our grandsons, Benjamin and Henry, who happen to be six and four. Now, as an elder brother, I will say that part of being an elder brother is your responsibility to teach the young, including your younger siblings.

But these two little boys are not just any two little boys. After all, they are our grandchildren. They and their little sister were all watching, but she at age one was probably not watching as avidly as the six year old and the four year old who, by the way, were with Mary and with me in London with their parents and who actually have Queen’s Guards pajamas in which they sleep and march in Washington, D.C. Think of the ironies, they pile up. But they were watching the state funeral of the Queen together and, of course, as the Queen’s coffin was brought into the Westminster Abbey and as the final procession of the Queen came down the nave of Westminster Abbey, the Royal Standard was over the casket and the Royal Standard over the casket had atop it the scepter, the orb, and the crown, one of the most dignified moments in the history of the British monarchy. The symbolism, the power, the pageantry, the heraldry, all, every bit of it, with deep significance.

Four year old Henry turned to six year old Benjamin and asked the question, “What’s under the blanket?” Benjamin, keen six year old historian, source of all knowledge for four year old younger brother, who receives it unquestioningly, so he said, “Henry, under that blanket is a dead Queen in a box.” It was the most concise color commentary of the entire state funeral, and it just so happens to have been absolutely true. There’s not a thing about that statement that’s wrong. It’s just the sheer simplicity of it takes away from the grandeur of it. The whole point of the blanket was to add dignity to the occasion. But that then raises a host of issues. The world was watching a box with a dead Queen in it carried into a place of Christian worship, one of my favorite places on planet earth. I love taking people to Westminster Abbey because you’re standing on stones where every day Scripture has been read for 1,000 years.

It’s an astounding thing. Where Christian songs have been sung echoed through those stones assembled one way or another for 1,000 years. And actually more than that, as you look to the precursors to the Abbey itself. Why are we drawn to this? What are we looking at? It is a spectacle. It’s meant to be a spectacle. The entire idea of royalty necessitates spectacle. But then I just want to remind you that evidently leadership requires spectacle. Now, obviously, not all in royal proportion. That would be outlandish. But nonetheless in proportion leadership requires some aspect of the visual, some aspect of a spectacle. And as we shall see, the rebellious colonists having formed a constitutional republic on this side of the Atlantic Ocean had to come up with an entire system of spectacle that befits a constitutional republic. And so we have our own spectacle.

And not too long ago in The Briefing I discussed the history of state funerals in the United States of America, where without a monarch we nonetheless have the affairs and trappings of state. And as we shall see, one of the earliest concerns of the framers of the American constitutional order, one of the first concerns of the founding generation in the United States, was how to have an appropriate sense of stateliness and an appropriate respect for the affairs of state without royalty. One of my favorite moments in the early years of the American Republic was the debate among those who had framed the Constitution and had basically defined the Presidency around the person of George Washington. I mean, as you look at the United States Constitution and its definition of the separation of powers, you look at the executive branch and you look at the definition of the President of the United States, duties and role of the President of the United States, that was basically written with one man in mind and with the belief that George Washington would in his own leadership fill out what it meant.

But one of the questions was, how exactly? I mean, he is the first citizen. That doesn’t sound quite right. He’s the Chief Executive. That doesn’t sound like an easy way to address the head of a great nation. John Adams thought he ought to be addressed as Your Majesty. That didn’t sound right having rebelled against a monarchy. And so eventually it was, of course, Washington himself who basically decided he would be addressed as Mr. President and introduced by the phrase, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.” But then after Washington died, Americans had to try to figure out, what exactly does that look like for us? And by the way, most Americans didn’t feel like we got that quite right. So one of the interesting things is that, in the history of the United States, it was actually the tragic, unexpected state funeral of President Abraham Lincoln that set the example for the state funerals that have followed in the United States.

So much so that in one of the most touching moments of American history, the former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, with the President’s blood spattered on her dress, called the White House in her immediate shock and grief to ask the White House staff to ask the Library of Congress for the plans for the state funeral of Abraham Lincoln so that the funeral for her slain husband would be done right.

Well, going back to Westminster Abbey, why are we so fascinated? Well, part of it is because we are very fascinated with monarchy. Let’s admit it, we are, and we don’t want to be. And many Americans try not to be. And we’ll say dismissive comments about the monarchy and make snide sarcastic comments about the hereditary monarchy and make very clear we want nothing of it until we get a chance to watch it. And then we watch it by the millions.

And not only that, I’ve had more than a few people say to me even in the course of the last several days that something seems to be missing in our national experience. This seems to be very present in the British national experience, as evidenced over the last several days. And a part of it is that there’s this long continuity, as we shall see, that goes back so long the British people just know what to do. And I do mean the people, not just the apparatus of the monarchy and the throne. They know what to do, Operation London Bridge and all that. I mean, the people actually know what to do. When the Queen Mother died a few years ago, the mother of Queen Elizabeth the Second, the Queen was herself concerned that it would not be of that much interest to the people of Britain and the people of London so they made it a more low key affair.

Well, the people of London didn’t want a low key affair. They turned out in massive crowds in the streets of London to honor the deceased Queen Mother. And, again, that’s easy to understand historically because she, of course, had, had such an incredible role in one of the darkest moments of British history, especially during the very hard days of the blitz and the attack upon London when Buckingham Palace was itself hit and she and her husband, King George the Sixth, demonstrated such courage.

Well, why do we long for monarchy? There’s a biblical text that we simply must reference and it comes from First Samuel in chapter eight. We’re told that Samuel became old, and then in verse four, “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways.’ Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.

“But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people and all that they say to you for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds they have done, from the day I brought them out of Egypt, even to this day forsaking me and serving other gods so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice. Only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall rule over them.'” So this is not new. This is not quintessentially American. Israel longed for a king. Other nations had kings and a king was visible. A king was central and was material. And it seemed like the societies, the cultures, the nations that had kings had an asset that Israel did not have, especially when it came to going to war.

Now, remember that Israel was to have no king because God was their king, but they wanted a king that could see. They demanded a king of Samuel. Samuel despaired and went to the Lord. And the Lord said, “Well, if they want one, then they shall have one.” But the sly thing that was inserted here as the Lord spoke to Samuel was that you will tell them what they will have when they have a king. That’s what follows. “So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you. He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots to be his horseman and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of 1000s and commanders of 50s and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.

“‘He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves. But the Lord will not answer you in that day.'” Now, remember, the Lord had told Samuel, “If they demand a king, they make them a king.” So Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to a city.”

Then just two verses, listen to this from chapter nine, “There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel, more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward, he was taller than any of the people.” Okay, Israel wanted a king. It wanted a king that could see. And what king did they get? Yeah, it was a king who would rule over them, a king who would take their property, a king who had put their sons into battle and take their daughters to be his perfumers. It was a king who would demand their taxes. But it was a king they could see and he towered over every other man, was described as more handsome than any other, and from his shoulders up, he was higher than anyone else. “We got a king.” Yeah, they had a king.

So evidently this is a very old pattern. It tells us something about fallen humanity. It tells us also something about order. And this is a central conservative thesis. It is a central conservative principle. And that is that in any human society there will be hierarchy. The question is, what hierarchy is to be resisted and what hierarchy is to be respected? In other words, unlike those who are not conservative, conservatives understand that there will be a hierarchy, or in one of the insights of George Orwell from his Animal Farm, “You may say that all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” Someone will tower over the others. Well, you know how the English people came to be and how they got their king, and as we’re thinking about this, we can at least go back to say 1066. And that’s almost a millennium.

And as you look backwards, it’s just difficult for human beings to take into account 1,000 years of human history, and especially when you’re talking about 1,000 years of human history with a continuity. That’s what makes the monarchy, the inherited monarchy, so absolutely remarkable. Where on earth can you find continuity where for all but just a very few years, you have 1,000 years of anything, much less 1,000 years of a hereditary monarchy? Yes, there have been different royal houses, there have been different royal lines, but every single one of them has established legitimacy by continuity, not by discontinuity with that line.

All right, what about Americans? So, again, why are we so fascinated? We rebelled against King George the Third and no British monarch was greatly admired in the United States until the 20th century.

Then you say, “Well, that sounds a bit odd.” Well, just think about this for a moment. And you also recognize, as we talk about the Anglo-American history and the English American tradition, let’s just remind ourselves that, that monarchy does go back almost 1,000 years, as does the history of England as we would know it. And as we’re thinking about the Crown, even as just one crown, the Crown of England and Scotland united in 1603, combined together in 1707, then in 1707 as the Kingdom of Great Britain, 1801 to that was added Ireland. And, of course, in the 19th century, also with the development of the British Empire, the title Empress was given to Queen Victoria. But Queen Victoria was not greatly admired by Americans, partly because of colonialism. And so there was a respect for the British crown. There was a certain amount of fascination even back in the literature and the newspapers of the age, but there was no sense of affection for the British crown until the developments of the 20th century.

So what happened in the 20th century? Well, think about the fact that the 20th century began with Queen Victoria on the throne in London, and, of course, she reigned until her death in 1901 when her place was taken by her son who became Edward the Seventh, who would reign from 1901 to 1910. And Edward the Seventh was considered a playboy because he actually was one, but he did grow into the responsibility. He, against all odds and against his mother’s expectation, became a greatly respected king. And he did not embarrass England, but instead in that opening decade of the 20th century brought esteem to England, which was then considered a far more powerful nation, particularly with its empire and with its navy, than its former colony that became the United States of America. But then, of course, you know that King Edward did die, Edward the Seventh in 1910, and George the Fifth, his second son, so his first son who was expected to become king had died, the second son, another pattern that would emerge as a turning points in English history or British history, George the Fifth became king in 1910.

And then came massive cataclysmic changes in Europe. And, of course, the great tragedy of the First World war. And as you’re thinking about the cataclysmic changes that took place in Europe, realize that at the beginning of the 20th century the vast majority of human beings on planet earth were subjects of a hereditary monarch, the vast majority. The percentage of those who were not in a government headed by a hereditary monarch, it was very, very small, and the United States of America the most famous of them all. And by the time World War One came to an end, most of those European monarchies had collapsed. That would include, of course, the Romanov Dynasty in Russia. It would include the Habsburg Dynasty in Austria-Hungary. It would include the Imperial German Dynasty with the abdication of Wilhelm the Second, and there would be many others that would follow as well. One of the ones that’s not well remembered, by the way, was to follow the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman Salton and its hereditary monarchy during the same period of time.

Now, the miracle, as many historians note, is that there was one monarchy in that period of European history that gained an esteem rather than losing it. And that was the House of Windsor. Now, by the way, it didn’t begin as the House of Windsor. It began as the house of Saxe-Coburg Gotha. That was a bit too German. So it was George the Fifth who renamed the house the House of Windsor after the town and castle so associated with the British crown. Wilhelm the Second, the German, was offended that the British royal family had exchanged a German name for an English name and he suggested that then Shakespeare’s play would have to be renamed the Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg Gotha. Some of you got it, some of you didn’t. But, nonetheless, the point is that George the Fifth actually brought esteem to the British Royal Family in a way that was the opposite of what was happening elsewhere in the world.

And here’s the thing, Americans by instinct thought that the fall of monarchies was a good thing. And so even as you look at, say, conversations that took place on this campus or even in this institution at the time and in American public discourse, it was assumed that the fall of the Russian monarchy, the Czar, and the fall of the Hapsburg Empire, which, by the way, both of them repressive in many ways, but especially in the Hapsburg case, it was a very mixed picture because it both oppressed and liberated. And besides that, it consolidated so many peoples that the fall of that empire led to just untold wars and, by the way, unsettled issues that remain unsettled to this day. So the Americans began to look at the British monarchy and think maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all at least for the British and for the Europeans.

But then you’ll recall that King George the Fifth died in 1936 and he was followed by the Prince of Wales who became King Edward the Eighth, and if ever a disaster had arrived on the British throne, it was King Edward the Eighth. Oddly enough, and this is incredibly well documented now, he was not only one of the most morally disqualified persons for the British monarchy, it is now known and well documented he was a traitor having betrayed the secrets of his country to the Nazi regime. And one of the close calls in history is how that war may have been very different if sitting on the throne in London had been a sympathizer to Adolf Hitler. But Edward the Eighth did abdicate to his brother who was never intended to take the throne and was not considered in any way as someone who would be likely to strengthen the monarchy.

But it was George the Sixth, as he became, who was, of course, the father of the later Queen Elizabeth, who with his wife, the former Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who became Queen Consort Elizabeth, they, like his father, King George the Fifth, and his grandfather, King Edward the Seventh, actually brought esteem to the British crown in a time where that was horribly needed. And then, of course, it would be his daughter who would become Queen Elizabeth the Second when she assumed the throne in 1952 and then would serve 70 years on the throne to be succeeded by the reigning monarch in Britain today, Charles the Third. That’s an amazing continuity. But you’ll notice two themes there, it’s discontinuity and continuity. There’s a continuity of a throne and continuity of a crown. And, by the way, that’s an important distinction.

You’ll notice that in the British tradition it’s spoken of as the continuity of the crown rather than the throne. And ask yourself, why? Why is it a crown rather than a throne? It is because the crown moves with the monarch. The throne stays. In other words, the king is King or the reigning Queen is Queen sitting on the throne or not. It’s the crown that is the continuity. And, of course, the crown is both a physical object of which there are actually several, but more importantly, it is the office, it is the monarchy. So the biggest issue is continuity. I’ve tried to point out in the conversation in the United States, particularly about affection for and respect for Elizabeth the Second, I’ve tried to direct attention to the issue of legitimacy. And this is something that is just very helpful for us to understand. Leadership requires legitimacy and a state, a government, requires legitimacy.

And for most of human history, just go back to first Samuel eight and first Samuel nine, for most of human history that legitimacy has been a hereditary monarchy. You have to understand how radical the American experiment this is. The American experiment was not just a different way of doing government. It was just not a rejection of monarchy in favor of a constitutional republic. It was this incredibly and unprecedented daring of a people attempting to establish a nation on a legitimacy rather than an inherited monarchy. What in the world could that legitimacy be? It was not as apparent to early Americans as we in retrospect might think it was. The legitimacy of the American experiment, since it could not be a throne, it couldn’t be a crown, it couldn’t be a King or a Queen or a hereditary monarchy, it had to be something else. And it came down to the legitimacy that was established by the consent of the governed through the structure of constitutional self-government.

And I want you to understand what a thin reed that appeared to be in the formative years of the United States of America. The consent of the governed by means of the legitimacy of a constitutional experiment in self-government didn’t appear to be much to establish the legitimacy necessary for a government. But then again it was a government of a growing nation and a new nation. But 13 colonies, that was not the anticipated destiny of the country, which, of course, so quickly became a transcontinental nation and then so quickly a super power on the world scene, and by the end of the 20th century would be described by virtually all as the world’s only superpower. Now, 20 years later, that turned out to be a more contested issue than we knew at the time.

And, furthermore, it turns out that there are other superpowers that lack perhaps the magnitude of the United States certainly to do good, but evidently they have enormous capacity to do evil. Now, all that to say, you cannot talk about the American experiment even in self-government without understanding that it is derivative of the British claim of legitimacy. So much so that even as you think about the Americans and you realize that the Americans rebelled against Britain, yes, but Americans first rebelled against parliament, against parliament’s wrongful taxation. And the issue there was Americans had a growing population were not represented in parliament, so how did Parliament dare then to tax British citizens living in North America who did not have representation in parliament? So taxation without representation, that was the entire issue. But to whom did the Americans appeal? They appealed to King George the Third.

So they said, “Evidently, Parliament does not recognize us as citizens, but you are our king. Certainly, you do.” So they pled with George the Third to vindicate the colonial cause against Parliament. Now, just imagine how history would’ve been different if George the Third had received that and thought, “That’s a very good idea. That is exactly what I’m going to do.” We likely would have been very much a part of the state funeral had that happened. But it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for all kinds of reasons. But even George the Third, who was hated as a symbol by so many Americans and even the colonials, was not personally hated, for instance, in the way that the Russians Czar would later be personally hated. Not only that, as soon as the rebellious colonials had the opportunity to form a government, we formed a government which was like the government in London. There just was several differences rooted in the fact that we were a constitutional self-government. Three branches of government, but still the division between the executive and the legislative.

And even in the legislative, we have something like the House of Commons and something like the House of Lords and the division between the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. And even the customs, even the customs, and, again, this was recognized at the time by someone like the generation of John Adams and James Madison and George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, who argued for the continuity in contrast at least in part to someone like Thomas Jefferson who wanted to argue against that continuity. But the continuities is in language, the continuity is in custom, the continuity is in morals and in moral instincts. So why are we talking about this today? I want to go back to the constitutional monarchy in Britain and I want to talk about something that, that monarchy represents that is essential to leadership and is sorely missing today. So I’ve entitled my address The Mandate of Dignity: Queen Elizabeth the Second and the Missing Element of Modern Leadership.

And so even as I intend to honor Queen Elizabeth the Second as a model of leadership, my main purpose today is to raise the British monarchy as so well exemplified by Queen Elizabeth the Second and in her long loyalty, an absolute devotion to the very ideal of which I’m to speak, and then to point out that this is what is missing from so much modern leadership and then to concede it’s difficult to imagine how it may be recovered. But then again, to encourage us, it must be recovered. My authority here is someone you probably never heard about, but I want you to know about. His name is Walter Bagehot, and Walter Bagehot wrote a book on the English Constitution. Now, remember, the English Constitution isn’t written. It’s an accumulation of tradition. I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea, but it works. We started, by the way, as one key difference, with a written Constitution.

We have a written Constitution. Britain does not have a written Constitution, but we do have Walter Bagehot from 1867 who wrote a book on what the English Constitution was understood to be then. And it actually functions in many ways as an unofficial written Constitution of Great Britain. And Walter Bagehot, and by the way, you won’t get his name by thinking about it. It’s B-A-G-E-H-O-T. It takes the English to pronounce that Bagehot. Walter Bagehot in his defense of the English Constitution pointed out that there is a basic separation under the British Constitution into two parts. And, honestly, as we think about politics, I think this is one of the most important insights in all of the history of political discussion. Walter Bagehot said that the key to understanding Britain’s constitutional order is to understand that there’s a distinction between the efficient part and the dignified part.

Most people, when they think of government, they think of policies, laws, statutes, bureaucracies, decisions, debates. That’s the efficient part. And, in Britain, that’s Parliament. And then there is the dignified part, which is the monarchy. And Bagehot said that the British constitutional order, or, as he would’ve called it, the English constitutional order, it survived precisely because there was an efficient part but there was also a dignified part. And the efficient part drew its legitimacy from the dignified part and not the other way around. So Parliament draws its legitimacy from the crown. The crown does not draw its legitimacy from parliament. Officially and constitutionally, Parliament is not totally separate in such a way that actually the British Constitution refers to the King in Parliament. Parliament’s messy. Parliament’s extremely messy. Parliament is raucous. Parliament is sometimes crude. Parliament is sometimes sleazy as all government votes become opportunities for a trade off here and a trade off there.

It’s combative and in the British tradition at least more customarily combative than in the American tradition. The House of Commons is a place of verbal combat. It always has been, and sometimes that brings out the very best. That is why Winston Churchill towered over everyone else in his generation. It is because when he hit the floor of the House of Commons, no one could fail but pay attention, and when he pressed his case, his case was generally well pressed. So much so that when Britain disparate of perhaps even its future existence, the one man upon which Britain could call was Winston Churchill, precisely because he had been loud, precisely because he had been combative, because he turned out to be right. And precisely because he was understood to be capable of rallying Parliament and through Parliament rallying the nation even through his voice. But people forget that during World War Two, it was actually a very unique tandem that historians would reflect upon as bringing stability and leadership to Britain during the war.

It was King George the Sixth with Winston Churchill, and it was Winston Churchill with King George the Sixth. It was the efficient and the dignified parts of the British constitutional order working in absolute providential lock step to face and to defeat the greatest foe the British people and, for that matter, civilization had ever faced. The dignified part requires dignity. My argument is that’s the missing element in much modern leadership. Most modern leadership is only about the efficient part, about management, about organizational theory. It’s about policy, it’s about plans, it’s about budgets and finance. And by the way, leadership has to be about all of those things. But I think one of the reasons why we felt such longing when we looked not only to the funeral of the late Queen, but we looked to her life. 70 years lived in nothing but service for her country and nothing but stability, nothing but personal honor, nothing but dignity.

You talk about the dignified part, she embodied dignity. She was raised to embody dignity. She actually seems to believe that God put her on earth in his providence for her to be the Queen of England and to provide stability for so long as she would live, stability and legitimacy. When she spoke of her life, whether short or long, being lived in service to the British people, she didn’t mean as a field nurse in the army. She meant as the embodiment of the nation. Now, that’s a daunting thought and it’s un-American. I mean, frankly, when you think about the embodiment of the nation, if Americans look to a President as the embodiment of the nation, it was long ago, or if more recently it was very fleeting like in a moment of national emergency then all of a sudden Americans think in monarchial terms about a President. But as soon as things get to policy, well, that’s gone.

But the dignified part, that’s rooted in this long continuity and custom and tradition. It’s rooted in heredity. It’s rooted in throne, the Throne of Stone, as you know in the United Kingdom, a scepter, robes of office, palaces, manners, culture, the externals. It’s rooted in coronation. And in the British coronation, it goes back to ancient Israel and the anointing with oil of Israel’s King by Zadok the Priest. And at the most climactic moment of the coronation of a British monarch, the music that is played goes back to 1727 as it was composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George the, Second and the name of the music is actually Zadok the Priest. One of the reasons why that music is so loud, and if you don’t remember, as soon as you hear it, you can quickly find it, as soon as you hear it, you’ll recognize it and then you’ll know why its majesty is so important.

And you’ll also notice why at one point all of a sudden the music becomes so loud with the choir singing of Zadok the Priest anointing the King. And it is because of that moment out of view of the British people, the Archbishop of Canterbury is actually dipping his finger in ancient oil in order to put those oiled fingers upon the breasts of the monarch and in continuity with ancient Israel in the Old Testament to priestly anoint God’s anointed as the monarch. We don’t do that on Inauguration Day in the United States. Nobody’s got oily fingers in Washington. Well, there may be people with oily fingers, but they’re not allowed to be close to the newly inaugurated President. But you’ll notice that in our inauguration, we do everything possible to have a coronation without Zadok the Priest. We do everything we know how to do.

We have the Presidential March, Hail to the Chief, which is very tactically displayed, played the last time for the entering President going out and then played next for the newly inaugurated President so that at every successful American inauguration it is played twice, for the outgoing President walking in and then for the newly declared President who stands up to give his address. Queen Elizabeth the Second embodied this dignified part in her person. It was a priceless legitimacy. I want to suggest that what is missing in so much leadership today is the dignified part. I also want to make an obvious concession here. Elizabeth was so admirable for so many reasons. There’s very good evidence, by the way, that she was a very sincere born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. She spoke of her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and did so often, and I’ve had the opportunity to know some who were close to her and one who was her chaplain, who is himself an evangelical, who clearly said, “I am absolutely certain that she knew the Lord Jesus .”

As, by the way, also seemed to be the confidence of Billy Graham, with whom she had a very unusual and indeed to the Royal Family, unwelcome relationship, very un-Church of England. But it shows you something of the evangelical heart of the Queen, her dignity, her morality, her personal stability. By the way, in contrast, remember that she became Queen with a responsibility, like her father, to reestablish the moral credibility of the monarchy because of the failure of Edward the Eighth. Time will tell of the future of the British monarchy when someone of lesser moral reputation is indeed the monarch. Now, remember, Edward the Eighth began with everyone believing that he was unqualified morally to be King, but he brought great respect to the British monarchy. Somehow becoming King or Queen in some situations, but becoming King, tends to bring out the best in some, the worst in others. For the entire world and for the British people, we hope that it will bring out the very best in King Charles the Third.

But we have to admit that leadership today can’t be just the dignified part. That would be nice. But the British society and government doesn’t work with just the dignified part. Our admiration is that they have a dignified part, but you know what? If that dignified part’s not too dignified, that turns out to be more of a liability than an asset. But, actually, the British people most days are more concerned about what Parliament does than what the King does or what the Queen does because the scope of authority of the British King or Queen is actually quite limited. As Bagehot said, “The royal prerogative comes down to three things, and that is the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn.” We actually want our President to do more than that. We want our President to be more than consulted, we expect our President to be able to do more than encourage, and we want him to be able to do more than war.

We wanted him to be able to declare war or at least to go to Congress to declare war. We want to put him in a position of making legislative proposals. You think of the 20th century, the British monarchy produced no New Deal. That was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The British monarchy brought about no conservative revolution. That was Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. They were the efficient part. I want to make an argument and I chose those three, and I particularly chose Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher because they’re not in the same place politically, but they were in the same place in one other aspect. They understood the necessity of the dignified element in leadership. They understood that they had to embody the nation, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War Two, Margaret Thatcher during her entire premiership, but in particular during the Falklands War, and Ronald Reagan throughout much of the eight years of his presidency, and then even beyond, he represented that dignified part, whether it was the Challenger disaster or any number of other events, including what effectively became the end of the Cold War.

American leadership and political leadership in our times has often come down to the right combination of the dignified and the efficient. No British monarch could have stood there in Berlin and looked at a television camera and said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” That took someone who understood the dignified part and Ronald Reagan carried off the dignified part, but he also was Commander-in-Chief for the most powerful armed forces in the world and those who heard him say that in Berlin understood that. That was the dignified and the efficient combined. Well, you look at American politics today or British politics today, the problem is that there’s a decided absence of the dignified part. And the British can say, “Well, don’t worry about it because we’ve got a King.” And for 70 years in the most glorious providential way, the British people could say, “Regardless of war, peace, famine, and recession or plenty,” they could say, “We have the dignified part, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.”

The reason the British people miss her so much is that they know they will never see the likes of her again, nor will any of us among the living. In America, we don’t have to wait for a 70 year reign and just imagine if one American President had been in office for the last 70 years. Mercy, neither efficient nor dignified at the end of that. We rob our efficient leaders of dignity and sometimes our leaders bankrupt their own dignity. I’ll tell you that one of my moral concerns and burdens is in the generation of those now living and especially among we who are in this room and those whom we love, and especially with our responsibility for everything within our care and influence from the Southern Baptist Convention to the larger evangelical world, to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, to whatever role we have, including in the United States of America, I hope we are found there is some rightful God honoring combination of, yes, the efficient but also of the dignified.

And I think a part of our responsibility in this age as Christians is to seek to recover the dignified element in leadership. We don’t get to ground it in hereditary monarchy, which means, as much as we admire Queen Elizabeth the Second, here it’s actually up to us. The dignified is the missing element in today’s leadership. It’s up to us and it should be seen as a part of the mission of all those who would train leaders to seek to recover it while there is time. And by the way, to recover it efficiently and with dignity. Thank you. God bless you all.