Lord Sentamu paid tribute to the Queen during the annual Commonwealth Day service.
14 March 2022
The Queen’s life of service and devotion to others has been praised by the former Archbishop of York who suggested she had modelled her reign on self sacrifice.
Lord Sentamu paid tribute to the Queen during the annual Commonwealth Day service, given added poignancy as the head state was missing from the major event in the royal calendar.
In his address to the Westminster Abbey congregation, which included senior royals, the peer said: “And so for 70 years the Queen has modelled her reign on the one who said ‘whoever shall be great among you shall be your servant and whoever desires to be first shall be a slave of all’.”
The former Archbishop, who now sits in the Lords, went on to say: “The Christian ideals of the love of neighbour and compassion have given shape to the Queen’s leadership.”
Lord Sentamu made the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge laugh when at the end of his speech he urged the congregation to cheer the monarch after he said the words “hip, hip, hip”.
The first time he got a lacklustre response but her repeated it again and the third time Westminster Abbey rang out with a “hoorah” with William and Kate chuckling.
In her message to mark Commonwealth Day, the Queen said she hoped the family of nations “can draw strength and inspiration from what we share” during these “testing times”.
Now in the 70th year of her reign, the 95-year-old monarch said it had made her happy, during her Platinum Jubilee year, to reaffirm the pledge she made in 1947 as a 21-year-old to devote her life in service to the nation and Commonwealth.
She sounded a positive note, extolling the virtues of the Commonwealth which “continues to be a point of connection, co-operation and friendship”.
Her written message to the family of nations’ 2.5 billion citizens was released just ahead of the Westminster Abbey service marking Commonwealth Day, attended by the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and hundreds of dignitaries and young people.
The Queen told the Commonwealth: “Our family of nations continues to be a point of connection, co-operation and friendship.
“It is a place to come together to pursue common goals and the common good, providing everyone with the opportunity to serve and benefit.
“In these testing times, it is my hope that you can draw strength and inspiration from what we share, as we work together towards a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future for all.”
The Queen had hoped to attend the event but it is thought ensuring the comfort of the monarch, who now regularly uses a stick and has spoken openly about her mobility issues, was an overriding consideration in her decision not to take part.
The monarch’s announcement came after the order of service was printed as she was named in the document, with the congregation required to stand when she arrived and made her way to her seat.
Lord Sentamu drew parallels between the Queen’s service and the example set by Jesus Christ: “Even the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and gave his life, a ransom for many. Jesus of Nazareth defined his leadership – service, self-denial, sacrifice, dying to effect salvation for all humankind.
“The way out is downwards on our knees, the astonishing paradox of service. Remember the king of kings was the servant of servants.”
He told the congregation who included Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Home Secretary Priti Patel, that this view was “counter-cultural in a world which cannot distinguish service from civility and measures out power in mega tons”.
“At this very moment Ukraine risks being pulverised. It is not the first time that might has demanded to be right,” he added.
The prime minister gave the bible reading from Psalm 72 telling the congregation: “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son.
“Then shall he judge thy people according unto right, and defend the poor.”
Singers Mica Paris and Emeli Sande gave inspiring renditions of songs among a host of performances and when William met some of the performers with the other royals, he told Sande: “The singing was incredible – all the music was great.”