Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral Honored Her ‘Unwavering Faith’ to Her Religion—Inside the Royals’ Complicated History With the Church

·15 min read

Since her funeral, there have been questions about what Queen Elizabeth’s religion was before her death and what church the British royal family belongs to.

Queen Elizabeth II is the first child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. She became Queen of the United Kingdom as well as the other Commonwealth countries in February 1952 after the death of her father. She was 25 years old at the time. She was married to Philip Mountbatten, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, from November 1947 until Prince Philip’s death in April 2021. The two had four children together: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

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After more than 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022. She was 96 years old. In a 1957 Christmas Broadcast, the Queen promised the United Kingdom she would give her “heart” and “devotion” to the Commonwealth. “I cannot lead you into battle,” she said at the time. “I do not give you laws or administer justice, but I can do something else: I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”

Buy: ‘Elizabeth the Queen’ by Sally Bedell Smith $7.95+

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The Queen’s death came three months after her Platinum Jubilee event in June 2022, which celebrated her 70 years on the throne. After her Platinum Jubilee, the Queen thanked royal well-wishers for supporting her family. “When it comes to how to mark seventy years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first. But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee,” the Queen said in a statement at the time. She continued, “While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family.” She ended her message by telling her supporters about the “joy” she felt that weekend. “I have been inspired by the kindness, joy and kinship that has been so evident in recent days, and I hope this renewed sense of togetherness will be felt for many years to come. I thank you most sincerely for your good wishes and for the part you have all played in these happy celebrations,” she said at the time.

But back to Queen Elizabeth’s religion. So what was Queen Elizabeth’s religion and what church does the British royal family belong to? Read on for what we know about Queen Elizabeth’s religion and if she’s Catholic or a part of a different faith.

What was Queen Elizabeth’s religion?

Image: Photo by Victoria Jones – WPA Pool/Getty Images.
Image: Photo by Victoria Jones – WPA Pool/Getty Images.

What was Queen Elizabeth II’s religion? Before her death, the Queen was the Supreme Governor and Defender of the  Faith of the Church of England, the primary state church of England where ideas of church and state are connected, according to History.com. Also known as the Anglican Church, the Church of England is considered the original church of the Anglican Communion, which represents more than 85 million people in over 165 countries across the world. Though the Church of England upholds many Roman Catholic customs, its fundamental ideas were adopted during the Protestant Reformation. According to History.com, the Church of England is also viewed as one of the more progressive sects of Christianity due to its relatively liberal policies, such as allowing the ordination of women and gay priests.

Jonathan Neil-Smith, a former Secretary to the Dioceses Commission and House of Clergy, told Fox News in September 2022 that all British monarchs must “either be a member of the Church of England” or of “a church in communion with it.” He added, “We have been richly blessed to have had a monarch in the late Queen Elizabeth who has participated in the life of the Church of England and in expounding the teachings of Jesus Christ, regularly referring to them in her annual Christmas broadcasts.” Murray Pittock, a professor of literature at the University of Glasgow, also called the Queen’s death “the end of an era” and “a major shift” in the Church of England. “The Queen led a long life. [It was] very well spent,” he told Fox News. “She had that overall, overriding sense of duty at the expense of personal pleasure, something which is not very common nowadays. Christian belief meant a lot to the queen. And seems to me it means quite a lot to King Charles, too.” He added, “The new king is also known to take his faith seriously, and we pray that he will be strengthened in carrying out his new role.”

Along with their roles in the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth and King Charles were also members of the Church of Scotland. “Rather interestingly, King Charles is also a member of the Church of Scotland while in Scotland, as was the queen,” Pittock said. “They’re both Anglicans and also Presbyterians when in Scotland.” He continued, “Interestingly, the American Episcopal Church, which is, of course, part of the Anglican Communion, was actually founded not by the Church of England but by the Episcopal Church in Scotland — because that church didn’t at that point [in history] recognize the monarchy.”

Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral was held at Westminster Abbey—the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster where the Queen was crowned in 1953 and married Prince Philip in 1947—on September 19, 2022, 11 days after her death. “The Service will pay tribute to The Queen’s remarkable reign and lifetime of service as Head of State, Nation and Commonwealth,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement the day before the Queen’s funeral. “The Choir of Westminster Abbey will be joined by the Choir of the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, for the final two Sentences. The Dean of Westminster will give The Bidding, before the first hymn.”

The first hymn was a choral piece titled “Like as the Hart,” a specially commissioned song composed for the Queen’s funeral by the master of the king’s music, Judith Weir. “The piece, inspired by Her Majesty’s unwavering Christian faith, is a setting of Psalm 42 to music and will be sung unaccompanied,” Buckingham Palace’s statement continued. The first five sentences of the hymn were sung as the Queen’s coffin entered Westminster Abbey at the start of the funeral. The five sentences, which are lines of scripture set to music, have been sung at every state funeral since the early 18th century, according to Buckingham Palace. The funeral continued with a reading given by British Prime Minister Liz Truss followed by a second hymn, “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” which was also sung at the Queen’s wedding to Prince Philip in 1947. The song is rumored to be one of the Queen’s favorite pieces of music and was even featured as one of her top 10 songs in BBC Radio 2’s 2016 documentary, Our Queen: 90 Musical Years.

After the second hymn was a sermon  Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby followed by an “anthem of great hope” titled “My Soul, There is a Country” by Hubert Parry. Next was a series of prayers said at the high altar, as well as a song composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the Queen’s 1953 coronation titled “O Taste and See” performed by the Westminster Abbey choir. At the end of the service, two minutes of silence were held inside Westminster Abbey and across the United Kingdom before the “Reveille” is sounded by the State Trumpeters. The “Reveille” is followed by the congregation singing the United Kingdom national anthem, “God Save the King.” “At the conclusion of the State Funeral, The Sovereign’s Piper of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will play the traditional Lament, ‘Sleep, dearie, sleep,'” Buckingham Palace continued in their statement. After the funeral, the Queen’s coffin traveled to Windsor Castle for the committal service at St. George’s Chapel, the Queen’s final resting place. To end the service, the bells of Westminster Abbey were rung, a tradition that follows the funeral of every British monarch.

Was Queen Elizabeth Catholic?

Image: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images.
Image: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images.

Was Queen Elizabeth Catholic? No, the Queen was the Supreme Governor and Defender of the Faith of the Church of England, which broke with Roman Catholicism in the 16th century. According to the British royal family’s website, the title dates back to 1952 when King Henry VIII was named the “Defender of Faith” by Pope Leo X. When the pope refused to annul Henry VIII’s marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, after she failed to produce a male heir to the throne, King Henry VIII renounced the the authority of the Papacy, the office of the Pope, and divorced her in 1534. After

After his break from the Roman Catholic church, King Henry VIII established himself as “the only supreme head of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia,” according to BBC. Though Mary I tried to restore Roman Catholicism in England, her sister, Queen Elizabeth I, named herself as the “Supreme Governor” of the Church of England after she took the throne in 1558. Since then, the British royal family has practiced Anglicanism, a sect of Christianity.

Though the British royal family practices Anglicanism, Queen Elizabeth II is often credited for mending the divide between the Church of England the Roman Catholic church. As part of her Silver Jubilee in 1977, “Her Late Majesty visited Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral,” Jonathan Neil-Smith, a former Secretary to the Dioceses Commission and House of Clergy, told Fox News in September 2022. He added, “This was the first visit to a Roman Catholic cathedral by an English monarch since the Reformation.”

He continued, “In 1961, Her Late Majesty met Pope John XXIII in Rome. She also received Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on their visits to the U.K., in 1982 and 2010, respectively. By these highly symbolic actions, Her Majesty played her part in healing the historic rift between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.”

How did Queen Elizabeth die?

Image: Photo by Victoria Jones – WPA Pool/Getty Images.
Image: Photo by Victoria Jones – WPA Pool/Getty Images.

How did Queen Elizabeth die? Queen Elizabeth II died “peacefully” at her home at Balmoral Castle in Scotland in the afternoon of September 8, 2022. She was 96. Buckingham Palace confirmed her death in a statement. She will be succeeded by her son, Charles, Prince of Wales, who will now become King Charles III. Charles’ wife, Camila, Duchess of Cornwall, will now become The Queen Sonsort. “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” Buckingham Palace’s statement read. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.” The Queen’s death came hours after after Buckingham Palace announced that she had been placed under “medical supervision” due to “concerns” from her doctors. “Following further evaluation this morning, The Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision,” the Buckingham Palace said at the time. “The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.” The statement continued, “Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have traveled to Balmoral.”

After the Queen passed away, Charles—the heir apparent to the British royal throne and the Queen’s eldest son with her late husband, Prince Philip—honored his mother in a statement on the official Royal Family Twitter. “The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” the statement read. “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign, and much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection on which The Queen was so widely held.”

The Queen was surrounded by British royal family members at the time of her death. Along with Charles and Camila, the Queen’s second and third sons with Philip—Prince Andrew and Prince Edward—were seen arriving at Aberdeen Airport in Scotland shortly before her death. Prince Edward’s wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, was also seen arriving at the airport, as well as the Queen’s eldest grandson, Prince William. The Queen’s second eldest grandson, Prince Harry, wasn’t seen at Balmoral Castle until hours after her death. He traveled from Germany, where he and his wife, Meghan Markle, were promoting the Invictus Games, to Scotland. Meghan, for her part, didn’t join Harry at Balmoral Castle and remained in Germany at the time of the Queen’s death. William’s wife, Kate Middleton, also wasn’t present at Balmoral Castle and stayed in Windsor, England, as September 8 was the first day of school for her and William’s children: Prince George, 9, Princess Charlotte, 7, and Prince Louis, 4.

Image: Samir Hussein/WireImage.
Image: Samir Hussein/WireImage.

What was Queen Elizabeth’s cause of death?

What was Queen Elizabeth’s cause of death? Queen Elizabeth II’s cause of death hasn’t been confirmed. However, her death came hours after after Buckingham Palace announced that she had been placed under “medical supervision” due to “concerns” from her doctors. “Following further evaluation this morning, The Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision,” the Buckingham Palace said at the time. “The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.” The statement continued, “Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have traveled to Balmoral.”  The statement also came a day after the Queen cancelled a scheduled Privy Council meeting so he could rest. “After a full day yesterday, Her Majesty has this afternoon accepted doctors’ advice to rest,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement on September 7, 2022. “This means that the Privy Council meeting that had been due to take place this evening will be rearranged.”

Before her death, the Queen had been seen regularly using a cane since October 2021. That month, she cancelled a scheduled trip to Northern Ireland under the advice of her doctors and spent a night in the hospital. “The Queen has reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement at the time. “Her Majesty is in good spirits and is disappointed that she will no longer be able to visit Northern Ireland, where she had been due to undertake a series of engagements today and tomorrow.”

After her hospitalization, Buckingham Palace confirmed in a statement at the time that the Queen “remains in good spirits” following her overnight stay, where she underwent “preliminary investigations.” “Following medical advice to rest for a few days, the Queen attended hospital on Wednesday afternoon for some preliminary investigations, returning to Windsor Castle at lunchtime today and remains in good spirits,” the statement read.

The Queen’s death also came a year after she tested positive for COVID-19 following close contact with Charles, who contracted the virus earlier that month. At the time, celebrity gossip website Hollywood Unlocked, falsely reported that the Queen had died at the age of 95 from COVID-19. The site falsely reported at the time that the Queen was “found dead” after she was set to attend a wedding. “It is with our deepest regret to inform you that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has died,” Hollywood Unlocked’s report read at the time. “Sources close to the Royal Kingdom notified us exclusively that Queen Elizabeth has passed away. She was scheduled to attend the wedding of British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, but was found dead.”

While the site didn’t credit any official royal  sources, Hollywood Unlocked CEO and founder Jason Lee took to his Twitter  at the time to back up the outlet’s report. “We don’t post lies and I always stand by my sources,” he wrote at the time. “Waiting for an official statement from the palace.” Lee later reiterated his stance on Instagram, writing, “I’ve never lied;” “I’ve never been wrong;” “I trust my sources;” and “I have yet to see an official statement from the palace saying otherwise,” in a numbered list. Despite Lee’s statement, however, the news of the Queen’s death at the time was false.

After the Queen tested positive for COVID-19 in February 2022, a source told Us Weekly at the time the monarch had been recovering “without any fuss” despite Hollywood Unlocked’s report of her death. “Of course, she has a team of doctors to lean on whenever needed and a support staff that’s second to none,” the insider told the magazine. “But thus far Her Majesty has been handling this without any fuss or need to involve too many others in her recovery.” After reports the Queen was still alive, Hollywood Unlocked issued a statement on social media apologizing for the incorrect story and blaming the report on an “intern journalist” who “published the draft post by mistake.” The site added, “Our deepest apologies goes out to the #RoyalFamily and all involved in this embarrassing situation. It was an accident and we’re working hard to make sure that this mistake never happens again.”

Image: Courtesy of Random House.
Image: Courtesy of Random House.

Buy: ‘Elizabeth the Queen’ by Sally Bedell Smith $7.95+

For more about the British royal family, check out Sally Bedell Smith’s 2012 biography, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. The New York Times bestseller, which includes the “real story” behind several storylines featured in Netflix’s The Crown, follows Queen Elizabeth II’s life from her childhood as the “heiress presumptive” to her father, King George VI; to the moment he et her husband, Prince Philip, when she was 13 years old; to her ascension to the throne at 25 years old in 1952. Elizabeth the Queen, which also includes interviews with Buckingham Palace sources and never-before-revealed documents, provides a deep dive into the Queen’s legacy as one of the most famous monarchs in recent history.

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