The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, said on Friday that when he met with Queen Elizabeth II in June she seemed to have “no fear of death.”
“I came away thinking there is someone who has no fear of death, has hope in the future, knows the rock on which she stands and that gives her strength,” Justin Welby told BBC’s Radio 4 on Friday, one day after the queen died “peacefully” at her Scottish Balmoral Castle retreat.
He added, “You felt that history was in front of you, but it was history with those piercingly blue eyes twinkling, that extraordinary smile and the relishing of a quick dry comment.”
He said the queen felt, “It’s not about me, it’s about what I have been called … by God to do.”
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Welby had met with the queen at Windsor Castle to present her with a special Canterbury Cross for her “unstinting service” to the Church during her reign.
The archbishop also lauded King Charles III over his first speech since ascending to the throne.
“Thank you, Your Majesty, for these words of comfort and hope for us all, spoken amidst such profound sorrow,” Welby tweeted. “We hold you and your family in our prayers. May you know God’s faithful love now and always.”
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Charles is now the supreme governor of the Church of England, a ceremonial role that his mother held since she became queen in 1952.
The Church of England also offered a prayer for King Charles on Friday: “Everlasting God, we pray for our new king. Bless his reign and the life of our nation. Help us to work together so that truth and justice, harmony and fairness flourish among us; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
On Thursday, the archbishop said his prayers and the nation’s were with the queen after Buckingham Palace announced doctors were “concerned” for her health soon before she died at 96.
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“My prayers, and the prayers of people across the Church of England and the nation, are with Her Majesty The Queen today,” he said in a statement. “May God’s presence strengthen and comfort Her Majesty, her family, and those who are caring for her at Balmoral.”
The archbishop spoke during a Service of Prayer and Reflection for the queen on Friday night.
Bishop of London Dame Sarah Mullally, called the queen’s lifelong service a “rare jewel” during the service. “It is a jewel that Her late Majesty The Queen wore as a crown, she said.
New Prime Minister Liz Truss was among those in attendance.