Queen Mother's gifts of 'strength, dignity and laughter'

Text of the sermon delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the funeral service for the Queen Mother at Westminster Abbey
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The Independent Online

The Archbishop of Canterbury in his funeral sermon paid tribute today to the Queen Mother's gifts of "strength, dignity and laughter".

"Like the sun, she bathed us in her warm glow. Now that the sun has set and the cool of the evening has come, some of the warmth we absorbed is flowing back towards her," he told mourners at Westminster Abbey.

Dr George Carey said: "In the ten days since she left us, there have been countless tributes and expressions of affection and respect – including those of the many people who have queued and filed patiently past her coffin lying–in–state.

"How should we explain the numbers? Not just by the great length of a life, famously lived to the full.

"It has to do with her giving of herself so readily and openly. There was about her, in George Eliot's lovely phrase, 'the sweet presence of a good diffused'.

"If there is one verse of scripture which captures her best, it is perhaps the description of a gracious woman in the final chapter of the book ofProverbs.

"It says: 'Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come'.

"Strength, dignity and laughter – three great gifts which we honour and celebrate today."

Dr Carey said the Queen Mother's strength as a person was expressed best through the "remarkable quality of her dealings with people – her ability to make all human encounters, however fleeting, feel both special and personal.

"As her eighth Archbishop of Canterbury, I can vouch for that strength," he added.

He said the Queen Mother's title reflected "one of the most fundamental of all roles and relationships – that of simply being a Mother, a Mum, the Queen Mum".

For her family, that maternal strength – given across the generations tochildren, grandchildren, great–grandchildren – has been a precious gift and blessing, he said.

He went on: "We come here to mourn but also to give thanks, to celebrate the person and her life – both filled with such a rich sense of fun and joy and the music of laughter.

"With it went an immense vitality that did not fail her. Hers was a great old age, but not a cramped one. She remained young at heart, and the young themselves sensed that."

Dr Carey said the the Queen Mother knew a great deal about laughter.

"It was rooted in the depth and simplicity of her abiding faith that this life is to be lived to the full as a preparation for the next."

He concluded his sermon by saying: "Strength, dignity, laughter – three special qualities, earthed in her Christian faith.

"Qualities that clothed her life so richly. Qualities that with her passing, we too – by the grace of God – may seek to put on afresh, in our own lives and the life of our nation and world.

"Let that be part of her legacy, part of our tribute.

"And lastly this: for the book of Proverbs has more to say about a gracious woman; words we can summon now as we commend to her Heavenly Father his faithful servant Elizabeth – Queen, Queen Mother, Queen Mum – deeply loved and greatly missed.

"It simply says of a woman of grace: 'Many have done excellently, but you exceed them all."'

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