In light of the passion of Queen Elizabeth, we wanted to re-air this interview talking about her faith and legacy! Julie sits down with Dudley Delffs to take an in depth look at the the life of a royal, her faith traditions, and the legacy she has built.
- Find Dudly Delffs Online
- Dudley Delffs book: The Faith of Queen Elizabeth: The Poise, Grace, and Quiet Strength Behind the Crown
- Netflix: The Crown
- Movie: The Queen
Hey friend, I’m Julie Lyles Carr. You’re listening to the All Mom Does podcast on the Purposely podcast network. I’m sure you’ve probably heard by now that Queen Elizabeth passed away this last week, and our amazing content coordinator, producer, Rebecca and I were chatting back and forth about the legacy of her life. And we were able to do an episode a while back on the faith of Queen Elizabeth, our guest was Dudley Delffs. And as Rebecca and I were thinking about that episode, thinking about the example, the model that Queen Elizabeth has been to so many of us, we thought it would be a great time to bring that episode back from the archives and have it again this week. And here’s the thing that I thought was really interesting as well. You know, we’re in the middle of a series about the seasons of life, and I saw a statistic in the passing of Queen Elizabeth that said that she has been the Queen for almost 30% of American history, in the way that we often think of American history being from the point at which the colonists came to the US. Think about that, 30% of what we identify as a nation, as our history, that was the length of her reign. She oversaw so many seasons in her long life. And the one thing that was always consistent was the fact that she looked to God in those moments of triumph, in those moments of celebration, and in those moments of deep, deep challenge. So it sort of just fits right in to the series that we’ve been in on the seasons of life. This moment, this pause we’re going to take to reflect on this remarkable woman. I know for me in her passing, part of what really strikes me is that as a woman, I’ve always loved having this female Monarch, who has had such a powerful reputation, who is so respected by so many leaders across so many different types of governments. It’s always been really powerful to me that there was a woman who showed that level of ability and class and steadfastness in the midst of so many wild changes, both geopolitically and within her own personal family. And I’m sad at her passing, just because of the person that she was. And I’m sad because, you know, at the moment we just don’t have another woman on the geopolitical scope who is as well known and who has done the type of things that she did.
My daughters and I were talking about it last night that, you know, at least for the nation of the United Kingdom, at this point, Queen Elizabeth’s passing puts a whole bunch of guys in line for the monarchy for the next foreseeable future, for many generations. And so that’s something that’s been reflecting on just thinking about this remarkable woman, her remarkable life, and the fact that for a lot of us as women, she has been someone that we could look to on the global scale and see someone who has carried out her life with dignity and with a tremendous, and public, faith about Jesus Christ. So I want to invite you to take a listen to this episode from the archives. This is Dudley Delffs and this is on the faith of Queen Elizabeth.
Julie Lyles Carr: I had an opportunity to sit down and chat with someone who’s taken a really deep dive into the life of Queen Elizabeth and her faith, the faith that has sustained her through so many decades of ruling as Monarch over England. It’s absolutely fascinating. I can’t wait for you to hear from the different things that I learned that you’re gonna learn about Queen Elizabeth. I welcome today my guest Dudley Delffs. Dudley, thanks so much for being on the podcast.
Dudley Delffs: Julie, thank you so much for having me on.
Julie Lyles Carr: Now you are in the Tennessee area, is that correct?
Dudley Delffs: Correct. I live in a little university town called Sewanee, which is about 90 miles Southeast of Nashville.
Julie Lyles Carr: You’re in Nash-Vegas area. I love Nashville, lots of friends there. So tell my listeners about what you do in Sewanee. Am I saying it correctly? And you know, your family life, the things you enjoy, all of that.
Dudley Delffs: Well, I was born in Sewanee and went away to University. That’s where I met my wife, University of Tennessee in Knoxville. And then we moved to Colorado and were there for 20 years, had our three children there from there. My career took me to, to Michigan for 10 years. You know, various endeavors. Was a college professor for a while, and then I became a, a publisher, an executive publishing member. Finally almost 10 years ago, I left the corporate world and the academic world and I’ve been writing full time ever since. Let’s see about a year and a half ago, my wife and I were finally empty nesters and decided to head south from Michigan and landed back here in Sewanee.
Julie Lyles Carr: All the way full circle, there it goes. Now, when you’re writing an academic work, has there always been a heartbeat or a theme that have, has been something that you’ve always had a fascination with?
Dudley Delffs: Yes. I’ve always had an interest in matters related to faith, but I’ve always tended to come at it from a, a different perspective or looking for a fresh angle. I mean, certainly respect and appreciate the traditions and, and tenants of, of our faith in the Christian world for my own benefit. And therefore, as I began writing and researching and so forth, I’ve been fascinated by discovering faith in unexpected people and places and events. And certainly, that’s been the case with my last couple of books and certainly this one on her majesty the Queen.
Julie Lyles Carr: Yes. I got this in the mail from your amazing publicist, whom I just love. And I thought, oh, okay we’ve gotta have Dudley on, because I want to be able to talk about this. Your newest book is, The Faith of Queen Elizabeth, and the subtitle is: The Poise, Grace and Quiet Strength Behind the Crown. Now let’s face it. I know for myself, I have always been fascinated all things Royal. And I certainly do not think that I am the only American to have this fascination.
Dudley Delffs: Not at all.
Julie Lyles Carr: Yeah. What have you noticed about yes, the American people and the fascination that we do have, particularly with British royalty?
Dudley Delffs: It’s amazing, Julie and I, I don’t quite know how to explain it, but you know, if you look at the big picture and you think about the origins of our country in a sense being a, a rebellion or, you know, a protest against the Monarchy and being a colony and so forth. And yet over 200 years later, we’re still fascinated by the Royal family and the British Monarchy and, and how that works. And certainly, part of that is I think very primal almost to our childhood notions of fairy tales and myths and Disney movies. And you know, all the things that we see that remind us about Kings and Queens and princes and princesses, but then I think the flip side. Looking at the Royal family and thinking about all of the privileges and the wealth and the, the fame and celebrity and realizing that they have a lot of the same struggles personally that you or I, or anyone else might have.
Julie Lyles Carr: Right. You know, I think one thing that is interesting for us as Americans, and of course we have listeners to the podcast who are not American. So if you’re not American, then maybe this will just be a little bit of a tutorial on sometimes the American mindset. I can remember, I had lived in Washington DC for a period of time during high school. And you know, obviously very proud of many of the things that show the beginning of our country and the things that we hold to be very important and going to the capital and all of those kinds of things. And then when I went to England on a trip, when I was getting ready to start college, I can remember going to Windsor and seeing the tower from 1069, where William, the conqueror was, you know, reported to have built this place. And this was sort of his, you know, his bastion, where was the seat of power for him and doing the math in my head going 1069, like a thousand years ago. It just was such a profound moment because really in the annals of history, the American experience is, is a baby is still a really young thing. And there was something for me in that when you said primal, when we look at the lives of Monarchy, when we think about the, the titles of king and Queen, it was very interesting to feel like, wow, this is something a whole lot more ancient then really is in my experience as an American. Has that been part of the fascination for you?
Dudley Delffs: Oh, absolutely. And I had a similar experience, Julie, right before starting college and visiting England and the United Kingdom. And similarly, I think time in London and then in Windsor, I had that same feeling of, oh my goodness, the world is so much older and there’s so much more history here and you know, and I’ve been so, so naive not to perhaps recognize that sooner. And from there, you know, I, I became really fascinated by some of the British ancestry on both sides of, of my family, with my parents and intrigued to see those generations go back and put those timelines together and think about the various monarchs during my ancestors’ lives. And so that has definitely been something, you know, I’ve continued to pursue and explore and, and certainly having Queen Elizabeth as the only Monarch I’ve known in my lifetime, like most of us. Right. You know, I I’ve really always been curious about her.
Julie Lyles Carr: Now what drove you to look more deeply into her faith life? Because you know, the Royals up to a certain point, I think some of these newer generations were certainly getting more of an inside track on how they live and some of the things that are going on in their lives, but with Queen Elizabeth for a long time, there was really kind of a gating and a privacy that a lot of people may not have even realized that she had some kind of faith walk or what role that played in her life. So what compelled you to look more deeply at her?
Dudley Delffs: Well, several factors, Julie. One was this personal connection having, you know, Celtic ancestry. But the other thing was just kind of my storyteller’s imagination and curiosity that that always looks at other people’s lives and tries to imagine what it would be like in their shoes. I remember seeing Peter Morgan’s film, The Queen, which is of course, kind of a precursor to the Netflix series he does now, The Crown and, and just appreciating the struggles and the dilemmas the Queen faced in the wake of the death of Princess Diana. And just thinking about the human side of her and, and this conflict between duty and her own personal sense of privacy. And, and as you were saying, you know, I think a lot of people kind of overlook, or just assume that there’s a, a faith there at least one of tradition or more ceremony. Obviously, she is head of the church of England and defender of the faith, but you know what I’ve explored and, and been fascinated and inspired by is the Queen’s personal faith seems very genuine and authentic. I think it, in fact, the glue that’s helped her hold everything together in the midst of so many changes, both cultural and social, but just personal.
Julie Lyles Carr: How did you go about beginning to research for this? Because I’m assuming that it’s not, I think I’ll call up, you know, booking them and see if I can just book a little time to chat with the Queens. How do you go about the process of researching something like this and trying to divide out well, what is mythology, what is hearsay, and what really seems to be the core of the story.
Dudley Delffs: That’s the real challenge in a nutshell, Julie, you describe it so well. I felt like I had to put together this million-piece jigsaw puzzle because, of course the Queen does not grant interviews and has lived a bit of a, a guarded life because of the Crown and the position she holds. She is basically, I think a rather reserved, introverted person. And then she’s in a British culture that is notoriously proper and dignified and reserved. And then you have the Monarchy on top of that, the most dignified respected position. So you have these layers that, that almost, you know, enshroud her, if you will, to prevent her from expressing her feelings and her ideas, the way other leaders or other celebrities might. So I, I think for me, the research process required not only looking at the public addresses, the speeches, the annual Christmas broadcast that she has delivered over the decades, but then looking at the testimonies of people who have had some kind of relationship with her, whether by means of being a staff or serving on a team at Buckingham palace, as well as world leaders, average citizens, people that she just meets at events. And seeing this pattern, this consistency of authenticity and, and genuine humility and compassion, no matter who she’s talking to.
Julie Lyles Carr: What was one of the most surprising things that you discovered about her faith walk?
Dudley Delffs: I love the way her faith walk has always been a part of her life. She grew up not expecting to become the Monarch one day, right. That was supposed to go to her uncle David King, Edward VIII, who of course abdicated. And that put Elizabeth’s father Albert, who became King George VI in place. So, you know, growing up I, I don’t know that it was necessarily a, a normal childhood, but certainly privileged. But you know, the Queen mother, Elizabeth’s mother read Bible stories regularly, perhaps nightly to princess Margaret princess Elizabeth made sure they said their bedtime prayers and attend church each week. And I think going through World War II and being forced to retreat to Windsor and taking in other families who were displaced during The Blitz in London and the other war time events. I think that really helped her grasp this idea of service. And of duty in a way that was a calling, a holy calling, if you will, and not just an obligation.
Julie Lyles Carr: That’s something that has always struck me in the readings that I’ve done on her. And then obviously also watching Peter Morgan’s incredible work on the Queen and the Crown is, is the sense that she didn’t necessarily come to this in how we might perceive someone feeling entitled or privileged. That it carries a gravitas to her that is quite significant and that she has continued to carry. And I think sometimes we can interpret that as being uptight or really rigid or something like that. Yes. But but I do think it’s interesting to say, well, Wow. You know, if you really approached that kind of responsibility from a place of truly feeling it was a duty, how would that change, how you would be perceived and how you would do things? Where are places that you and your research found that her faith really sustained her? I mean, obviously we think of big challenges coming to the Crown in the wake of her father’s death, different challenges with family. But what are some places that you found in the research? It was very evident that she was a little more outspoken or the places that her faith really resounded.
Dudley Delffs: Well, you know, I think she really struggled you know, early in her reign with not just coming to terms with being a young woman in this incredible position of power and authority, and yet feeling rather powerless without any means to directly change or influence or affect change. But I think, you know, as public criticism occasionally began to rear its heads. So I’m thinking probably the late fifties, which, you know, overlapped with the time that she was forced to confront this this challenging situation with her sister, princess, Margaret, wanting to marry group captain, Peter Townsend, who was a divorced man. And of course, being head of the church, the Queen could not endorse this marriage. And yet she loves her sister and struggled with, with what to do with that. And I think, I think having a personal faith had to sustain her during that time, and of course become one steppingstone along a journey that continued with various family members and their crises and situations. But then also of course, you know national disasters, you know, one of the things I love, and this new season of the Crown is just the way we see her handling crises and struggling with how involved to be. And that third episode, we have this terrible tragedy in this Welsh mining town of Aberfan and the Queen not knowing how to comfort or to offer solace to her subjects, even though she clearly wants to.
Julie Lyles Carr: Right. You know, I think also for us within the church today, we don’t necessarily have a great understanding of what it would mean to be the head of the church of England. Can you unpack that? Because, you know, I know for myself, I’ve been part of a non-denominational church for a long time. There’s not a lot of church government involved. And of course, as Americans, we hold so tightly to this idea of the separation of church and state. But that is not the case in the way that the British Monarchy is set up. So what does it mean that she is the, the lead, the head of the church of England?
Dudley Delffs: That’s an excellent question, Julie, because many people would say it, it really doesn’t mean that much anymore. And you know, I, I would argue with that because I think it does mean something. Primarily through the Queens’ example. If you think about, again, the way the, the church of England. With King Henry VIII you know, breaking with the Catholic church so he could do his own thing and divorce one wife and marry another in pursuit of a male heir. You know, that created all kinds of divisions, and you know, overlapped with Martin Luther’s reformation. It’s ironic I think that right before, probably 10, 15 years before he broke with the Catholic church, the Pope had granted King Henry VIII this title of defender of the faith. And then, you know, what does he do? He goes and leaves the church and creates his own, the church of England. So you have this long history and tradition that Elizabeth inherits. And in some ways, it’s just very ceremonial and, you know, traditional. But what I appreciate is that she has set an example of someone who actively participates not only in church, but you know, among several hundred non-profits and charities that she is patron. She shows a special interest in the national Bible society, in scripture union, and really tries to indicate just how powerful her faith is in helping her deal with all the different facets of her role as Queen.
Julie Lyles Carr: We’ll get right back to the interview in just a moment.
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Julie Lyles Carr: How faithful do you think that Peter Morgan has been able to be to the story of Elizabeth and her life to this point? Because he is having to write for cinema and television, you know, I mean, you’re having to make things a little more yeah, interesting. Or put things in a certain sequence that maybe that’s not exactly how it happened, but it gives and builds a little bit to the storytelling and, and the drama. So in your research, what is sort of your take on how well both the film, the Queen and the series, the Crown have been able to stay in, you know, more of a biographical lockstep with what you are experiencing through the research that you did?
Dudley Delffs: I’ve been very impressed, Julie, with the accuracy and the attention to historical detail that Peter Morgan and his team consistently, you know, display in the Crown and, and did so in the Queen. Peter Morgan also wrote a, a stage play called The Audience. In some ways that set the table for the Crown, but the Audience was a stage play showing Queen Elizabeth’s weekly meetings with a dozen of the prime ministers. I think we’re now, I think Boris Johnson is now prime minister 14 during Queen Elizabeth’s long reign. I love the accuracy, you know, and he’s very clear about, yes, we are dramatizing and we are, you know creating an entertainment here. But I think he really tries to stick to the facts and to be disclosing when you know, an event is out of order or slightly modified. And of course, then we have all these great conversations stitching all of these events together, and there’s no way to know what they might have actually been. But I think he really gets the heart of the conflicts and the struggles and the, the passions, if you will, among the various members of the Royal family and how that all has this incredible impact on the Queen.
Julie Lyles Carr: How do you think that faith has played a role in her marriage to prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, because she seems to be the one who’s always been pretty stalwart and has always been pretty consistent in what she believed and what she practiced. But he of course is a much more mercurial figure. And so what role has faith played in their marriage? Because they’ve just celebrated 72 years of marriage. I mean, it’s an incredible, it’s an incredible number to hit and I think that’s amazing. I’d be curious to hear your take on what you think their faith life together is.
Dudley Delffs: That’s a fascinating component of their relationship. I think Julie, because, I mean, anyone who’s been in a relationship for any length of time where you’re committed to another person, you’re loving another person, you’re gonna have to deal with broken promises, unmet expectations, disappointments, and of course with forgiveness. And so you know, you have these two larger than life figures. And again, I think by personality Elizabeth is, is more reserved, more introverted. Philip, more outgoing, more Daredevil, you know more carefree, you know. Some people have said, you know, she was the good girl, he was the bad boy. Definitely an oversimplification, but, but there is something to it. So for her to have this consistent stalwart faith and for prince Philip to be much more mercurial as you said. I think her example had to have made a real difference. You know, there’s a great episode, I think it’s around episode six or seven in, in this new season, season three of the Crown and prince Philip is having a bit of a midlife crisis, you know. There’s the moon landing, and so he really thinks how cool it would be to be an astronaut and to have this ultimate adventure. And yet he’s looking at how his role is basically to follow in his wife’s footsteps, to be her shadow. So he really wrestles with that. And and his struggle coincides with a new Dean there at the Windsor chapel. You know, at first, he, he, you know, is rather dismissive of this new Dean who wants to start a, a religious formation and retreat center there. But gradually Phillip comes to see how important that could be for men, especially perhaps as they mature in age, to wrestle through some of those, those disappointments and some of those things, those dreams that, that never came about, and to simply accept the life they have. So all to say, I think they have a very different faith, but I do think faith is at the heart of allowing them to stay together for 72 years.
Julie Lyles Carr: Right. And that episode you’re talking about is a really beautiful one in the way that it’s written. And of course, with my background, my dad literally was a rocket scientist. So there’s a lot of devotion and, and just so cool to get, to see that experience of the moon landing, what it meant, what it said to people in that timeframe. So that episode in particular is very, very powerful, exploring those kinds of crises of faith when they come at certain seasons of life. Now, let me ask you this. You refer to Windsor chapel and has that primarily been the way that she has walked out her church life, if you will, is more of a private chapel experience. And the reason I ask that is this, you know, here in the states, we have people who become Christian celebrities and I’ve had the experience of being in a church service and someone like that walks in and the whole place gets disrupted. You know, the focus that’s supposed to be worship to God, all of a sudden becomes, did you see who’s here? You know, and it becomes this whole thing. It’s really hard for us in our humanness, even in church when we’re supposed to be focused on relationship with God, to let go of some of those celebrity moments. So how have they been able to do that? I mean, perhaps there’s a little bit more of an etiquette, I don’t know, in England about that. Or maybe she’s had to keep it to more private expressions. What did you find as you began to look at her life and her church going habit? Because I do know that it is a consistent habit in her life. I’m just curious to hear how she actually executes that.
Dudley Delffs: Yes. Well, I think you hit upon it, Julie. I think she does maintain a kind of privacy by keeping to services that are close to her homes at Windsor, or Sandringham, or Balmoral and making it more of a, of an intimate, small family gathering or community gathering there. The Queen is very mindful of how disruptive her presence can be. I found many examples where she is attending an event, or making a speech, or opening a new facility, and she apologizes to the mayor, or to the the CEO, or whomever, because she knows that she has changed everyone’s schedule, she’s disruptive traffic, she’s caused a big, a big deal and changed the course of the day. So I think she’s very mindful of that with church and perhaps even more so, because I opened my book with this encounter, this, this event celebrating the 150th anniversary of scripture union and the Bible society, and the Queen attended, but she did not participate. In other words, you know, she didn’t have to be there, she didn’t give a speech. She, you know, wasn’t necessarily recognized as part of the service, but she wanted to be there. And my sense of it, Julie, is that I think she would’ve loved to have been able to sneak in the back and just be a congregant, just be a worshiper and celebrate and enjoy the service. But of course, she’s the Queen, so you know how to balance that out, I think there’s a struggle. Most of us don’t have to face.
Julie Lyles Carr: Right. You know, Dudley, there’s been a lot in the press about some of the adventures, let’s put it that way, of some of her offspring, or their offspring, or, you know, and, and a lot of times we do tend to judge the faith walks of other people by the behavior that we think we’re aware of. And of course, if we’re gonna do that, we have to go back and really look at, you know, some of the major figures in Kings and our faith history like king David and others who, you know, they had some adventures that were a little off page, but that made it on the page. How do you feel like her legacy of faith is now being disseminated to her children, to her children’s children? Is that something they seem to be actively exploring? Is it something that is just part of the ritual for them? I, you know, because Prince Charles is the one who stands to inherit the throne. I mean, is he someone who is ready to step into this idea of truly being the head of the church of England?
Dudley Delffs: I think it’s you know, really intriguing to see how he will embrace that role or wear that role, Julie. You know, I, I think we have all gotten a sense that perhaps prince Charles is, is a bit more liberal in his views and, and certainly a younger generation, even though he, of course, is, is in his early seventies now. But the Queen’s legacy with her children and grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, I think will endure because there is that, that consistency. I think just the fact that she maintains her love and support, even if she cannot publicly make a statement or offer commentary. I think that says a lot that as parents we often face similar situations, you know. As my young adult children venture into the world, you know, some days I’m appalled and some days I’m thrilled at the choices they make. You know, and I think, what did I do wrong? Or what did I do right? And so, you know, I think most parents, we did our best. We love them. We tried to do all we could for them, but in many ways, they are their own unique selves and we can’t control their, their choices as much as we might want to. And, and I think that’s true for her majesty the Queen and and the, the various situations that her, her children have all endured and continue to endure.
Julie Lyles Carr: Right? So in all of this research and you know, you’re a writer, I’m a writer, you know, you get so embroiled in your topic and, and you walk away and you’ve learned things that you didn’t know. What for you are some of, of the personal takeaways as you did this deep dive into her faith life, what were things that are still resounding with you today?
Dudley Delffs: I think the biggest impression or, or thing that resonates for me, Julie is the little moments of kindness or personal engagement that I often found in the Queens encounters with other people, where she would have done her homework to make sure that she knew a special interest of her guest. Or there’s a great story that this, this woman tells, Julie, when she, when this woman was a little girl, she was visiting her grandparents, and the Queen was coming there to the town where they were. And the little girl was so excited because the year before, her school had been in the park in London and waved as the Queen went by in some parade. And so she ended up meeting the Queen when she’s visiting her grandparents and she immediately blurts out, Hey, it’s me, it’s me. Do you remember? I waved at you last year! And without missing a beat, the Queen says, well, yes, I thought that was you! And you know, and now the woman looking back at that says, you know, she’ll never know, the Queen will never know just how much that meant to the, to me as a little girl. That it made me feel special and, and recognized. And of course, as I grew older, I realized, well, of course there’s no way she could have picked me out of that crowd, but yet she had the wherewithal in the moment, not to disillusion little girl and to show kindness and to value the situation in a way that others might not have.
Julie Lyles Carr: That’s wonderful. Well, Dudly Delffs, I can’t thank you enough for being on the show today.
Thanks for joining me today on the All Mom Does podcast, on this special rebroadcast of the Faith of Queen Elizabeth. I so appreciate you being here, and I would love, would you do this for me? I know a lot of us are sending out beautiful memes and pictures of Queen Elizabeth, commemorating her. Would you send out this episode link to some of your friends who you think might enjoy it? That’s one of the best ways that you can thank us or the All Mom Does podcast, and to help us get the word out about the content that you find here. Also be sure and check out show notes. Rebecca puts those together each week. We just love you. We’re so thankful for you and I’ll see you next time on the All Mom Does podcast.