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The Queen is “still in the saddle”, the Archbishop of York has said, as he thanked her for “staying the course”.
In his sermon for the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell compared the monarch’s well-known love of horse racing to her long reign, suggesting it “reflects the distance of Aintree more than the sprints of Epsom”.
The Queen bowed out of attending Friday morning’s event in central London after suffering “discomfort” following the first day of festivities for her Platinum Jubilee.
During his sermon, Mr Cottrell told the congregation, which included senior members of the royal family, he was “sorry” the Queen could not attend, but glad there is “still more to come”.
There were smiles from the Earl and Countess of Wessex, as well as Zara Tindall – a champion horsewoman – as the archbishop referred to the Queen’s love of horse racing, while the Princess Royal nodded her head in approval.
He said: “Now, we all know that the Queen likes horse racing. And your Majesty, I’m rather assuming you’re watching this on the television.
“I don’t have any great tips for the Derby tomorrow, but since the scriptures describe life as a race set before us, let me observe that your long reign reflects the distance of Aintree more than the sprints of Epsom.
“Certainly, less dressage than most people imagine.
“But with endurance, through times of change and challenge, joy and sorrow, you continue to offer yourself in the service of our country and the Commonwealth.
“Your Majesty, we’re sorry you’re not with us this morning , but we are so glad you are still in the saddle. And we are all glad that there is still more to come.
Mr Cottrell stepped in at late notice to deliver the sermon after the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, contracted Covid-19.
In his address, the archbishop said the best leaders are those who “know how to be led” and “lead for others, not themselves”.
“People whose heart’s desire is to serve the common good and build up the common life; who don’t try to do it all themselves, or act in their own strength alone; people who take a longer view; and who seek out places of replenishing, even places where they might learn the mind of Christ,” he said.
“I say this today, knowing that in Her Majesty the Queen we see an example of this kind of service; a staunch constancy and a steadfast consistency; a faithfulness to God, an obedience to a vocation that is the bedrock of her life.”