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The Bible, the Funeral – and the Coronation

Author: Bible Society, 24 April 2023

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New research by Bible Society shows how the largest scriptural event in history was received by people across England and Wales and what it can tell us about the future of religion in the public sphere.

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Queen Elizabeth II died last September. The mourning period that followed was extraordinary: millions of people in the UK and around the world took part in some way. Many joined the great queue to file past her coffin in Westminster Hall; many lined the streets as it went past on its way to Windsor; many more watched the events on TV, listened to coverage on the radio or online, or read some of the thousands of words written about her. 

For us at Bible Society, one of the most significant things about this period was the exposure it gave to the Bible. This was a Christian funeral for a deeply Christian Queen. Thousands of words from Scripture were spoken, heard by millions around the world. The Queen’s faith was acknowledged – even celebrated. But what did people make of the Bible texts they were hearing, some of them for the first time? What did they think of the Queen? And did they think that the Bible and Christianity being made so prominent at a royal occasion was the right thing to do? 

We commissioned polling agency YouGov to run a survey of 3,000 adults across England and Wales, and we’ve spent time analysing the results. Here’s what we found: 

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A faithful and popular Queen

The Queen’s deeply personal Christian faith was prominent throughout her life and was reflected in her memorial and funeral events. We found that while she was particularly popular among Christians, this also spread far beyond those who shared her faith:

  • Sixty-eight per cent of the population said they were favourable towards the Queen, with only ten per cent being unfavourable
  • Across age groups there’s greater warmth towards the Queen and the monarchy among churchgoers than there is among their non-churchgoing peers. Nonetheless, even among non-religious people, a majority (50 per cent) support remaining a monarchy, compared to 37 per cent who would prefer to become a republic
  • Over half of churchgoers (56 per cent) said the life and public faith of the Queen positively influenced how they saw Christianity – and these perceptions were further improved among approximately a third of churchgoers through the mourning events

A unique Bible moment in history

The funeral and other mourning events saw modern media bring a prominence to the Bible unprecedented in global history. Throughout the events, Christian ritual, liturgy, and Scripture were central, and these were largely viewed warmly – but it’s clear that opportunities remain for Bible communicators.

  • If someone watched all of the official mourning events they would have heard 3,923 words of the Bible, forming 198 verses, drawn from 13 books of the Bible, in three languages – English, Welsh and Gaelic
  • Twenty-nine per cent of those who engaged with the events said they heard parts of the Bible they’d not heard before – a figure that rises to 40 per cent among 18–24-year-olds
  • One-third said they found the Bible passages moving (with 15 per cent disagreeing), while 31 per cent said they were relevant to their feelings at the time, compared to 18 per cent who disagreed
  • However, one-quarter said they were boring, while around a quarter of young people aged 18–34 and those from other faiths said they found the Bible difficult to understand

Christianity has a place in royal events

But what of the future? We found widespread support for retaining a Christian focus in royal events, and little interest in the events becoming wholly secular – even among those from other religions and non-religious backgrounds.

  • Overwhelmingly, those who engaged in the funeral events believed the presence of Christianity was appropriate. Seventy-nine per cent agreed it was appropriate given the faith of the Queen as an individual, while 72 per cent said it was appropriate for a British royal event
  • Fifty-five per cent of respondents said they were happy that the events were wholly Christian, with only 12 per cent saying they found this alienating. Fewer than one in ten (nine per cent) said they should have instead been wholly secular, and even among the non-religious this figure was only slightly higher than the national average at 12 per cent
  • Overall, people are more likely to agree (31 per cent) than disagree (21 per cent) with keeping state royal events wholly Christian in the future. Likewise, there is little appetite for the events becoming wholly secular, even among non-religious respondents
  • Thirty-seven per cent of adults agree a state royal event should feature the Bible, two-and-a-half times more than those who disagree (14 per cent).

The mourning that followed the Queen’s death was a unique moment in modern British history. Overall, we found a nation guided through its collective mourning by Scripture and Christian ritual. Though the nation is now majority non-Christian, it was still largely appreciative of this spiritual presence – Christians and non-Christians alike. This was true not only in this specific case of a deeply faithful individual, but across royal and state events more generally, both now and in the future. 

With the coronation of her successor on the horizon, these findings from the mourning period of Queen Elizabeth II shows a clear argument for the continuing presence of Christian ritual and Scripture at the heart of British public life.

Download the full report now, or alternatively read a quick two-page summary of our findings. To find out which passages from the Bible were used and when during the funeral events, download our infographics.

Download the full report

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