Are you familiar at all with the story of Prince Philip, the Queen of England’s husband? Watching the first few episodes of The Crown on Netfix gave me pause. I have since looked up other biographies of Prince Philip. I’m not sure how accurately the show portrays his character, but there are facts of history that amaze me. I believe that Prince Philip’s story is a metaphor for anyone curious about what it means to become a Christian. But let’s start with some facts.
The former Prince of Denmark and Greece, Prince Philip was blessed with titles and tragedies alike. His uncle, King Constantine I of Greece, was overthrown and his father was ousted from the country, forced to live in France. His mother was moved to a psychiatric clinic when he was nine years old. Seeing little of his father and none of his mother, young Philip spent his time with an older sister in Germany and his mother’s family in England, the Mountbattens. So his mother had relations in England, and his older sisters married into the German aristocracy. Three of his four sisters were known Nazis. One of his sisters and her husband died in an accident while Philip was still in school, another painful loss. While his in-laws fought on the Axis side of World War II, Prince Philip was attending the Royal Navy College in England. So Philip’s early world was a scattering of opportunity and hardship, a time when even he admits it was difficult to identify “home.”
And so it was that his English family grew closer to Philip, and his education and experience in England grew in him a fondness for a land that was not his by birth. And then he met the young princess, Elizabeth. They fell in love. She wanted to marry him. He wanted to marry her. They wrote lots of letters, and eventually, they got engaged.
No one in England, in government or in the aristocracy, thought Philip a good match for the future queen. He had ties to Germany, for one. He had no official English birthright. He had princely titles in other countries, complicating a role that would require him to sit second to a reigning Queen of England.
Though it made little sense to the officials and even the family, it was clear that Elizabeth loved Philip and would have none other. It was clear Philip was willing to sacrifice to become her husband. But his sacrifice was a bit different than the common person’s. He didn’t simply leave a job to move to a different state. He had to give up his former identity almost entirely. He was required to renounce his titles of Prince of Greece and Prince of Denmark. He had to renounce ties with every other country, and surrender his family’s name. He took upon himself the English surname Mountbatten, after his uncle, and King George blessed him with the new title Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich. Five years later, he was also named Prince.
After Elizabeth was made Queen, earlier than everyone thought she would be, he also had to surrender his naval career to move to the palace with her. His children took on the royal surname, Windsor, not his own. His whole life, he walked a step behind his wife, knowing it was not his place to detract from the honor due to the Queen of England.
In The Crown, there is a scene between King George and Prince Philip where the King says: “You understand the titles, the dukedom, they are not the job. She is the job. She is the essence of your duty. Loving her…”
All metaphors break down at some point, I know. All metaphors involving humans trying to paint a picture of divine reality cannot stand entirely on their own. But I believe we can learn something here.
We are all born into a world that is not our home.
We are given a name and a family, whatever that looks like for each of us.
We suffer and we succeed. We know loss and gain in its deepest forms. We struggle to find our place in a shifting world, trying to discern what is good and what is evil, learning what brings regret and what brings lasting joy.
At some point, we are told that Jesus loves us. We know inside that there is a God that made us and loves us and calls us to Himself. But we are keenly aware we are not welcome in His courts. We are too full of sin. Our associations are evil. We are too full of ourselves. Or maybe we are not in love with Him.
Objections are raised. But God’s love reigns supreme. His invitation stands.
God tells us that our love will come because He loves us first. He gave Jesus Christ to die on the cross, to pay for our sins, to grant us forgiveness when we repent. We should be overwhelmed that it is possible to be reconciled to God, to be heirs together with Christ in an eternal kingdom we cannot comprehend. It is a thought I cannot fully comprehend, and yet, my heart will never, I pray, relinquish my desire to belong with God in His home.
We cannot resist His love. It is not naïve and shallow. It is deep and knowing. It is true and life-giving.
We lay everything aside—our titles, our names, our achievements, our careers. All of this might still exist in some form in our person, in our earthly world, but they no longer define us. We are given a new name. We are reborn into a new family. And this family, this name, this belonging cannot be undone. We might struggle with this loss, but in the face of the love of Christ, we know it is worth it.
Paul tells us, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
We are overwhelmed by the glory and grace and love of God. And we stand not in the spotlight, but close enough to reflect His glory to the world, aware that His glory—and not our own—is what the world needs.
In this kingdom, the essence of our duty is to love the Lord Jesus Christ with everything we are.
Having obtained the honor of joining the Kingdom of God, we now bear the honor of representing it to the world, sharing this love we know with others that they too may enter in.
Matthew 4:17 tells us what Jesus did first when he began His ministry. “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
The Lord Jesus Christ himself does not want us to miss out on belonging to His kingdom. It is real, and we can belong there. He tells us again and again to repent, to believe in Him, to receive His love. It might cost us everything in this life, but we will never regret knowing and loving the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of peace, our God. Nothing compares to the Kingdom of God. Nothing compares to the love of God in Christ Jesus.
To God be the glory.
I Timothy 6:11-16
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.