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Queen greeted by Moderator of the 1960 General Assembly, the Rt Rev Dr John Burleigh  Image: Vista, Glasgow
Queen greeted by Moderator of the 1960 General Assembly, the Rt Rev Dr John Burleigh Image: Vista, Glasgow

'As One Who Loves This Country of Scotland And Her People'

Thursday September 15 2022


IN 1960, a special meeting of the General Assembly – a  ‘Reformation Assembly’ - took place in the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh in October to mark the 400th anniversary of the Reformation and was attended by the late Queen Elizabeth II and her late husband the Duke of Edinburgh.

Her address to the Assembly on the opening day was captured in the November 1960 issue of Life and Work:

‘For many, the real depth of meaning of meaning of this great day was not reached until the Assembly was constituted in the afternoon. Every available seat was occupied. The bright television lights caught up the fresh gilded ornamentation of the Queens’ Throne, and etched sharply the colourful costume of the heralds and pursuivants.

‘There was a breath-catching moment of splendour when Her Majesty the Queen entered the Throne Gallery and stood before the Throne, a regal, radiant figure in a full-length brilliant turquoise gown and jacket.

‘Then history was made afresh. The Queen bowed three times to the Assembly. The Assembly bowed back. The Moderator conveyed the greetings of the Assembly. The Queen spoke.

‘After thanking the Moderator she said: “Fathers and Brethren, This is doubly an historic occasion. This meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been called to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation. It is also the first occasion for more than three-and-a-half centuries on which the Assembly has been addressed by the Sovereign.

“Although none of my predecessors on this throne has been present at the General Assembly since the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England, the tradition of royal attendance at the highest court of the Church of Scotland has been kept alive by a long succession of Lord High Commissioners.

“These were men, from many walks of life, who served both Church and State in their day and generation with distinction and self-sacrifice. Among them I would specially mention my dear father. Many here will remember his attendance as Lord High Commissioner, together with my mother, at the historic Assembly which sealed the union of the Church of Scotland in 1929.

“In May of that year my parents visited the General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland in this very hall. I understand that in welcoming them, the Moderator expressed regret that I was unable to accompany them ‘owing to my many other occupations.’ I gladly repair that omission of my childhood today.

“As we look back to the Reformation we see it as a distant turning point in the nation’s life. But when my ancestor King James VI attended the General Assembly of 1602 at Holyroodhouse, the Reformation was an event almost within his own memory.

“Then, men were still in conflict, by word and deed, over its implications for Church and State. What meaning are we to give today to the establishment of the reformed faith in Scotland in 1560?

“In spite of the bitter quarrels of the past, and the divided religious loyalties which still remain with us, I believe that what happened at the reformation can be stated in terms on which all Christians may agree.

“Holy Writ was liberated to the people, and as a result the word of God was revealed again as a force to be reckoned with in the affairs of both public and private life.

“The Gospel which had long been revered as a record handed down from a primitive Christianity, was once more seen to be also a living light by which men ought to direct their lives, and perhaps, remould their institutions.

“This lesson from the Reformation is one that all Christians may surely apply to the modern world. If we have faith and courage to seek it, we shall be shown new truths in the Gospel of real and immediate relevance to our own time and we shall be given new insight to understand the unexampled problems which arise, almost every day at home and abroad.

“As one who loves this country of Scotland and her people, I rejoice that it is a mark of her national Church to combine devotion to the unalterable Christian faith with an eagerness to find new truth to answer the needs of a changing world.”

‘The Assembly accorded the Queen a tremendous ovation, and it was obvious that the members were delighted with her frank and forthright declaration which placed her squarely behind the Reformed Church in its work and witness. Although her accession oath binds her to preserve Presbyterian government in the Church of Scotland, there was a refreshing reassurance and conviction in hearing her declare this herself.’


Read and listen to the late Queen's addresses to the General Assemblies of 1969 and 2002 here