The Faith of Queen Elizabeth with Dudley Delffs // Season 5, Episode 8

Jaclyn Humble: Welcome or welcome back to The Millennial Homemakers Podcast. Thank you for joining us today. We have another author from Zondervan, and we just love our relationship with this publisher. Today’s author is a little bit different because the book is not about the author himself.

Jackie Alexander: This is the first time we’ve had an author on who didn’t write about themselves in some form, which made this interview different than what we usually have.

JH: I would love to interview the person who the book is about, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think many reporters, especially not podcasters, get the opportunity to interview Queen Elizabeth.

JA: Especially since the author of this book couldn’t even do it for the book.

JH: Yes, that’s very true. But it is a great book. It’s The Faith of Queen Elizabeth: The Poise, Grace, and Quiet Strength Behind the Crown. And it is no secret that Jackie and I both have a fascination with the British Royal family. Our moms kind of shared this fascination with us, so it’s generational.

JA: Especially in the past couple of years, since Prince Harry and Prince William are not that much older than us seeing their lives and their marriages, it just launched into an even bigger fascination.

JH: The monarchy does a lot of the things we talk about on the podcast so well – personal style, traditions, cooking, parties. We love the fashion, especially, of the Brits. So this was a fun one. A little bit about the book. It is by Dudley Delffs, who is only the second male we’ve had on the podcast.

Listen also: Life to the Extreme with Ty Pennington

JH: I’ll read the back cover of the book because we thought that was a good description: “Icon, matriarch, reformer, and the longest-reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth II intrigues millions around the world with her Royal heritage, inspirational character, and profound faith, especially as depicted in award-winning films such as The Queen and the wildly popular Netflix series The Crown,” which is our favorite. “A Reign that bridges the 20th and 21st centuries Queen Elizabeth has become the definition of stability, faithfulness, and dignity. Fearlessly, she led her country into the modern age with a balance of historical tradition and entrepreneurial initiative, public service, and private devotion. Nearly seven decades on the throne, the queen has faced many personal and public storms – an early and surprising ascension to the throne, the dissolution of the British Empire, political upheavals, international crises, national tragedies, family deaths, and the tabloid travails of her children and grandchildren. But throughout all her trials and triumphs, Her Majesty credits her personal faith in Jesus Christ as a steadying anchor to her life and reign. In this spiritual biography, Dudley Delffs unpacks the secret behind Her Majesty’s personal devotion and public service giving you a fuller, richer picture of the woman who has led a nation with unwavering faith and resolve.”

JA: I greatly enjoyed this book. Dudley Delffs is a Ph.D. and, at some points, it’s written like that – very scholarly. It’s very rich. Near the end of our interview, we talk to Dudley about how he ends every chapter with a personal story, a personal conversation that he had with a UK citizen while he was researching this book, which is very interesting. But we think this would be a great Christmas gift for anyone in your life that is either just intrigued by the whole British monarchy or has a very deep spiritual faith and wants to see how that shows in people in power.

JH: I like this too because like the back said, it was a spiritual biography. It touched on her life story in a different way than you can get from a lot of other books. And he also has written a book about Dolly Parton. “Dudley Delffs, Ph.D. is an award-winning writer of both fiction and nonfiction. A lifelong Anglophile and descendant of King James I,” which is really cool. “Dudley Lives in Sewanee, Tennessee,” which is really close to me, “with his wife. His most recent book is The Faith of Dolly Parton. Follow along with Dudley at dudleydelffs.com.” We talked a little bit about Dolly Parton and Queen Elizabeth. Contrasting their two faiths and how their faiths have impacted their celebrity. We that y’all enjoy this. We love all things Brit, especially with The Crown just coming out. So we thought that this would be a fun episode for you to listen to while traveling for Thanksgiving.

JA: Just one more thing – This is I guess an interview of firsts for us because the book is not about the author, but it’s also the first time that we’re releasing this interview before the book is released. It will be out December 3rd on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

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JH: As we said, this is a great Christmas present for a grandmother, a mom, an aunt, a friend, or anyone in your life who respects Queen Elizabeth and I know that she has a lot of fans out there. L I hope y’all enjoy the interview. Hello Dudley. Welcome to our podcast. We are so happy to have you on and how timely that it is around the release of the Crown Season Three, one of our favorite Netflix shows, and we have had a fascination with the Royal family. And our podcast has quite a few listeners in the UK, which has likely only increased our fascination. We are here today to talk about your new book, The Faith of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth is my personal favorite member of the Royal family.

Dudley Delffs: Mine too. Yes, thank you so much for having me on your podcast. I’ve started watching the new season of The Crown. I’m about halfway through it and really enjoying that. I also really admire Her Majesty the Queen and consider her kind of a personal hero.

JH: I do too. Whenever someone asks who I would want to get lunch, dinner, coffee, or tea with, my answer is always Queen Elizabeth.

DD: We should be so lucky. Let’s hope that happens.

Is there a reason you were drawn to Queen Elizabeth and Dolly Parton to write about?

JA: Absolutely. So let’s jump right in. So we are mostly going to talk about your book that’s coming out on December 3rd, The Faith of Queen Elizabeth. But before we get into that, you previously wrote a book called The Faith of Dolly Parton. On the surface, those seem like two very different women. Is there a reason you were drawn to both these women besides the fact that Queen Elizabeth is one of your personal heroes and someone you want to have lunch with?

DD: Yes, it’s quite a jump. I’m sure there are all kinds of jokes or punchlines there. But, going from the queen of country music to the Queen of England was on the surface a fairly dramatic jump. But honestly, I found more in common between the two as I began doing the research on Queen Elizabeth. Both women really are personal heroes. In the Dolly book, I explored the way Dolly had been kind of a presence from a distance throughout my life growing up in the South, in Tennessee. Just during various intervals, the way her music and her life and her influence had an impact on me. And then similarly, as I began thinking of other heroes of the faith who one might not expect, Queen Elizabeth came to mind just because her faith has always been front and center. But yet, that’s usually not what most people think of first.

JA: Or we might think that it’s not truly her personal faith and only because she serves as the head of the Church of England that she has to give this off. And it’s only when you dive deeper that you realize that it is something that she embraces herself.

DD: Yes, absolutely. That’s it exactly. That’s part of her role, right? She is the head of the Church and Defender of the Faith, so I think it would be easy to just make that ceremonial and give a nod to tradition. But if you look at her life, she has been very engaged and very personally supportive and involved in a number of ministries, nonprofits, and charities, not just as their patron, but as someone who truly believes in their mission. That coupled with her references often in her annual Christmas broadcast, as well as her behavior. I think, there’s definitely a faith there as I see it.

Did you find any surprising similarities between Dolly Parton and Queen Elizabeth?

JH: I agree. Going back to Dolly, did you have any, besides their faith, any surprising similarities between the queen of country music and the Queen of England?

DD: There really are a lot of similarities, more than I expected. Both of them are these superstars, iconic, larger than life personalities known around the world. And of course, they are known for very different things and yet their accomplishments are both phenomenal in their respective fields. Yet within the midst of those accomplishments and these careers that span decades, each of them has always included their faith in very direct and simple terms. And they followed through in their behavior, whether that’s donating money to scholarship funds and people who lose homes to wildfires like Dolly. Or whether that’s the Queen reaching out to individuals who have suffered a loss of some kind. They really do have this authentic comfortability with themselves and with their faith and who they are and the roles they play. And I think there are more parallels there than you might first think.

JA: That’s very interesting and very surprising because I would never have thought those two women had much in common, besides maybe notoriety or popularity.

JH: Being a Tennessean. And Dudley, before we hit record, we were bonding over the fact that we are close in Tennessee. I didn’t realize what impact Dolly had on the state until I moved here and until the wildfires happened. I was hearing all these wonderful things, and I knew Dollywood was a thing, but I just thought it was like a Myrtle Beach, cheesy theme park. But really the jobs that she provides and just her impact on the community I’ve seen firsthand. So I definitely would agree with that. And I think that we see eye-to-eye on that.

DD: That’s awesome. One other quick thing I’ll mention that the two have in common – I think both of them have rather wicked senses of humor. Their brains are coming up with these great one-liners. And yet I think both of them always choose the high road when dealing with critics or haters or people who are perhaps being less than respectful to them or what they stand for.

You talk about how the Queen is authentically herself. How is that impacted by her faith and vice versa?

JA: Throughout your new book, you talk about how the Queen is authentically herself in the way she dresses, carries herself, and acts. Do you think this is impacted by her faith or is it vice versa? Or how is that influenced by her personal faith instead of just her celebrity?

DD: I think they do affect one another. In some ways, I think her faith has been the catalyst or the glue, if you will, that has enabled her to maintain a sense of who she is as a person, an individual, a wife, a mother, a grandmother. And not just the Head of State, the Sovereign, the Monarch. So I think that faith has been one of the few things in our life that may have provided a bit of freedom or liberty. And again, it’s very private, very personal. It’s always funny, I did some research in the United Kingdom last year for the book, and one of the first questions I often got was, “Why are you writing about the faith of Queen Elizabeth? That’s such an American thing to do.” But, her faith is a part of who she is, part of her character and her personality.

Her faith is a part of who she is, part of her character and her personality. Over Buckingham Palace Guard.

JA: That’s very interesting. Especially because I would think that they would just see her as the Head of the Church, so this is what she’s supposed to do. So they don’t really think about it at all. And that might be why they were surprised that you were writing about it, that you were diving into it and that you thought of her as more than just the Head of the Church.

DD: Yes. And I think many of them quickly warmed up to looking at her faith in terms of it being very personal or even private and the way that she has demonstrated it. And the way it manifests itself across the almost seven decades now of her historic reign.

How did your view and understanding of the monarchy change as you researched and wrote your book?

JH: Many Americans, including us obviously, are enamored with the British Royal family. But it can be difficult to truly understand the Queen’s role. So how did your view and understanding of the monarchy change as you researched and wrote your book?

DD: My understanding of the monarchy was probably similar to most Americans’ view of it. I’ve found it intriguing. It certainly seems more historical than particularly relevant perhaps to a democratic form of government today and so forth. But honestly, the more research I did and the more historical exploration, the more appreciation I had for the way Queen Elizabeth has reigned as sovereign because it’s an impossible role. I mean, it really is. We can certainly talk about the privilege and the wealth and the status and all the benefits. But in terms of expectations, it’s a crazy, impossible job. As she often says, and we see this in The Crown quite a bit, her job is to do nothing. Her job is to remain impartial and yet to provide a kind of stability and security for all her subjects.

JA: I think it’s interesting too, in The Crown, although it is her job to do nothing and more just act as in an advisory role to her Prime Minister, she does have a very active role, or it seems like she has a very active role. Even if we don’t see it on the surface.

DD: Oh yes. I mean, how can she not? Because she is a human being. And of course, she has this unique vantage point that no one else has. And that does carry this burden of responsibility with it, which she has wielded very responsibly. She’s always tried to serve and never made it about her own celebrity or her own ego. And, as we see with some of the other Royal members, that’s not necessarily always the case.

Why do you think we as a country seem to be so fascinated by the Queen and the Royal family?

JA: With the third season of The Crown having just been released, as we’ve talked about, it proves just how fascinated Americans are with the British Royal family. The Crown is not the only one. There’s just so many shows and movies and documentaries out, especially in the past couple of years.

JH: Meghan Markle has increased that in both good and bad ways.

JA: But why do you think that we as a country seem to be so fascinated by the Queen and the Royal family?

DD: I think they are kind of a blank canvas, and we can use them to project our imagined best lives if you will. Honestly, we kind of tap into the things we learned as kids – fairy tales, stories, myths, the King and the Queen, the Prince and the Princess, and all of these things. I think, there’s some kind of association there. But then, the tension between these roles, which seems rather prescribed and traditional and very rigid at times. And yet, seeing glimmers of their personality, or sometimes more than a glimmer – seeing tension, seeing conflict, and certainly, with her children and their various divorces and marriages and relationships, we see the way that those manifest themselves. People are still people no matter what their Royal title might be.

JA: I think that’s hard maybe for us to see because they do seem like celebrities for us. But they are just people, and they do have their own lives and their own pressures and insecurities and drama that we don’t see behind the scenes.

DD: Yes, exactly. I think the Royal family and the Queen, they kind of end up being all things to all people. And it’s difficult to remember the human being in there sometimes. And, you’re right, even with all the privileges and wealth and celebrity, she still has issues with her children even when they’re adults. As someone now in middle age with young adult children, somehow that comforts me to know that her life isn’t more problem-free than ours.

How do you believe the separation of church and state has impacted religion in the U.S. and Great Britain?

JH: In the U.S., we tend to be firm believers in the separation of church and state. On the other side of the pond, Britain’s monarch is the head of the Church of England, like we’ve been saying. How do you believe that those views impact religion in each country?

DD: That is a great question because I would often notice the way you have almost these two inverted paradigms and thinking about the way that our country was so determined to prevent a monarchy and to prevent having a totalitarian kind of leader who controlled everything. And on the other hand, Great Britain, the United Kingdom has had a Monarch and yet, she’s worked so hard to stand back, to be hands-off, to carry out the wishes of the people in her democracy. And then you lay this layer of the church and religion on top of that. I just think it’s fascinating and honestly, it’s like two two-centuries long experiments that are still ongoing. And I honestly am not quite sure what conclusions to draw by comparing them. But we certainly see some interesting differences.

JA: America was founded because people were fleeing religious persecution, so that probably adds to why we believe so strongly, on a whole, in that separation. It’s just very interesting that Britain is still holding onto this even though the Queen is very private in her own faith. So she’s not necessarily promoting the church all the time.

JH: I think it says a lot about her as a person because so many people can use religion and Christianity as something negative and as a control aspect. So with the Queen being such a strong Christian herself and not using religion as a tool against the people but using it for the people, I think that’s why they’ve been able to have a state religion.

DD: I think it’s interesting, too, that in many ways in our country, religion has become politicized and used in different ways and it gets complicated rather quickly. And yet in the United Kingdom, as you said, you seem to have kind of this combination or conflation of the Church of England with the government, with the Monarch. And yet, I may be very wrong, but it appears that they do not have the same kind of political leverage with religion, at least directly in their politics. Again, I may be very misinformed, but that’s just the way I’ve seen it so far.

JA: Absolutely. I agree. And because we do have a fairly large UK listenership, we’ll have to, when we post this episode, ask our UK listeners if you’re right on that assumption or if it’s just something that is maybe hidden from people outside of the UK.

If the Monarchy were ever to collapse, what do you see happening to the Church of England?

JA: This next question is purely hypothetical, but if the Monarchy were ever to collapse, what do you see happening to the Church of England?

DD: Oh wow. Change is inevitable. We know that. And something I’ve encountered as I interviewed both experts as well as just different UK citizens, everyone is rather fearful and a bit anxious thinking about Her Majesty the Queen passing at some point and the changes that that will bring. I don’t see the role of the Monarch being head of the Church and Defender of the Faith changing, per se. But who knows how those roles may continue to change and evolve. If the Monarch were no longer head of the Church of England – that’s really fascinating – I honestly don’t know what that might look like. On one hand, perhaps it would continue to decline in terms of its membership and the perception of its relevancy for so many people.

JA: Very possible. And it’s hard to think about what that could look like because Monarch has been the head of the Church of England since at least Henry VII, I think. Wasn’t he the one that separated from the Catholic Church? Most people in the UK have grown up only knowing Queen Elizabeth as the Monarch. And so if Prince Charles ever becomes King, who knows what it will look like for him.

DD: Right, exactly. And again, how his own spirituality or sense of faith might shape that role. Yes, we don’t know.

Can you share some of the stories you had with UK citizens while researching your book and share how they impacted you?

JH: While visiting the UK, you spoke with citizens about their view of Queen Elizabeth and her faith. Can you share some of those stories and how they impacted your thoughts and research?

DD: That really was one of those incidental things that I just enjoyed doing. And yet those conversations ended up being quite memorable and quite germane to the chapters as I was writing the book. And so that’s kind of how I ended up closing each chapter by including or summarizing one of those conversations I had with just average citizens there. One of my favorites was with a young man on a train out of London, headed Northwest toward Manchester. He was going home to visit his wife and very young children. He’d been working in London, there in the South. And as we chatted, it turned out that he was from Northern Ireland. And certainly, you know, all the history – just the tensions and the animosity and just so much history there and conflict.

DD: But as we’ve chatted, he talked about the way his views had changed after becoming a father, becoming a parent. He almost longed for some of the comforting faith that he associated with his grandparents. And he said, Her Majesty the Queen would be slightly older than his grandparents but of the same generation, most likely. There was something about their values and their way of facing adversity that he really admired because it’s such a scary world and you think about your children and bringing them into the world and trying to help them navigate all that we have today. And he was longing for that kind of stability and security that he associated with Her Majesty the Queen and to be willing to articulate that on the fly with a stranger on a train just really impressed me. And one of the issues culturally is that a lot of Brits aren’t keen to talk necessarily about their feelings and, and so forth. But he was willing to open up a bit, and it was really quite touching.

JA: That was one of my favorite stories in the book. The book as a whole is fantastic, and I enjoyed learning so much about the Queen. But you end every chapter with one of those stories and that was so moving to me because it was real people conveying their thoughts to you, a stranger, but they were willing to open up in so many unique and very interesting ways.

DD: They do all stand out to me. Another one that was very different but stays with me is when I ended up having lunch with a friend of a friend. This was a working-class mom who had risen through the ranks and become quite a professional, very well respected in her career. And she was talking about what it’s like to have Queen Elizabeth as a kind of role model, as a strong woman who never compromised her strengths and convictions, nor did she compromise her femininity or her role as a woman. And that impressed me because, obviously she’s had barriers to overcome as we all have, but she genuinely has drawn inspiration and strength from the Queen’s example. That was very refreshing, very encouraging.

What do you want your readers to take away from your book?

JA: Before we wrap up, do you have any final thoughts or what do you want your readers to take away from your book?

DD: I would love it if people came away with perhaps a different perception of Her Majesty the Queen, a little more depth below the surface and the popular perception we may have. But I would love it as well if they would take away a willingness to look at their own lives and their own faith and to think about what it means for our faith to just simply be part of who we are in whatever role, whatever purpose we’re called to, whatever family we’re in. It doesn’t have to be this separate part of us that we segregate or only drag out at holidays or special events or whatever the case might be. So again, just seeing the Queen’s example or Dolly’s example of showing us what it looks like for a lifetime to just incorporate the Christian faith in very practical and meaningful ways.

JA: I think, especially for all three of us living in the Bible Belt, we’re used to the expectation of going to church every Sunday. And it’s not strange to say, “Oh, I can’t, I have to go to Bible study” or things like that. But to actually live it takes it a whole new level that the Queen doesn’t shy away from. Your book made that very clear and put things in a new light for me. It definitely made me see the Queen in a new light and especially her faith.

JH: To be able to recognize that without having it to plastered all over the place and have it just be something subtle. It really is the grace and the poise behind the Crown.

DD: I love that. I was chatting with another friend recently and he was commenting on the differences that sometimes we have with what he called “Professional Christians,” people who either because of their role or their ministry or platform, it’s kind of front and center. He also mentioned celebrities who often incorporate their faith in a very dramatic and, to use his words, a theatrical way. And how contrasts and compares with, as you said, the more subtle, natural, authentic way that Queen Elizabeth has lived her life and reigned for almost seven decades.

How can our listeners connect with you off-air?

JH: Well, thank you for being on, Dudley. And where can our listeners and (hopefully) your readers find you off-air? So what’s your website? How can they connect with you and see more books that you have coming out?

DD: Yeah, it’s dudleydelffs.com.

JA: We greatly enjoyed and loved your book and so we’re thrilled to share it with our listeners.

JH: Thanks for listening. I hope that you enjoyed the interview, and as always if you liked this episode or have any suggestions for episode topics in the future, you can leave us a review on the iTunes store. And you can join our Facebook group, The Millennial Homemakers.

JA: You can follow Jaclyn on Instagram @jaclynhumble. And I am @jvalexander16. You can find the podcast @themillennialhomemakers.

JH: Thank you so much for listening. We hope that y’all have a great holiday and stay tuned for some fun Christmas content.