Heritage

The True Story of Queen Elizabeth's Friendship with Reverend Billy Graham

Here's what the religious leader said about their relationship.
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Season two of The Crown powered through the second decade of Queen Elizabeth's reign, exploring everything from the Kennedy family's arrival on the world stage, and Prince Philip's alleged infidelity to the disaster that was the Suez Crisis, but for show creator Peter Morgan, the "best bit of writing" in the season was a storyline about the Queen's friendship with the American evangelist Reverend Billy Graham, who died the other day, at age 99. 

"The Billy Graham episode is about Elizabeth wanting to deepen her Christianity,” Morgan told Vanity Fair. “She stops reflecting on forgiveness as a central tenant of Christianity at precisely the time that she’s asked whether she can or can’t forgive her uncle for [meeting with Nazis and a general inclination toward appeasement]. The two story themes dovetail quite nicely. It’s the best bit of writing in the season.”


From left to right, Queen Elizabeth, Billy Graham, his wife Ruth, Prince Philip, The Queen Mother, and the rector of Sandringham, Rev. Gerry Murphy, pose together after Graham preached at Sandringham Parish Church.

During the episode, titled "Vergangenheit," the Queen sits with her mother watching Graham on the television, enraptured by his sermon. She seems attracted to him, at one point telling Prince Philip, "I think he's rather handsome," the rare moment she can make her husband jealous.

We see Graham giving a sermon in Windsor Chapel, and later on, the pair of them discussing scripture. In season one, Elizabeth's role as the leader of the Anglican church impeded her sister's marriage to Peter Townsend, but this is the first time the show has delved into her faith.

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The plot point was a favorite of Robert Lacey's, the show's historical consultant.

"People don’t know how the queen struck up this friendship with an old-time American evangelist," Lacey told me while promoting his book, The Crown, The Official Companion. "People don’t know that almost certainly every night the queen kneels beside her bed and says her prayers because that is what her mother did, we know, and her grandmother before her, and that’s how she was brought up."


Paul Sparks played the Reverend Graham in season 2 of The Crown.

"And the Queen has a very solid traditional Christian faith, and so what you see in this series, you know that Billy Graham came to Britain on his 'Crusades'—not a word you could use these days—and they gave over hours of radio time. The Queen heard it and invited him to come to preach at Windsor in their own private chapel and then had him to lunch afterwards," Lacey told me, essentially fact-checking the episode.

A happy 90th birthday to the Queen, whom Billy Graham has met with many times in informal settings. Here's one story he...

Posted by Billy Graham on Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Whenever he came to England [the Queen] would invite him to preach, and often when she came to America—the Queen would come to America more often than people realize, on private visits to see the racehorses in Kentucky—and she would often visit with Billy Graham because they had the same fundamental Christian faith."

Graham himself spoke out about his friendship with the Queen, detailing their meetings in his autobiography Just As I Am.

“No one in Britain has been more cordial toward us than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” he wrote. “Almost every occasion I have been with her has been in a warm, informal setting, such as a luncheon or dinner, either alone or with a few family members or other close friends.”

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"Her official position has prevented her from openly endorsing our Crusade meetings. But by welcoming us and having me preach on several occasions to the royal family at Windsor and Sandringham, she has gone out of her way to be quietly supportive of our mission," he continued.

"She is unquestionably one of the best-informed people on world affairs I have ever met. Part of that knowledge comes from the weekly in-depth briefings she is given by the prime minister, of course, but I have always found her highly intelligent and knowledgeable about a wide variety of issues, not just politics."

Read more of Graham's memories of the Queen over on his association's website.

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Caroline Hallemann
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