Billy Graham, who passed away on Wednesday, February 21st, at the age of 99, spread his powerful message of God's love and the Gospel throughout the world. During his long career, he advised presidents and counted royalty among his friends.
Graham, who was the son of a North Carolina farmer, began his worldwide mission in London in the 1950s. During that trip, he met with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
That started an unlikely friendship between the young queen, who was 29 at the time, and the pastor. They visited each other multiple times over the following decades. On Easter Sunday 1995, Graham even gave the sermon in the royal family’s private chapel.
“No one in Britain has been more cordial toward us than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” Graham wrote in his 1997 autobiography, "Just As I Am." He also added that it was only her official position that stopped her from endorsing his Crusade for Christ meetings. Personally, she was "both supportive of his work and open to his religious teachings," said Time.
“I have always found her highly intelligent and knowledgeable about a wide variety of issues,” he added, “not just politics.”
He added, "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."
The first meeting came in the course of Graham’s evangelist crusade during which “the greatest religious congregation, 120,000, ever seen until then in the British Isles” gathered, according to the biography of John Stott, former chaplain to the Queen.
On another occasion, Graham said the queen asked for his help while preparing her annual Christmas address.
"I always found her very interested in the Bible and its message," Graham wrote. "After preaching at Windsor one Sunday, I was sitting next to the Queen at lunch. I told her I had been undecided until the last minute about my choice of sermon and had almost preached on the healing of the crippled man in John 5. Her eyes sparkled and she bubbled over with enthusiasm, as she could do on occasion. 'I wish you had!' she exclaimed. 'That is my favorite story.' "
Their first meeting was dramatized in a Season 2 episode of Netflix’s award-winning show "The Crown." In the episode, the Queen watches television footage of Graham preaching to packed crowds. In the show, she asks for a private meeting with Graham, despite Prince Philip’s and the Queen Mother’s doubts—quipping that he’s “rather handsome.”
In The Crown, she draws spiritual comfort from her meeting with Graham.
The Queen's character, played by Claire Foy, says, “You do speak with such wonderful clarity and certainty,” she tells him, later adding, “Above all things, I do think of myself as just a simple Christian.”
The Queen, who is the head of the Church of England, has previously spoken about the importance of her faith: “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad,” she said in 2002.
“[The Queen] has always been deeply religious,” Robert Lacey, historical consultant for "The Crown" told People. “She was close to the Rev. Billy Graham in his prime, inviting him to preach at Windsor whenever he was in Britain, and meeting up with him when she visited the States."
“Her Christian faith is fundamental to her,” he added, “in an old-time evangelical way.”
Lacey continued, "People don’t know how the queen struck up this friendship with an old-time American evangelist. 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."