This stunning image, by PA Media photographer Jane Barlow, is set to become amongst the most recognised photos in recent history. That’s because we now know Barlow’s images to be the last public pictures of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
But did you spot the *second* face?
The 96-year old Queen stands, seemingly alone and aided by her stick, in her drawing room at Balmoral. She’s waiting to meet the new UK Prime Minister, Liz Truss, staggeringly the fifteenth PM of her Elizabethan reign.
But for me what really stands out is the frail Queen’s smile. Gracious. Warm. Infectious.
It’s a smile that we’ve come to love over these monumental seventy years. And yet it’s a smile that we’ll see no more. Two days later the world was being told what we knew was one day inevitable, yet perhaps seemed unbelievable. Her Majesty was dead.
It’s been said that a smile is the beauty of a soul. But we know that the most beautiful and genuine smiles are those drawn out from the presence of another. A second human face, the very presence of which can bring out the best of humanity. A smile bestows dignity and offers connection. It can build bridges and lower guards. We smile back.
So have you seen the second face yet? Take a look at the bottom of the mirror and to the left of the clock. Maybe the photographer herself. Maybe a courtier. But there, present in the room. Face to face. Drawing out the smile of Her Majesty.
And it reminds me that though we see Her Majesty’s smile no longer, yet her smile lives on. Not just in treasured photographs, film and memories. It lives on because *still* her smile is being prompted by the gaze of Another.
For Her Majesty is in the eternal presence of a second face.
As a Christian, Queen Elizabeth II knew that Jesus Christ was her Saviour. She wasn’t relying on her own morality. She didn’t believe this was just wishful thinking. She spoke in her Christmas broadcasts of how God came into our world in Jesus Christ to bring us forgiveness. And though she did not yet see him, she loved him. And she knew that one day she would ‘see him as he is’. She knew in this life we see in part, but one day ‘we shall see face to face’.
And so now she does. Now that second face, His face, shines upon her, radiant and beaming in all of His beauty, glory, and grace. The One whose own smile we were made to know.
And I’m sure that Her Majesty is smiling back.
Do you know *that* second face?