A life of service: Prague's British community remembers HM Queen Elizabeth II

Members of British and Commonwealth communities gathered in Prague to remember the life and service of Queen Elizabeth II.

William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 18.09.2022 09:42:00 (updated on 18.09.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Sept. 8. A period of mourning is underway in the United Kingdom, with the Queen’s state funeral to be held on Monday.

On Friday evening, a remembrance service was held at St. Clement’s Church in Prague, paying tribute to the Queen's devoted service throughout a 70-year reign. The church was packed with subjects of the British crown in Prague, a testament to the royal family’s enduring popularity and influence overseas.

According to reflections given during the service, the Queen’s life exemplified the truth that “human happiness lies not in serving oneself, but in serving others.”

The service expressed the gratitude of citizens of Britain and the Commonwealth Realms for the life of Queen Elizabeth, while offering prayers for the new King, Charles III, as he takes up the role for which he has been preparing his whole life.

Among the dignitaries at the service were British Ambassador to the Czech Republic Nick Archer and the Canadian Ambassador Ayesha Rekhi. Ambassador Archer gave a New Testament reading from the Book of Romans as part of the service.

Royal connections

People from across the Commonwealth Realms gathered to remember the Queen, who was the head of a family with notable historical connections to the Czech Republic.

The British royal family share common ancestors with several Czech noble dynasties, including famous families such as the Schwarzenbergs, the Kinskýs and the Šternberks. Common relations can be found six generations in the past, at the level of fifth cousins. Meanwhile, the co-owner of Chateau Boskovice, Hugo Mensdorff-Pouilly, is a distant relation of Elizabeth II.

The common thread linking the British royals with Czech nobility runs back to Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, who was the grandfather of Queen Victoria. 

St. Clement's

The Anglican service at St. Clement's was a reminder of home for Brits in the Czech Republic, and finished with a rousing rendition of the national anthem ‘God Save the King’.

St. Clement’s is a chaplaincy parish of the Church of England in the Anglican Diocese of Europe. Most of the regular congregation are members of the local expat community and English is used as a common language.

Sung Eucharist is held every Sunday and on major feast days at 11:00 a.m. During the school term, St. Clement’s runs a Children’s Ministry parallel with its regular service. Sunday evening services are meanwhile held in Brno, Czechia’s second city, at Betanie House, Nové Sady.

Around the corner from the Dlouhá třida tram stop, St. Clement's church has been a place of worship since the 12th century. The building as it stands today is the product of construction in the 14th and 19th centuries, and is owned by The Czech Brethren.

St. Clement’s has its own royal connections. On Passion Sunday, March 22nd 2010, King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla (then the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall) worshipped together with the congregation in the church.

Royals in Prague

Queen Elizabeth II made one state visit to the Czech Republic in 1996, welcomed by then-Czech President Václav Havel. The Queen was not the first member of the British royal family to visit Czechia, though: five years earlier, her son Charles visited with Princess Diana, just a year before the pair’s separation was confirmed.

The new King has made five visits to Czechia, having taken a special interest in helping to preserve and restore the country’s architectural heritage in the wake of Communism. He set up the Prague Heritage Fund together with Havel, which aimed to restore and protect Prague’s wealth of Baroque monuments. He also played a role in the restoration of the Prague Castle gardens.

The King’s last visit to Czechia was in 2010, accompanied by his wife Camilla. During the trip, Charles met veterans who fought for Czechia’s freedom from Britain during WWII. He also spent part of the trip in the Moravian capital Brno.

Final farewell

The Queen’s funeral in London on Monday will be attended by hundreds of foreign dignitaries and heads of state, making it one of the largest gatherings of political leaders in living memory.

Czech PM Petr Fiala signs the condolences book for Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy on Sept. 9, 2022. Photo: Twitter/ @
Czech PM Petr Fiala signs the condolences book for Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy on Sept. 9, 2022. Photo: Twitter/ @P_Fiala

The Czech Republic will be represented at the funeral by Prime Minister Petr Fiala and his wife Jana. President Miloš Zeman said the pair would attend on his behalf as doctors have forbidden him from traveling.

Members of the Czech political community expressed sorrow on learning of the death of the Queen. Fiala signed a book of condolence at the British Embassy in Prague, and a heartfelt tribute to Her Majesty was posted by Ivan Bartoš, the leader of the Czech Pirate Party, which forms part of the current coalition government.

Bartoš wrote that he has “always had great sympathy for the United Kingdom” and that “Queen Elizabeth II was an integral part of our image of the United Kingdom as a dignified and friendly country. She was a link between the past and the present, a symbol and an idol. We could always understand the sincere love of the British for their Queen.”

The service of remembrance at St. Clement’s proved that this symbolic role is more powerful than ever upon the Queen’s death, and that it will continue to act as an anchor for British and Commonwealth citizens around the world under King Charles III.

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