With the death of the Reverend Billy Graham today, people are thinking about the life of the popular evangelist who had the national and international stage for years. Fans of Netflix The Crown saw that Graham had an ongoing friendship with Queen Elizabeth, who sought him out after hearing him preach on television and invited him to meet with her at Kensington Palace. So how much of what fans saw of the friendship of Reverend Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth on The Crown was true, and what was added for dramatic effect?
It Was Queen Elizabeth Who First Sought Out The Reverend Billy Graham
In The Crown Season 2, the focus is on the relationship of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip and hints heavily that Prince Philip cheated on the queen. Prince Philip spends much of the time out on the town or traveling with his friends, but when Queen Elizabeth indicates that she wants to meet the Reverend Billy Graham when he is traveling in the United Kingdom, Prince Philip objects.
The Crown indicates that many of Queen Elizabeth’s decisions are made in her capacity as the head of the Church of England. It is because of her role as the head of the Church of England that he has to say no to her sister, Princess Margaret, when she wants to marry Peter Townsend, a divorced man. These are things she talked about with Billy Graham.
Peter Morgan, creator of The Crown, says that the story of the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and the Reverend Billy Graham was the “best bit of writing” in the entire season, according to Town & Country.
As The Head Of The Church Of England, Queen Elizabeth Bonded With Billy Graham Over Their Faith
“The Billy Graham episode is about Elizabeth wanting to deepen her Christianity. 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.”
In the episode of The Crown called “Vergangenheit,” Queen Elizabeth is watching a Billy Graham sermon on the television with her mother, who dismisses Graham as a “brush salesman from North Carolina,” owing to his prior job as a top Fuller Brush salesman. Prince Philip shares a similar thought about Graham, but Queen Elizabeth was committed to extending an invitation to the Reverend Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth.
“I think he’s [Graham] rather handsome.”
The historical consultant for The Crown, Robert Lacey, says that Season 2 showed the Reverend Billy Graham giving a sermon at Windsor Chapel and then Graham meeting one on one to talk scripture with Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth sought advice from Graham about a number of topics.
“People don’t know how the queen struck up this friendship with an old-time American evangelist [the Reverend Billy Graham]. 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.”
Queen Elizabeth And Billy Graham Met Several Times In The U.K. And The United States
What was not seen as yet on The Crown was that the meeting of Queen Elizabeth and the Reverend Billy Graham was not just a one-time deal. Whenever Billy Graham was in Europe, he would make a stop in the U.K. to see Queen Elizabeth, sometimes in London, and at least once in Scotland at the Sandringham Estate. And in turn, Queen Elizabeth was the guest of the Reverend Billy Graham and his wife Ruth when she came to the United States.
“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.”
In his book, Just As I Am, the Reverend Billy Graham said that Queen Elizabeth made him feel welcome everytime he visited the U.K.
“No one in Britain has been more cordial toward us than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 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.”
Graham further commented on the wit and wisdom of Queen Elizabeth and said that while she couldn’t officially endorse his ministry, he believes that by being invited to preach at Windsor and Sandringham, she showed her support. Billy Graham wanted the world to know that Queen Elizabeth is a woman of faith, says People Magazine.
“I believe one reason for the Queen’s spiritual interest was the warm faith of her mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The first time we were with her was at Clarence House, her residence in London.”
Queen Elizabeth was photographed at several meetings with the Reverend Billy Graham in the 60s and the 80s.