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A Farewell to The Constant Queen

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

"The Queen is dead, Long live the King!" The words seem so alien to us, in stark contrast to the constant familiarity of 'the Queen', that it will take many of us some time to make the adjustment. There is no way to overstate the significance of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen. A figurehead, a touchstone for many people across the world, for our lifetime. A symbol of unity in times of national joy and sorrow. Britain has descended into a curiously respectful, delightfully British pause of pride and mourning. An inflection point of change, to welcome the new and celebrate an epoch.

September 2022 will be forever remembered as the end of the second Elizabethan age. The death of a 96 year old great grandmother should not have come as a great surprise, but as Boris Johnson mused in his eloquent eulogistic comments, the nation, and maybe even the world, had, in a childlike way, fooled ourselves into thinking that Elizabeth II would be with us forever. The longest serving monarch in British history has been such a constant in the lives of the British, (let alone the countries of the commonwealth) so intimately woven into the fabric of our cultural self awareness that her passing has come as a profound wound to the British character. As a British person living in Spain, there has been a curious set of feelings, watching the pageantry and outpouring of respect from a distance, but further more, the good wishes and genuine remorse expressed by Spanish people around me in reaction to the news.

We have witnessed a series of ceremonial events and long standing traditions blended with spontaneous demonstrations of respect and gratitude as Elizabeth made her final journey from Balmoral to Windsor via Edinburgh and Westminster. Highland farmers arranged their tractors as a guard of honour for the passing hearse, people lined the route in silence in some spots, in others, they cheered and clapped. When journalists asked people why they had come, universally they replied that she had given a life of service, the least they could do was show their thanks.

As a figurehead of the State, she had also become an embodiment of the heartbeat of the nation, of the culture. At times of national joy and sorrow, she was there. The nation felt an uncertainty as it descended into the surreal isolation of the COVID era and Elizabeth was there to give a voice of calm and reassurance. The Queen was simply a part of our lives, and her death has left people uneasy. She was the constant, and that, like everything in life, has now changed. It is impossible to exaggerate just how significant her passing is to the British cultural self awareness.

Floral tributes were quickly joined by Paddington Bear soft toys and even marmalade sandwiches, after the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations featured Her Majesty in a skit with Paddington Bear, revealing she kept marmalade sandwiches in her handbag. The offerings became so numerous that the Royal Parks informed the people that there were plenty of marmalade sandwiches and no need for more.

Then the coffin was to lie in State and the extraordinarily British habit of queuing became part of the demonstration of dignity. People waited up to 24 hours to pass silently through Westminster Hall to pay their respects. David Beckham took his place in the queue with the ordinary folk, rejecting the opportunity to avoid the wait and we saw the Vigil of the Prince's as members of the Royal family took their turn and stood watch over the coffin.

The pageantry of the United Kingdom was on full display for the funeral as thousands of members of the armed services solemnly processed the coffin on a gun carriage with the melancholy of the bagpipes and muffled drums through the heart of London. Then we saw a visibly emotional King Charles watch his mother's coffin slowly descend into the vault at Windsor Castle. The world watched as a nation fell silent in remembrance, but there were those who could not stay silent.

Football fans at some clubs did not respect moments of silence, political commentators and avowed republicans voiced their opinions, those who considered Britain an enemy of sorts wrote spiteful commentary or presented performative, ghoulish celebrations. Yet, in the football grounds clear voices of condemnation were heard calling for silence and political posturing was looked upon with contempt. Distasteful commentary was from a tiny minority who were castigated by the community. It seems that curiously, Elizabeth was able to bring unity of spirit for her people, one last time, even in death.

It has been hard to watch the unfolding events of the period of mourning and transition without taking a moment to reflect. There has been much said in admiration for our late monarch, although it can be hard to be so enthusiastic for her work as we have witnessed a stark decline in the quality of life in her lands. It is hard to be so reverent of the instruments of state that have been "plundered" from nations across the globe. It is difficult to feel sympathy for a family that has immediately allowed Prince Andrew back into the inner circle after such atrocious accusations were silenced with a fortune provided by the Queen. And then there is Charles. It may well be the case that many people who describe themselves as Royalists or Monarchists, might soon find they were Elizabethans. The incoming monarch has already faced mockery after he was seen to be impatient with staff and non performing ink pens. It must be said that such small "outbursts" may well not be signs of a difficult man, they could just as easily be indicators of grief. Charles has a particularly difficult job ahead of him. Coming after such a popular and long serving monarch, who sought to keep her own views hidden, he must tread lightly as he moves forward. The very fact he was one of the first global figures to promote the Great Reset agenda of the United Nations and World Economic Forum are cause for concern.

So much of the everyday accessories of life will undergo a change in the UK. The ERII crest on post boxes and police badges will be replaced with CRIII. Money will see the Queen's head replaced, that is if the UK does not press for a move to purely digital currency with the change of figurehead as a perfect excuse to do so.

Elizabeth did try to steer the ship of state with a more obvious hand earlier in her reign. Some quotes from her 1957 Christmas broadcast sound extremely relevant to today but considering her crafted image as a neutral figure head, it feels surreal to imagine these words came from her:

"But it’s not the new inventions which are the difficulty. The trouble is caused by unthinking people who carelessly throw away ageless ideals as if they were owed and outworn machinery. They would have religion thrown aside, morality and personal and public life made meaningless, honesty counted as foolishness and self-interest set up in place of self-restraint. […]

Today, we need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle, but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right, everything that is true and honest. We need the kind of courage that can withstand the subtle corruption of the cynics so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future. It has always been easier to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult. […]

I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice, but I can do something else. I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.

I believe in our qualities and in our strength. I believe that together, we can set an example to the world, which will encourage upright people everywhere."

Rousing and inspirational as these words are, an example of leadership and vision, it was received very poorly at the time. Lord Altrincham, John Grigg profiled the statement as:

"The personality conveyed by the utterances which are put into her mouth is that of a priggish schoolgirl, captain of the hockey team, a prefect, and a recent candidate for Confirmation."

It seems hardly surprising that she took a neutral role for her reign. Perhaps if she had shown more steel in her leadership, rather than adopt the gentle hand, she may have had a chance to help her country avoid some of the decline it suffered under her reign. All this talk of her service to her country perhaps is far more accurate than we care to understand. She did serve, not lead, and therefore the ordinary people of the UK could learn the lesson of the nature of sovereignty. The coming decade is bringing challenges that need us to be strengthened in our resolve to recognise the power of our destiny is in our hands, not those of our elected representatives. If Charles takes his vows seriously and rules in the interest of his people, then perhaps his strength of spirit will be a useful difference compared to the reign of his mother.

As the Queen's coffin approached Windsor Castle the Queen's pony, Emma, stood to watch the procession make the slow progress to the final resting place. Her Majesty's corgis were at the door to greet her home as well. These emotive touches sat comfortably alongside the ancient rituals of the service and as a solitary bagpiper played as he walked out of the chapel and Charles was proclaimed the King, we finally realise that we now step into a new, uncertain world. That last constant in our experience, the woman who had been ever present in our lives was gone and while the talking heads on the television mused about what history would say about the reign of Elizabeth II, her people turned their attention to what future history would have in store for them.


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