Friday Thought: Queen Elizabeth II, the end of an Elizabethan age

I had a very different thought planned for today, but like everything else, something much bigger has taken over. Yesterday, Queen Elizabeth II passed away at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This moment was inevitable, and most have seen this moment appearing over the horizon for quite some time, but nobody could really prepare for the death of a woman who has been the symbol of the United Kingdom for seventy years.

Even for me, somebody who is staunchly opposed to the existence of the monarchy as an institution, the moment hit differently. I was sat at a table in a local pub, pint in hand waiting for the start of the second half of Zurich vs Arsenal. The push notification popping up on my phone, Buckingham Palace had announced the death of the Queen, followed by the news projected onto the screen. Mutters broke out across the bar but nothing that reflected the momentous nature of the situation.

I think there was an element of shock, it was at the start of the following Manchester United vs Real Sociedad that the mood changed. As the players stood for a minutes silence, you could have heard a pin drop. Absolute uninterrupted silence. A round of applause rattling around the room at its conclusion, echoing the fans at Old Trafford.

There is no doubt that the Queen was a fundamental part of life in this country. Her death is going to rattle around this country for the foreseeable. Many will mourn a monarch, some will mourn a woman and others will not mourn at all.

My thoughts are with the Royal Family at this difficult time and with all who are mourning. For ten days, the country mourns. After that, with the final pillar of stability of seventy years no longer with us, the United Kingdom, the monarchy and the Commonwealth are heading for a turbulent period ahead.

I’m not sure what I make of the moment. I’d place myself in mourning the woman. I don’t support the monarchy, but there is a lot to be said about the character and contribution to society of this particular incarnation. I have a lot of respect for Elizabeth as an individual.

There was an obscure feeling around her death. The tragedy of any death and national sadness of the death of a national figure. This stood in stark contrast to the almost comic nature of the carefully choreographed performance that surrounded it. The black ties. The black social media cover photos and profile pictures. The grey Google logo. The intermittent black and silence on the screen. The Queen’s portrait on the digital advertising board outside Tesco.

I wasn’t alive during the death and mourning of Princess Diana, but after watching it back and knowing people that lived it… the moment was starkly different. Diana’s death saw an upwards outpouring of grief, one that ultimately forced national mourning. This, like the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, was very different. Rather than an organic flood of grief from ordinary people, grief felt like the full force of the establishment forcing it down on your head… covering your eyes until all you can see is black.

When a senior royal dies, the grief is orchestrated from above and forced down and out of every section of society. As a member of Lydney Town Council I had to approve the London Bridge policy. A detailed plan for how we, as a council, were to respond to the death of the Queen. From when the flag is lowered and raised to where the flowers are placed and when they are removed. Micro-details planned to within an inch of their lives.

The people of this country should be able to grieve, or not grieve and decide how they want to grieve or not grieve. Instead, the world grinds to a halt. Events cancelled. Television channel after channel plugged with memorials. You must grieve and you must do so how we tell you to.

Elizabeth II was inspiring in so many ways, her death is a loss to this country. Many will want to mourn her death and rightly so. The real grief will not come from the performing arts of the timetable, it will be much deeper than that. Much realer than that.

My thoughts are with the Royal Family at this difficult time and with all who are mourning. For ten days, the country mourns. After that, with the final pillar of stability of seventy years no longer with us, the United Kingdom, the monarchy and the Commonwealth are heading for a turbulent period ahead.

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