END OF AN ERA
It’s hard to explain, or even oneself to understand, one’s profound but complicated feelings on the Queen’s death. It’s little to do with the monarchy as such, on which I have no strong views.
Her astonishingly long presence in our lives of course inevitably marks a great communal loss. My wife is 70: on the day she was born, Elizabeth was already on the throne. Her first PM was Churchill, her last Truss, a span encapsulating the decline of this country. (By which I dont mean imperial nostalgia, but deeper and more important things.)
Beyond that, she reached far back into our history. From the first Elizabeth to the second stretched the whole story of the greatness of England. Further back, she could plausibly trace her ancestry back to Alfred the Great, and more fancifully, to Cerdic, first King of Wessex, and if you like that sort of thing, back to Woden. Woden to Windsor! I read Anglo-Saxon at University, and these things, at that time, meant a lot to me. The origins of England, of Englishness.
She was, of course, the embodiment of an institution, a culture, that many now reject. Monarchy means, or used to mean, fawning, snobbery, fairy tale nonsense, and a conspiracy of silence about wrong doing. Though post-Trump, we might be a little less certain that a Republic guarantees better government.
But she herself was I think somewhat above all that. Though on paper super-rich, in her private world she was notoriously parsimonious, and had no use for luxury. She liked people to observe the proprieties, but disliked fawning, and by all accounts, was always interested in people she met, whatever their status, always courteous. She represented to us submission to duty, self discipline, and a true kind of love of country: things profoundly out of fashion, but which in truth we badly miss.
I dont think there's any doubt that she and her hsuband were devoted to each other, and that despite everything, it was a very long and happy marriage. As a parent, she was hardly a complete success. But then, no parent is.
Above all, she believed in her role and was utterly, almost inhumanly dedicated to it, supressing her own views and personality to an extraordinary extent. She believed, quite literally, in her personal commission from God, enacted in her Coronation Oath, the very stuff of Anglo Saxon kingship. No successor can have that degree of belief.
Like us, she weathered great changes, and family tragedies and scandals. Unlike us, she had to endure it all in public, without ever being able to speak out. In fact, it is perversely the right wing tabloids that have destroyed the institution of monarchy, transforming the popular reverence for the monarch into a celeb-style delight in gossip, scandal and character assassination, focussed during her life on her children, but now bound to centre on the King himself. Kingship was always a con, based on the pretence that the Royal Family was in some mystical way a race apart. The Japanese are still capable of it. We are not. It vanished with her death. To continue the monarchy without at all believing in it is not healthy, and not fair to its occupants.
At a time of unprecedented challenge to this country, bitter division, a deep sense of loss, even despair, she was always there, representing continuity and resilience, and to an extent, our idea of ourselves. No longer.
The Matter of England, as medieval scribes terms it, has surely now run its course. The glory, such as it was, is departed, with all its glaring faults. We are left to play and bicker and skulk about the ruins of what was.
I was formerly Finance Director of the Prison Service and then Director of the National Offender Management Service responsible for competition. I also worked in the NHS and an IT company. I later worked for two outsourcing companies.
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