.... and endless ceremonial, or so it seems after eleven days of non stop media coverage. I have never watched so much daytime TV in all my life. And I'm not even a royalist. Neither royalist nor republican, just someone who is, in spite of herself, fascinated by the seamless perfection of the colourful spectacle, the matchless uniforms and splendid head dress of diverse Royal Armed Forces, some regiments, aristocratic Royal servants and court dignitary offices centuries old, with names to fit the archaic origins.
It is coming up to three o'clock in the afternoon on Monday 19th and there is now only the actual committal service and interment to go. We are being told that this occasion will be far more modest and private than the huge service in Westminster Abbey, where the great and good of the world were in attendance, wonderful music was being sung and played and ladies displayed splendidly exotic black hats. Church dignitaries, equally resplendently dressed, preached and eulogised and praised, mourned and prayed and told us all to be as good and kind, noble and god-fearing as the late queen had been.
For these eleven days commentators have repeated themselves over and over again, rehearsing the same phrases, vying with each other to find something new to say, to dig up the most telling character trait of the queen; interviewees have repeated the same anecdotes, and queues to walk past the coffin during its time of lying-in-state have grown and grown. And the phrase "paying their respects" was used by all and sundry, from on high to down low. Some of the people in the queues appeared to be full of excitement at being present on this momentous occasion, some no doubt projected their own grief at personal losses during the period of covid when they couldn't properly mourn their loved ones, and others were there to say they hd been there, the kind who would attend anything from the opening of an envelope to a state funeral.
Last Thursday, after the Palace had told us that the queen was gravely ill, the first five hours until her death was confirmed, commentators were almost grotesque in filling the resultant void of news with guesswork. They couldn't start praising the monarch and neither could they give any definite information. So they waffled on and on, repeating each statement "for the benefit of those who have just joined us" time and time again. It was quite painful to watch. In the end I switched off and therefore missed the announcement.
And from then on it was wall-to-wall overhead drone footage of the journeys the queen's coffin took from Balmoral, where she died, to the various stages on the way to Edinburgh. Then followed various stops in London, from Buckingham Palace to the Great Hall at Westminster, to Westminster Abbey, all of them accompanied by the same sombre tones of endless commentary. If there is anybody in this country who is still crying over her death, they show remarkable staying power. Apart from the family, of course, who have shown themselves in a very good light, united and dignified, in spite of what the tabloids say about some of the family's members, Camilla and Meghan provoking the most hate speech in media and press.
Heavens, when I started this post an hour ago the Windsor Palace bit had only just started; guess what? they are still marching to the same Beethoven Funeral Marches, a whole hour later! The TV is on in the background. The procession is now finally inside the walls of the castle where the public is no longer welcome. But TV is.
So, now the UK has a new King. I met him once at a Royal Garden Party when we were lucky to have been singled out for a brief conversation with the then Prince of Wales; this was a long time ago, in the days when Diana was still around and Camilla no more than a tear of regret in Charles' eye. My daughter and I rather monopolised the conversation with Prince Charles who had really been wanting to meet my Beloved in his capacity as a musician at the Royal Opera House. Charles was nice and friendly and approachable, but nothing compared to Diana, who was joking and laughing with the people she had been delegated to meet.
Finally, the service in St George's Chapel, Windsor has started. And so ends an era. What history has to say we will find out in due time.