YHe could barely see her, but he could glimpse the future. Perhaps it was the sepulchral gloom of the dark wooden stalls of the Chapel of St. George, or perhaps it was the restraint of a television director who kept his distance, respecting the privacy of the moment, but the Queen was barely visible in the room. live coverage of your deceased. husband’s funeral on Saturday. Masked and in a dark corner, the monarch was almost invisible.
When the camera captured it, it was a poignant sight: the widow alone, an image that “broke hearts all over the world,” in the words of the washington post, but one that will especially resonate in the UK. Even the harshest Republican has long admitted that there is an extraordinary bond between Elizabeth and the people who have been her subjects for nearly seven decades. Now, if anything, that bond will be strengthened.
Part of it will be natural human sympathy for a woman deprived of the man she had known for 81 years, who had been her “strength and support” for 73 years. Traditionally, a monarch is meant to inspire awe and deference in those over whom he reigns. Now there will also be tenderness.
Saturday’s funeral will have added another, more unlikely dimension to the relationship: an unlikely kind of solidarity. Like tens of thousands of people, the queen was denied the traditional farewell to a loved one. Of course, by normal standards, Prince Philip was buried with great ceremony. But it wasn’t exactly the funeral he or his wife had envisioned: there were 30 guests, not 800. More importantly, like every other Briton who has suffered a loss in the past year, the mourners had to sit apart and cover their faces. They did not know how to sing. The widow had to sit alone, denying herself the comfort of touch.
In a country that despises double standards, one rule for them, another rule for us, the vision of the monarch complying with the same regulations that have restricted everyone else in the UK, sharing his destiny, will be important. The Queen learned that lesson a long time ago. He was 14 when his mother said, after Buckingham Palace was bombed in September 1940, that she “could look the East End in the face.”
And so the ties that bind Elizabeth to her subjects grow stronger: Next year will mark her Platinum Jubilee, a milestone that has never been reached before. But in a few days he will be 95 years old. Which means that Saturday’s mourning hour in Windsor, like the eight days that preceded it, offered a glimpse not only of the era that is ending, but of the one that is inevitably on its way, the one in which the family real will be without its older generation.
Some things will not change. The royal family proved once again at the funeral that they bow to no one when it comes to staging the ceremony. Covid was supposed to have stripped the show, but somehow the very austerity of the event only made it more beautiful. The monarchy probably has a fraction of the budget Netflix can spend recreating royal events from The Crown, but it still knows how to put on a perfect show. The sunken heads of the guards; the only crown of white flowers; the four haunting voices of the choir; the silhouette of a piper, receding through an ancient door at the close of the funeral, matched anything director Stephen Daldry and his Emmy-winning crew could have come up with.
Similarly, the British monarchy will not lose its knack for compelling stories. The drama of William and Harry walking behind their grandfather’s coffin, seemingly needing to be separated by a cousin, only then to be seen chatting after the funeral, is an archetypal soap opera plot, brothers at odds if not at war, which could run during decades. There is no need to worry about it.
But the other signs will be more worrying for the palace, ones that go well beyond a record number that will have already caused concern: all 109,741 complaints to the BBC for their coverage of Philip’s death, and many were irritated at missing EastEnders or the MasterChef final.
There are more serious concerns. Those with a close look testified that Prince Charles appeared to be divided over his father’s death, but has stubbornly refused to stir deep affection in the hearts of the public. Maybe that will happen once he finally becomes king, but few would bet on it. Especially since the Prince of Wales has not been able to emulate the quality that is the basis of his mother’s position: her silence on almost all controversial issues, an annoying neutrality that has made her acceptable to almost everyone.
Behind him in the procession was his brother Andrés, protected by his father’s coffin from the disgrace that surely any other day would greet his appearance in public. Anne is respected, Edward is harmless, William and Harry have their admirers, but none of them have the stature of the man they buried. That’s partly because their military records are weaker than Philip’s and partly for a reason that neither of them can help: they have no connection to WWII, which serves as Britain’s pivotal event. modern.
The Queen and her husband embodied that bond. He fought for his country in the Royal Navy; she was on the balcony, in uniform, alongside Winston Churchill on VE Day. That has helped unite the monarchy to the country throughout the post-war era – witness the instant power of the Queen’s message in the early weeks of Covid, invoking a war anthem to say, “We will meet again.” . The death of Prince Philip has loosened that connection; one day it will be gone.
It is not a sacrilege to speak like that, nor a lack of respect for the prince himself. On the contrary, few were more aware of the fragility of the monarchy than he. His grandfather was the king of Greece, but his father was expelled from the country, banished for life. His great-aunt was assassinated along with the Russian Tsar in the bloodshed of the Bolshevik revolution. He saw once solid thrones toppled and the collapse of entrenched royal dynasties.
The queen herself hardly needs to be told that no law of nature says that a monarchy should exist forever. The defining event in his own life may well be his uncle’s abdication, after serving only eight months as King Edward VIII. She knows that real stability and continuity are far from automatic, but require persistence, perseverance, and skilled staff. She and her late husband were a perfect match. But of that couple, of that generation, now there is only her, alone.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism