Yesterday I joined hundreds of millions around the world watching television coverage of Her Majesty the late Queen’s funeral service despite having decided several times over the past ten days that this was close to the last thing I intended to do.
I’m an atheist when it comes to God and, when it comes to the British monarchy, I’m an agnostic – that is – provided said term adequately covers someone like me who can see the arrant absurdity of having people lording over us simply by their position at birth, as opposed to any broadly-acknowledged qualification or outstanding ability to “do the job”.
However, like not a few, I was always an admirer of Queen Elizabeth II.
If you’ve got to have a monarch, she was about the most appropriate, best suited and generally inoffensive (and therefore acceptable) example anyone could have chosen.
Speaking for myself, the last thing on Earth I’d have ever wanted to be is a Royal of this or any other country.
That said – I have to be honest – I do enjoy the experience of occasionally seeing how those who are in charge of such things organise and then execute a British “State Occasion” such as a wedding or funeral.
Specifically yesterday I was fascinated by the detailed routines and processes of the small Army unit who carried the coffin in and out of buildings or hearses and/or placed it upon (and took it off) gun carriages and stands inside religious buildings.
Part of my interest was sparked by imagining what the participants might be thinking as they did it – and indeed how they were chosen for these tasks, how they trained for them and in particular which aspects of yesterday they would most enjoy remembering in fifty years times should they live that long.
Similar applied for me regarding the 150-odd strong continent of Naval ratings, in a mass of permanent stone-faced concentration, who “pulled” the gun carriage in a slow march to and from Westminster Abbey.
Some of them were female and some of them looked about 17 years old but were probably were far older than that.
Separately, I also “enjoyed” the fact that so many global heads of state and political statesmen and women were clearly delighted to have been invited to attend “our” Head of State’s funeral and become part of the historic day.
As it happens, I fired up my drawing room television shortly before 9.00am and kept it on – although from time to time I took comfort, food & drink, and exercise breaks at various points in the proceedings – right through until the internment of the coffin at the King George VI’s Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle at some point after 5.30pm.
One discordant note came courtesy of my “other half” who also randomly tuned into and out of the day-long coverage.
Towards the conclusion of the “Main Event” in Westminster Abbey the National Anthem was struck up and sung by the congregation.
Before this my beloved – a fervent royalist and believer in God – had been viewing proceedings in dignified silence, but she suddenly went ape-shit and began shouting at the screen.
Not to put too fine a point upon it, she became greatly angry and emotional – even unashamedly burst into floods of tears – about the fact that everyone was singing “God Save the KING …” and not (one last time, as supposedly they should have been) “God Save The QUEEN …”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite see her point.
I tried to reason with her by deploying the arguments that the Queen was now dead, the Great and Good of the nation had put her to rest – indeed (if you want to adopt a religious viewpoint) God HAD Now Saved Her – and therefore technically, not least since protocol decrees that there must be no loss of continuity between the demise of one sovereign and the accession of another, it was now appropriate to look forward to the future and entreat God to save the new KING.
She was not to be persuaded by anything I offered.
She was so upset that the mood of the evening altered considerably.
Fortunately I had already poured myself a large gin & tonic with added ice cubes, lime slice and my habitual Angostura bitters, but it was some considerable time later before she had calmed down enough that I was able to take delivery of my evening meal whilst watching an eighteen year-old episode of the ITV comedy drama Doc Martin starring Martin Clunes as a curmudgeonly GP in Cornwall.