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Thursday, November 17 is a historic day, because the UK will be seeing a return to high taxes, this under a ‘Conservative’ government.

I’m writing this before Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gives his budget, or ‘statement’, but Guido Fawkes has a preview, which includes this:

Cutting capital gains tax allowance from £12,300 to £6,000;

Raising dividend tax rate across all three bands and cutting tax-free allowance to £1,000.

Shocking.

On the other hand, we have this:

Raising benefits in line with inflation;

Protecting the triple lock on pensions.

Liz: ‘No new taxes’

Let us cast our minds back to Liz Truss, who did not want to penalise ordinary Britons:

Clearly, she was the wrong person for Prime Minister.

Since Rishi became PM, I have read very little criticism of him in the media, recalling that, for whatever reason, they all wanted him in No. 10.

And, now that he is in No. 10, everything has been rolled back to a very Establishment Government, including the Treasury. There is no criticism of Jeremy Hunt, either, even though his budget will have a deleterious impact on Britain’s middle class.

Rishi’s Cabinet is more of the same old, same old, as I wrote yesterday. The media don’t criticise him for it, either.

Liz’s refreshing Cabinet

Liz made some splendid Cabinet appointments, some of which I covered yesterday.

Two others included Jacob Rees-Mogg as Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary and Simon Clarke as Levelling Up Secretary.

Out were Boris’s chaps, including Steve Barclay …

… Grant Shapps …

… and Dominic Raab, whose departure was also warmly welcomed. Note the warning in the reply tweet:

Interestingly, she kept Kit Malthouse, transferring him from Policing to Education. I, too, would have preferred Kemi Badenoch in that post:

Liz gave Tom Tugendhat, one of the summer’s Conservative Party leadership candidates, his first Cabinet role, one which he holds on to today under Rishi Sunak — that of Security Minister.

The Times noted that there was no longer a Minister for Women in Cabinet, which is a good thing. This is a hangover from Tony Blair’s time:

Liz Truss will not have a cabinet-level minister for women, having handed the equalities brief to a man.

Truss was minister for women and equalities in conjunction with her role as foreign secretary before she became prime minister on Tuesday.

The ministerial post, which Truss had held since February 2020, means taking charge of the government equalities office (GEO), which was created in 2007. This oversees government policy on women, sexual orientation, transgender rights and related issues.

Truss has appointed Nadhim Zahawi, the new chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to succeed her in the position. Because he is a man, it was decided his title would be minister for equalities. But No 10 confirmed yesterday that his job was the same as when Truss held it …

The title of minister for women was created by Tony Blair in 1997, before the GEO was set up …

With regard to education and diversity, Liz’s Cabinet was a testament to opportunity in the United Kingdom.

On Thursday, September 8, The Times told us that she had the most privately-educated Cabinet since John Major’s time (1990-1997):

The new prime minister’s cabinet are more than nine times more likely to have gone to an independent school than the general population, according to analysis by the Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity.

It found that 68 per cent of the cabinet were educated at fee-charging schools, while 19 per cent went to a comprehensive and 10 per cent attended a grammar school. This compares with around 7 per cent of the wider population.

Under Boris Johnson’s first cabinet, 64 per cent of members were alumni of private schools and the proportion is more than twice that of Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet, of which 30 per cent were privately educated.

David Cameron — who like Johnson attended Eton — appointed 50 per cent alumni of private schools in his first cabinet and for the 2010 coalition cabinet the proportion was 62 per cent

The article noted that Liz herself attended a private secondary school:

Roundhay School in Leeds. She was criticised during her leadership campaign for suggesting the outstanding school, in an affluent suburb, had low expectations and a lack of opportunity.

Margaret Thatcher and John Major had higher percentages of privately educated Cabinet members:

John Major (71 per cent in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (91 per cent in 1979).

The Sutton Trust disapproved of Liz having such a high proportion of privately educated Cabinet members, but, considering how diverse everyone was, it was a positive optic.

Thankfully, on Sunday, September 11, The Sunday Times pointed out ‘Cabinet heavyweights crown the success of post-colonial African migrants’. Why hadn’t the Sutton Trust done a press release on that?

The article said:

The sound of glass ceilings cracking could be heard all over Whitehall last week, as Liz Truss announced her first cabinet. With the elevation of Kwasi Kwarteng to chancellor of the exchequer, Suella Braverman to home secretary, James Cleverly to foreign secretary and Kemi Badenoch to trade secretary, Truss’s cabinet represents the most diverse ruling cadre ever appointed in Britain. At least when it comes to ethnicity.

The arrival of these individuals into the great offices of the British state also represents the culmination of an extraordinary and underplayed success story: post-colonial African migration into the UK. All four are children of parents who arrived in the waves of late 20th century migration that followed the retreat of the British empire.

Kwarteng’s parents came from Ghana in the 1960s. Although Braverman’s parents are of Indian ethnicity, they lived in Kenya and Mauritius before emigrating to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Cleverly’s mother emigrated from Sierra Leone in that decade. Badenoch’s parents both come from Lagos, Nigeria. Although Badenoch is British, she spent much of her childhood there.

Furthermore, previous Cabinet members at the time also had parents who emigrated from Africa:

Two recently departed cabinet heavyweights, Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak, also have parents who migrated to Britain from east Africa: Uganda in Patel’s case, Kenya and Tanzania in Sunak’s. Each individual story is different of course, and all faced a variety of economic and social hurdles to success in Britain. But taken together, they reflect a journey from post-imperial Africa to the very heart of the British establishment, over the course of just two generations.

And, they are all Conservatives!

Jimi Famurewa, food critic for the Evening Standard and author of a new book, Settlers, about African migration to Britain, told The Sunday Times that private education for African immigrants was very important:

My family and a lot of families from west African countries that came here in the 1980s were very aspirational middle class. There’s a huge culture around the importance of education, across the African diaspora. It’s drummed into you that that’s your route to success.

It was really important to my parents that if they were in any way able to send us to private schools, that’s something they would do.

Education was seen as the silver bullet to advance socially and professionally. You can see reverberations of that in people like Kemi and Kwasi.

He was not surprised they are Conservative rather than Labour MPs:

Given their generally middle-class background and private education, it is perhaps no coincidence that many of the first black or Asian figures to hold the great offices of state are Conservative MPs. “It doesn’t hugely surprise me that they are all Conservatives,” said Famurewa. “By and large west African families are quite socially conservative in their beliefs.”

On a lighter note, the previous Leader of the House, Mark Spencer, received a food brief as Minister of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Someone on Twitter did a play on words with Marks & Spencer’s advert, including their brand Simply Food:

Thérèse Coffey’s plan for the NHS

Yesterday, I mentioned Liz’s Secretary for Health and Social Care, Thérèse Coffey. I neglected to mention that Coffey was also her Deputy Prime Minister.

Coffey is shown here at a 2015 Spectator summer party. Yes, she enjoys cigars:

The photo shocked those on social media:

On Wednesday, September 7, the Mail‘s Andrew Pierce told us that Coffey, whom Liz refers to as Tiz, is her long-time confidante:

Truss knows she owes a large part of her victory to her ever-faithful parliamentary companion. She has rewarded her lavishly – appointing her as Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary.

In a cut-throat political world, Coffey has shown absolute loyalty to her new boss over many years. She not only ran Truss’s successful campaign against Rishi Sunak for the leadership, but wisely persuaded her not to stand against Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest – paving the way for her to become his successor instead.

The two have been friends since their student politics days more than 25 years ago and are known by some colleagues as ‘Yin and Yang’. Truss refers to Coffey affectionately as ‘Tiz’.

Interestingly, they started out as rivals, running against one another to be the Tory parliamentary candidate in South West Norfolk in 2007. It was Truss who triumphed.

She then took Coffey under her wing, coaching her on how to raise her game in selection meetings. Coffey was duly chosen for the neighbouring Suffolk Coastal constituency in 2010.

The two share a love of karaoke – which has got them into trouble in the past. Their regular karaoke evenings on the ministerial corridor in the Commons have on occasion become so boisterous that they were ticked off by Parliamentary authorities.

Coffey herself has had her own problems with karaoke – and they were nothing to do with how tuneful she is. During the 2021 Tory conference in Manchester, the then Work and Pensions Secretary was filmed at 1am belting out the classic song from the film Dirty Dancing, (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.

Alas, only one hour earlier, her department had withdrawn the £20 weekly increase in universal credit for benefit claimants introduced during the pandemic. Coffey was upbraided over her lack of tact and her insensitive choice of song. She now prefers singing Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.

However, Coffey has never lived down a picture taken at a Spectator magazine party in 2015 at which she was snapped puffing away on a large cigar and clutching a glass of champagne.

‘I do enjoy a cigar. I hadn’t realised I had spilt something on my top. I looked very odd. You’ll never see me smoke a cigar in front of anyone again,’ she said later. ‘It’s not a photograph I’m proud of.’

But despite all her faux pas, she is generally regarded as a safe pair of hands who avoids controversy

Both campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum and both backed Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest. Truss was made Foreign Secretary, while Coffey entered the Cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary.

A proud Scouser, Therese Anne Coffey was brought up in Liverpool. The daughter of two teachers, George and Alice, who worked in state schools, she was privately educated at St Mary’s College boarding school in North Wales and remains a practising Catholic to this day.

After sixth form at St Edward’s College in Liverpool (a grammar school that has since turned independent) Coffey read chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford – the same degree course at the same college as her political heroine Margaret Thatcher.

It was Thatcher’s battle with Militant Tendency, a Marxist group that had infiltrated Liverpool’s council and driven the city to the edge of bankruptcy in 1985, that converted Coffey to Conservative politics. She was only 14 when she joined the Young Conservatives.

By the time Mrs Thatcher visited Somerville College in 1994, the Tories were languishing in the polls behind Labour’s telegenic leader Tony Blair and many students had to be dragooned into a line-up to greet her. But one student – Coffey – broke ranks and ran noisily across the concourse to shake Mrs Thatcher’s hand.

After university she qualified as a chartered accountant, serving as finance director for Mars and as a finance manager at the BBC – one parallel with Truss, a chartered accountant who became economic director at Cable & Wireless.

Coffey’s Roman Catholicism defines her worldview, says Andrew Pierce. She has never married — and she is Liz’s next door neighbour in Greenwich. Kwasi Kwarteng lives nearby.

In 2018, Coffey became gravely ill because of an ear infection, which spread to her brain. She was diagnosed with meningitis and required hospitalisation as well as an operation. She was in hospital for one month:

At times, she had difficulty forming sentences and suffered memory loss. When her sister Clare, who runs her parliamentary office, came to visit, she said: ‘I have forgotten what these things on my feet are called.’ She was pointing at her slippers.

She later said she felt she’d had a ‘near miss’ and her recovery had made her enjoy life, adding: ‘You realise that you can be gone tomorrow. Cherish what you have.’

Liz was a regular visitor while her friend was in hospital – and again when she was recuperating at home.

On Thursday, September 8, The Times told us about Coffey’s plan for greater efficiency in the NHS:

Thérèse Coffey has demanded to know why all GPs and hospitals cannot match the best performers as she attempts to fulfil Liz Truss’s promise of enabling people to see a doctor easily.

The new health secretary said she wanted to set out “clear expectations” for the NHS after Truss said that dealing with the dire state of the health service would be a priority for her government. Coffey acknowledged yesterday she was not a “role model” after being criticised on social media about her weight and smoking …

Coffey has said her “A-B-C-D” priorities will involve focusing on ambulances, backlogs of routine treatment, care, doctors and dentistry.

She is due to set out her plan for the NHS next week but is understood not to have yet finalised specific actions. However, Coffey has asked for detail on “unwarranted variation” in the NHS, including ideas on how this could be used for performance management of hospitals and GPs …

The MP for Suffolk Coastal added: “My focus is on how we deliver for patients and I appreciate I may not be the role model but I am sure the chief medical officer and others will continue to be role models in that regard and I will do my best as well.”

Coffey had to take an early morning newsround, the first of the new premiership. LBC listeners discovered that the 50-year-old enjoys rap music, too:

“I’ve just realised my alarm is going off on my phone, I apologise,” Coffey said. “You’re getting a bit of Dr Dre. It’s just an eight o’clock alarm.”

The song was Still D.R.E., a 1999 track by Dr Dre, the American rapper, featuring Snoop Dogg. Dre, 57, whose real name is Andre Young, was a member of the rap group N.W.A. before becoming a solo artist and producer. Coffey is known as Dr Coffey thanks to her doctorate in chemistry from UCL.

No. 10 advisers

Liz also cleared out Boris’s advisers from No. 10.

On Tuesday, September 6, The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):

Liz Truss has appointed a new chief economic adviser who previously warned against heavy-handed green energy measures and wrote a book on how to shrink the state.

Matthew Sinclair – described by former colleagues as a “safe pair of hands” – has been appointed as the country faces an unprecedented rise in energy costs amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

He will enter Downing Street as part of an inexperienced top team under the new Prime Minister, after she ordered a mass clear out of officials who had served under Boris Johnson.

Ms Truss wielded the axe shortly after taking power on Tuesday, with even … Mr Johnson’s deputy chief of staff David Canzini, who had been tipped to stay on at No 10 – failing to survive the cull.

Mr Sinclair has held a number of roles in the private sector, most recently at the accounting firm Deloitte, where he led its work on the digital economy. He has also worked on projects for the UK and European Parliaments.

The 38-year-old previously rose through the ranks of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, joining as a policy analyst but rising to chief executive in 2012. During this time, he made the case for small government, low taxes and ensuring British families get value for money.

Matthew Elliott, founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who hired Mr Sinclair, said: “He is very much an ideas person, but he’s able to deliver the detail in spades. That’s going to prove very useful in government” …

He has also spoken out in favour of clear tax and spending rules, with fiscal targets and a system that prizes simplicity, as well as abolishing unnecessary quangos, maintaining a lean civil service, and decentralising power.

Mr Sinclair has also criticised MPs for using “climate change as an excuse to take your money”.

Clearly, supporting the public would turn out to be too good to be true. This could not last.

Matthew Sinclair’s former boss, Andrew Lilico, wrote a glowing recommendation for The Telegraph:

Liz Truss’s new chief economic adviser is Matthew Sinclair. In the Westminster world, Matthew is probably best-known for his stint as Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, arguing vigorously for all kinds of cuts to public expenditure, against tax rises and for greater transparency in taxes (including the campaign to get beer duty reported on till receipts and the end of the “fuel duty escalator”). He went on from there to work for me at Europe Economics as an economics consultant, doing hard-core economics projects for bodies such as the European Parliament on the sharing economy, the Department for Business on theories of competition in online platforms, and the Woodland Trust on the economic value of trees. He moved on from us to Deloitte, where until now he has been a Director in the Economic Advisory team, leading its work on the digital economy

He was a keen Brexiteer when the moment came, but having worked on projects for the EU agencies, he understands why they function as they do and their strengths as well as their weaknesses. His Italian wife also offers him an additional European perspective. No caricatured anti-European he. As well as wanting to diverge from the EU he will be keen that policy should learn from them where what they do is good.

Unafraid to look at the world squarely and challenge his own points of view, he likes to consider what would make his beliefs and recommendations prove to be wrong, after the event, as well as what might prove them to be right. Politically pragmatic and savvy, we can expect him to be closely interested in whether enough MPs might support this or that measure to get it through, as well as whether it would be right in an ideal world.

On Wednesday, September 7, the Mail told us more about Liz’s other advisers:

Mark Fullbrook, a former business partner of the Tory strategist Sir Lynton Crosby is set to become Miss Truss’s chief of staff, despite initially running the campaign for her rival Nadhim Zahawi.

Jason Stein, who worked with the new Prime Minister when she was chief secretary to the Treasury and helped her leadership campaign, will come on as a senior adviser with Ruth Porter, who worked with Miss Truss when she was justice secretary.

Adam Jones, who ran Miss Truss’s communications operation during her leadership campaign will be political director of communications. John Bew, Boris Johnson’s foreign policy adviser, is the only one to stay on with Miss Truss, having worked with her when she was foreign secretary.

Some of the 40 roles that Mr Johnson had in his team will not be filled as Miss Truss attempts to shrink the size of the Downing Street operation in a bid to set an example to the rest of Whitehall.

Miss Truss had said she will wage war on Whitehall waste and make billions of pounds of cuts. It is believed Mr Sinclair will be a key ally in helping her achieve her aims.

In 2012, Mr Sinclair set out a six-point plan to cut Whitehall spending.

His first idea was to abolish the Equality and Human Rights Commission to save £48.9million in funding. Even a decade ago, he complained that the EHRC had taken on ‘a campaigning role that is inappropriate for a public sector body’.

This drive for efficiency could not last, could it?

No, it could not. Nor would it.

Shaky perception

The prospect of Liz Truss as Prime Minister had not moved the polls at the end of August, as YouGov demonstrated:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases his):

Labour leads the Tories by 15 points, 43% to 28%. It is a big mountain to climb before the next election. Good luck…

On September 6, The Telegraph‘s Allison Pearson analysed Truss’s victory and the criticism she received:

Few believe that Truss is the cat’s whiskers. Not even on her own side. Of the 172,437 Tory party members who were eligible to vote, 30,712 didn’t bother at all and 60,399 voted for Rishi Sunak. It’s the narrowest margin of victory since members were allowed to decide. A YouGov poll suggested that only 21 per cent of the public like Truss and, of those who voted Conservative at the last general election, 50 per cent don’t trust her.

Even before she was declared the winner, the brickbats were coming thick and fast. I don’t use the word misogyny lightly, but I have been shocked by the hateful abuse hurled at Liz Truss by lofty male commentators. “The worst PM ever,” suggested one …

Although Truss ended up reading PPE, I’m told by one of her contemporaries that she got into Merton College to read maths. A girl from a Northern comprehensive does not win a mathematics place at Oxford without being seriously clever.

If anything, I reckon it is a slight spoddy tendency, inherited from her maths-lecturer father, which inhibits Truss’s ability to communicate with feeling. A deficiency in expressiveness and verbal felicity doesn’t mean a lack of thinking power. Quite the contrary. Wiffly, wordy arts graduates have had their turn running the country; time to let the numbers girl have a go.

Pearson was referring to Boris in that sentence.

Also:

Shame on those backbench Tory MPs who are rumoured to be murmuring about confidence votes and slyly manoeuvring against their new leader before she’s even got her feet under the desk. Have we really reached a point of such decadence, after 12 years in power, that Conservatives prefer to devote their energies to undermining a loyal friend than smiting the enemy? If so, electoral wipeout in 2024 will be richly deserved – even welcome.

This was a typical anti-Liz comment:

The outspoken Labour MP Chris Bryant who, somehow, had won the Civility in Politics award, said this:

It feels like pretty much anyone with a brain, a conscience and a work ethic has been purged from government either by Johnson or Truss. It’s an empty vessel of a government – loud, noisy but dangerously vacuous.

By contrast, when he accepted the award, he said:

Politics doesn’t have to be brutal. Our opponents are human and nobody has a monopoly on truth, so I try to be polite, civil and empathetic in every engagement… Manners maketh humanity.

Queen postpones Privy Council meeting

Bad news arrived on Wednesday, September 7, when the Queen postponed a virtual meeting of the Privy Council.

The Times reported:

The Queen has postponed a meeting of the Privy Council on the advice of her doctors, Buckingham Palace said today …

“After a full day yesterday, Her Majesty has this afternoon accepted doctors’ advice to rest,” a spokesman said. “This means that the Privy Council meeting that had been due to take place this evening will be rearranged.”

A royal source said that there would be “no running commentary” on the Queen’s health.

The meeting was necessary in order for Elizabeth Truss to become First Lord of the Treasury, a title that goes to the Prime Minister. The Mail said:

During the proceedings, Ms Truss would have taken her oath as First Lord of the Treasury and new cabinet ministers would have been sworn into their roles, and also made privy counsellors if not already appointed as one in past.

The Privy Council is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. As of last month, there were 719 members on the council, with membership lasting for life.

It is composed of politicians, civil servants, judges, members of the clergy as well as Prince Charles and the Duke of Cambridge

There is no constitutional issue with the delay to the proceedings, the palace said.

King Charles held the meeting the weekend after his mother died.

On Thursday, September 8, the world was shocked to learn of Her Majesty’s death. Earlier that afternoon, the extraordinary news that she was unwell filtered to the House of Commons, where Liz was outlining her energy support plan.

On Saturday, September 10, The Times reported that Liz had a lot on her plate, beginning with her energy statement, knowing that the Queen was dying:

Truss had got to her feet knowing the Queen’s death was “imminent”. She was with her team in her House of Commons office preparing for the energy statement when she heard …

If Truss is prime minister for a decade she may never have a bigger day than Thursday: a head of government less than two days into the job making an even bigger economic intervention than the pandemic furlough scheme, battling to finalise her ministerial team and facing the death of a beloved head of state whose final public act was to make her prime minister.

However, Liz and her team were beginning what they hoped would be a new era of reform:

The Queen’s death robbed the government of media coverage to publicise details of its help for families at a time when the public wants to know how they will deal with soaring inflation. As these problems piled up, the new team began, under the radar, one of the most radical shake-ups of how government is run that anyone can remember. It has left Conservative MPs wondering if Truss has bitten off more than she can chew.

One of the big ructions earlier that week involved Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng sacking Gordon Brown’s Chief of Staff, Sir Tom Scholar, who, inexpicably, had been made Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and served under no fewer than five Conservative Chancellors between 2016 and 2022. Before that, he was the Prime Minister’s Adviser for Europe and Global Issues to David Cameron.

Many conservatives were delighted, but, in the Blob (our equivalent of the Swamp), the news did not go down well:

At the start of the week, it looked like officials were being sidelined. Dozens of civil servants in Downing Street received a peremptory email on Tuesday telling them to leave No 10. Sir Tom Scholar, the permanent secretary at the Treasury, was told he was no longer required in his first meeting with Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor. The mood in the civil service was “sulphurous”. One official phoned a friend in the Labour Party and said: “They’re making a real rod for their own backs.”

Liz’s ambition for a leaner structure in Downing Street also upset the Blob:

when photos of Truss’s first cabinet emerged on Wednesday morning MPs were surprised to see that not one of her spin doctors or political aides, from chief of staff Mark Fullbrook down, was present. Only Truss’s closest civil service aide, Nick Catsaras, her new principal private secretary, was there. One politico from a previous Downing Street regime remarked drily: “The irony was that those people had to be in cabinet when she was a secretary of state as you had to deal with all her leaks.”

“Liz doesn’t want a presidential style No 10,” an aide said. “She wants it to be lean, professional and relentlessly focused on delivery — policymaking and legislating. You’ll see fewer prime ministerial visits, fewer events in No 10, and in its place more meetings on the economy, on energy and the things people really care about.”

Ironically, although the Blob were complaining, she was actually giving some among them more power than ever before:

… in this she has handed huge power to the civil servants. One close ally explained: “The good ones will be deeply empowered by her. The civil service are always in the ascendancy with Liz as long as they actually do their job.”

When she announced the outline of her energy support plan, she had no details:

Key details of how the plan will work were left unexplained in her statement to parliament on Thursday, not least the estimated cost. Aides argued that this depends on the price of gas. “If I knew what that was going to be in a year’s time I would be working for a hedge fund, not the government,” one said.

As for a leaner No. 10, some were sceptical it could work. Others remained positive:

Scepticism remains about whether a slimmed-down No 10 can really deal with the challenges it faces. A former No 10 aide said: “PMs always go in with some great new structure that will streamline things and then discover they’ve just handed away power before spending 12 months scrabbling to get it back” …

… from their point of view, the new team has been tested early, something that will stand them in good stead through the turbulence ahead. “Officials have described it as the busiest week in No 10 in living memory,” an aide said. “We had no idea when we wrote the line ‘Together we can get through the storm’ into Liz’s Downing Street speech how apposite it would come to feel.”

In policy areas, Liz was keen on fracking and, towards that end, sacked the eco-friendly Lord Goldsmith in his DEFRA ministerial post in the House of Lords.

On Friday, September 16, Guido reported:

Despite the reshuffle being formally paused until after the Queen’s funeral, Liz Truss has ploughed on with sacking Tory tree-hugger-in-chief Zac Goldsmith from his DEFRA ministerial post. While the government is still paying lip service to the Net Zero target, they’ve signalled climate and animal welfare issues could be de-prioritised over the coming months. The Guardian speculates that the Animal Welfare Bill could be first up for slaughter. The PM’s next royal audience should be interesting… 

The news comes as The Guardian reports Liz is planning to follow through on her leadership election pledge and lift the ban on fracking as soon as possible, with first licences set to be issued as early as next week. This will no doubt come as welcome relief as energy bills continue to rise during winter. The decision comes despite the paper’s ominous quote from a forthcoming report that forecasting fracking-induced earthquakes “remains a significant challenge”. In August 2019 Caudrilla halted work after recording the UK’s “biggest fracking tremor”. The tremor in question was 1.55ML on the Richter scale, “which it likened to ‘a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor’”…

Former Labour adviser John McTernan wrote an article for UnHerd, saying that Liz’s policy strategy could unhinge Labour:

The abandonment of the sugar tax, and possibly the entire government anti-obesity strategy has been floated. As has ending the cap on bonuses in the City. These give the flavour of what the 100 Days Plan must have looked like. Sir Lynton Crosby famously talks of “getting rid of the barnacles”: that before a government can campaign effectively, it needs to rid itself of unnecessary distractions. These could be unpopular policies, ungrasped nettles, or unresolved disputes, but the Queen’s death has prevented this, disrupting the Government’s momentum.

The Prime Minister wants to govern as she campaigned for the leadership. Directly, clearly and simply. She has said she wants a smaller state, and Labour have taken the bait. Without waiting to see any government policy, some Labour frontbenchers have immediately attacked Truss as a Thatcherite intent on cutting public spending. That’s hard to argue in the face of the energy price cap — one of the biggest unfunded public spending commitments ever made by a UK government.

Worse, it showed that some in Labour haven’t been listening to Truss, or taking her seriously. There’s more than one way to shrink the state — and getting out of people’s lives is an effective and popular one. One of the greatest weaknesses of progressive politics is the belief that what the country is crying out for is “more government”. A large part of the fuel that drives the campaign against political correctness is the sense that government is over-reaching, interfering in bits of life where it has no place. Liz Truss wants to tap into that. She instinctively knows that most people want to look after themselves, their families and their communities without government interference.

The other headline announcement — uncapping City bonuses — has trapped Labour too. Missing the wood for the trees, opposition frontbenchers have spluttered in outrage at policies that would benefit fat-cat bankers rather than the general public. The point, of course, is what David Cameron’s team used to call the politics of “aroma”. It is not the specific policy detail that matters; it is the sense of the overall direction.Hugging a husky” showed a greener, more compassionate, modern Conservative party. Uncapping City bonuses shows a government committed to Go For Growth — no old-fashioned prejudices or well-meaning sacred cows will be allowed to stand in the way. The point is to grow the pie, not, as Labour want, to talk about tax and redistribution of the proceeds of growth.

Note what he says about Rishi Sunak:

Is this a risky approach? Yes. Is it a clear one? Absolutely. The trap for Labour is that they adopt the Sunak Strategy. Liz Truss’s ideas are simplified not simplistic; and as Rishi Sunak’s defeat showed, treating the new PM as a simpleton won’t win votes. Truss may not have the right answers, but she has asked the right question. Growth is the only game in town. If Truss manages to keep it on The Grid when parliament returns next month, her lost 100 days might not be fatal.

Unfortunately, for the British people, it was the beginning of the end, with all roads leading to Rishi.

To be continued tomorrow.

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The weekend’s events surrounding Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday entered a new era with King Charles.

First, however, November 14 is the King’s birthday and his first one as monarch. He turned 74 on Monday:

Many happy returns, Your Majesty!

Remembrance Day

Last week, the King and Queen Consort paid their respects to those who died for our freedom:

On Thursday, November 10, the Telegraph reported (emphases mine):

The Queen Consort today paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II at a plot created in her memory at Westminster Abbey’s Field of Remembrance.

The plot features two black-and-white photographs of the late Queen taken at the Field of Remembrance in 2002, the year she lost both her mother and her sister.

In one, she stands, head bowed in silent contemplation alongside the Duke of Edinburgh.

In the other, she is bending down to place a small wooden cross amongst others in the ground.

A black wooden cross alongside the photographs reads “In Memorandum. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 1926 – 1922”.

The Queen [Consort], who is patron of the Poppy Factory, was taking part in a ceremony to commemorate the nation’s war dead, which takes place on the Thursday before Remembrance Sunday each year.

She placed her own wooden cross of remembrance, bearing her new cypher, amid a sea of poppies before bowing her head.

The ceremony had a large attendance:

More than 1,000 veterans gathered in the grounds of Westminster Abbey for the short ceremony, observing a two-minute silence as Big Ben chimed to mark 11am.

The Queen Consort then met Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, before being introduced to Poppy Factory staff and then reviewing the plots for regimental and other associations.

Before leaving, she was invited by the Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, to review a plot honouring her late mother-in-law.

Camilla took over the patronage from Prince Harry in 2020, after he relinquished his royal duties:

The Queen took over at the event from the Duke of Sussex when he stepped down from royal duties in 2020. The ceremony marks a tradition, now in its 94th year, that was previously the responsibility of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Deirdre Mills, chief executive of The Poppy Factory, said:

Her Majesty’s commitment to the ex-forces community has been unwavering. We are grateful to Her Majesty The Queen Consort for her continued support as we look to help hundreds more veterans overcome barriers on their journey towards employment.

Meanwhile, the Princess of Wales toured a children’s centre in London, where she explained the importance of the poppy to a little boy and gave him hers to wear:

The Telegraph had the story:

The Princess of Wales gave a three-year-old her poppy on Wednesday after he pointed it out on her coat.

She stopped to speak to the boy, called Akeem, during a visit to Colham Manor Children’s Centre in Hillingdon, west London, after spending the morning chatting with mothers and health workers.

The two introduced themselves, then:

The Princess asked Akeem if he had a poppy, before adding: “It’s very nice, would you like mine?”

“Yes,” came the response, to giggles from onlookers. The Princess then carefully removed the poppy from her coat, saying, “there you go, you can have my poppy. Shall I see if I can get it out?”

As she fiddled with it, she asked the boy: “Do you know what this is for? It’s for remembering all the soldiers who died in the war.”

She said: “There you go, that’s for you. Will you look after it?”

She gave the pin to his mother so she fasten it for him.

New monarch, new wreath

As we have a new monarch, a new memorial wreath appeared on Remembrance Sunday.

King Charles has his own design, with his own ‘racing colours’, displayed in an elegant ribbon and bow extending across the centre.

The Telegraph described it:

Its poppies are mounted on an arrangement of black leaves, as per tradition for the sovereign, while its ribbon bears the King’s racing colours; scarlet, purple and gold.

The racing colours were also incorporated into the wreaths of King George V, King George VI and the late Queen.

Unfortunately, the King’s wreath had no white in it, which, as I recall, the Queen’s did. In fact, I don’t remember the black in her wreath, only the white.

White symbolises resurrection and eternal life, which we hope the Glorious Dead experience.

The Queen Consort also had a wreath laid at the Cenotaph on Sunday, as the Queen Mother — the previous Queen Consort — had when she was alive:

For the first time, a wreath will be laid on her behalf, by an equerry, and will bear her own family’s racing colours, inherited from her grandfather.

Remembrance Sunday

It was heartening to see that, although the survivors of the Great War have long gone to their rest and that those from the Second World War are, too, Remembrance Sunday still attracts 20,000 people.

The Sunday Times reported that 10,000 took place in the march past the Cenotaph in Whitehall. They were mainly Royal British Legion veterans representing 300 Armed Forces organisations. The other participants were from civilian organisations connected with previous wars and conflicts. War widows also marched past. Cadet organisations representing the respective armed forces also marched past.

The Sunday Times estimated that 10,000 spectators watched from the sidelines.

The march past began and ended at Horse Guards Parade, where Trooping the Colour takes place every June. At the Cenotaph in Whitehall, one person from each organisation handed over a large poppy wreath to lay at the foot of the monument.

Mobility issues are catered for …

… and age is no barrier:

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War (see the second tweet):

This retired soldier is from Royal Hospital Chelsea, which Charles II founded in 1682, at the suggestion of his mistress Nell Gwyn. It is a retirement home with a state-of-the-art infirmary.

Those lucky few men and women who live there are known as Chelsea Pensioners. On ceremonial days and when they leave the Hospital, they wear their red jackets and tricorne hats, also designed by Charles II. See the gentleman in the second tweet:

The ceremony revolves around the Cenotaph, with its inscription:

THE GLORIOUS DEAD

The commemoration began in 1920 to remember all those who gave their lives in the Great War, the First World War. George V, whom the late Queen affectionately called Grandfather England, was the first monarch to lay a wreath. Note that there was quite a bit of white in his (top right photo) compared with Charles’s. George VI is pictured on the lower left:

Here is a close-up of George V from 1924:

Other working Royals also laid their wreaths. Note that William’s is that of the Prince of Wales now. The Queen Consort and Princess of Wales watched from the balcony at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO):

Other members of the Royal Family also watched from the FCDO balcony: The Countess of Wessex, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, The Duke of Kent and Sir Tim Laurence (Princess Anne’s husband).

The Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces and leaders of the UK’s political parties also laid wreaths. This will be the last time we see EIIR cyphers:

A short Christian service followed the two-minute silence at 11:00 a.m. The Right Revd Dame Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London, led it:

The march past took place afterwards.

The morning was poignant, solemn, dignified and, if I may say so, beautiful as always.

The Telegraph quoted Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, who summed up the 2022 ceremony well:

In an interview broadcast on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, he said: “I think Remembrance Sunday is always poignant.

“I think it’s poignant for the whole nation, this special moment when we pause to reflect on the sacrifice and commitment of others to provide our freedom today.

“I think there’s a special poignancy this year with both the loss of Her Majesty, another loss of a Second World War veteran.

“I also think it’s poignant when we have once again the spectre of war in Europe and all that that entails, and a country that’s been invaded and is fighting for its freedom.”

On Sunday night, the Elizabeth Tower, which Big Ben adorns, had a splendid illumination for Remembrance Sunday, which also remembered the late Queen, for whom the tower is named:

My better half and I watch the ceremony every year. Each time, I see something new upon which to reflect privately in the days that follow. This year was no different. Long may those reflections continue.

Just yesterday, while in London, a French lady asked me about the significance of the poppy.

I explained that it was the equivalent of the cornflowers — blue — that the French wear for Remembrance Day there. Both were flowers in Flanders fields.

As she lives here, I suggested that she watch the Remembrance Sunday coverage on November 13 this year on BBC1, which she didn’t know about.

A two-minute silence will be observed then as it will on Friday, November 11, at 11:00 a.m., also known as Armistice Day, which ended the Great War on that day and time in 1918:

Those who served in the Great War — the First World War — have now gone to their eternal rest, but the remembrance continues, encompassing those who served in the Second World War as well as military conflicts to the present day.

Our late Queen was the first female member of the Royal Family to serve in the military. All kudos to the Queen Consort (later the Queen Mother) and to George VI for encouraging Princess Elizabeth to join the Army Auxiliary and become a mechanic during the Second World War.

The Queen’s example encourage many other men and women to join the armed forces. The Royal British Legion interviewed some active members and veterans to talk about how she inspired them to serve their country:

Wearing a poppy remembers those who died for freedom and is also a visible symbol of thanks to those who served and are alive today, as the veterans in this video explain:

As ever, the Royal British Legion assembled teams of volunteers to be part of their annual Poppy Appeal.

They collected funds from all over England (Scotland has its own Poppy Appeal, the Earl Haig Fund, named after Field Marshal Douglas Haig).

In England, Poppy Days were held in major cities, such as Bristol and Manchester …

… and Birmingham, too:

Poppy Runs took place in Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Southampton:

Not surprisingly, the largest Poppy Appeal event took place in London on November 3, mainly at railway stations but also elsewhere, affording more places where military bands could play:

Here, the Coldstream Guards played familiar melodies at Waterloo Station:

Actor Ross Kemp helped the active servicemen and veterans:

Trains and buses were also decorated with poppies:

The London goal was £1 million this year:

And, yes, the London volunteers achieved their goal. Having a wide range of merchandise helped boost donations, no doubt:

My far better half and I bought enamelled lapel pins at a London railway station last week.

Like millions of other Britons …

We will remember.

A new biography of Elizabeth the Queen Mother is out just in time for Christmas.

It is Gareth Russell’s Do Let’s Have Another Drink.

Subtitles differ. One says:

The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

Another reads:

The Dry Wit and Fizzy Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Most British adults connect the Queen’s mother with her favourite tipple: gin and Dubonnet.

The Times reviewed the new book on October 11, 2022. Excerpts from the article follow, emphases mine.

N.B.: This is not the usual fairy tale Royal story, so expect real life to creep in now and then.

Belief in ghosts

It appears that the Queen Mother’s belief in ghosts gave her resilience. Hmm:

If the Queen Mother did have an inner core of steel, it isn’t hard to see where it came from. Her childhood in Glamis Castle, one of Scotland’s most rambling and supposedly haunted piles, didn’t just give her a lifelong belief in ghosts (she attended her last exorcism at the age of 99, when she persuaded a local priest to shoo away the unquiet spirit of George VI, or maybe Diana, from a bedroom in Sandringham), but also a group of male friends who were mostly killed in the First World War before she was 18. “I think of my 20 best friends in 1914,” she reminisced, decades later. “Only five came back.”

Among those who died was one of her brothers. Three other brothers suffered for years with what was then called shell-shock — post-traumatic stress disorder. Russell’s account of those years occupies very little of his book, but it’s by far the most compelling part. And it explains a lot about this most misunderstood of national matriarchs. She may have been an old soak, but she put the backbone into a royal family that was floundering when she joined it.

Suitors and courtship

When Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was born in England in 1900, royal families were meant to intermarry.

Although she came from nobility — being the daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis (pron. ‘Glahms’) and, later, the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in the Peerage of Scotland — she was not considered suitable to marry a future king.

At least one European royal made her bias known towards the noble’s daughter in the early 20th century:

When her brother-in-law, the Duke of Kent, married Princess Marina of Greece, for instance, Marina (descended from the Russian and Greek royal families) made little attempt to hide her disdain for Elizabeth, a mere Scottish earl’s daughter whom she took to describing as a “common little Scotch tart”.

Elizabeth was an adorable girl who grew up to be a fetching young woman.

She had a few serious suitors when she grew up and she rejected Prince Albert, Duke of York, who wanted to make her his wife:

She certainly turned down two proposals of marriage from Bertie. That, however, was more because she was dallying between another prince (the King of Serbia’s nephew, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia) and such eligible British bachelors as Henry “Chips” Channon

UGH! A book of Channon’s letters was released earlier this year. Talk about sex addicts:

(who, oddly enough, had slept with Prince Paul when both were at Oxford) and the dashing Captain James Stuart, who had won the Military Cross in the First World War.

The story of how Bertie — the future George VI — and Elizabeth became engaged is a bit more nuanced than we would have thought.

The book says that Bertie’s mother, Queen Mary of Teck, rearranged Elizabeth’s love life accordingly:

George V’s wife, the indomitable Queen Mary, had decided that the gregarious, charming Elizabeth would be perfect for introverted, stammering Bertie, and simply wouldn’t take no for an answer, even if her son did. Somehow, she fixed it so that the dashing Captain Stuart received an offer of an extraordinarily well-paid job with an oil company in Oklahoma, requiring him to sail for America immediately.

Amazing.

Stuart apparently knew it, too:

According to Russell, he later told friends: “That bitch Queen Mary ruined my life.”

Wikipedia says that Queen Mary visited Glamis Castle to meet the girl who stole his son’s heart:

Prince Albert, Duke of York—”Bertie” to the family—was the second son of King George V. He initially proposed to Elizabeth in 1921, but she turned him down, being “afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to”.[18] When he declared he would marry no other, his mother, Queen Mary, visited Glamis to see for herself the girl who had stolen her son’s heart. She became convinced that Elizabeth was “the one girl who could make Bertie happy”, but nevertheless refused to interfere.[19] At the same time, Elizabeth was courted by James Stuart, Albert’s equerry, until he left the Prince’s service for a better-paid job in the American oil business.[20]

It seems that Queen Mary had no objection to Bertie marrying what would have been known as ‘a commoner’, although Elizabeth appeared to have reservations about entering Royal life:

Eventually, in January 1923, Elizabeth agreed to marry Albert, despite her misgivings about royal life.[23] Albert’s freedom in choosing Elizabeth, not a member of a royal family, though the daughter of a peer, was considered a gesture in favour of political modernisation; previously, princes were expected to marry princesses from other royal families.[24] They selected a platinum engagement ring featuring a Kashmir sapphire with two diamonds adorning its sides.[25]

The couple were married at Westminster Abbey and Elizabeth, who became the Duchess of York, became ill during the Scottish leg of their honeymoon:

They married on 26 April 1923, at Westminster Abbey. Unexpectedly,[26] Elizabeth laid her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on her way into the abbey,[27] in memory of her brother Fergus.[28] Elizabeth became styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York.[29] Following a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace prepared by chef Gabriel Tschumi, the new Duchess and her husband honeymooned at Polesden Lacey, a manor house in Surrey owned by the wealthy socialite and friend Margaret Greville. They then went to Scotland, where she caught “unromantic” whooping cough.[30]

Tenacity

Elizabeth was certainly tenacious.

Russell’s book purports that Edward VIII — David — said that Elizabeth really wanted to marry him, not Bertie, and, as a result, held a grudge against Wallis Simpson:

the great feud of Elizabeth’s life – with Wallis Simpson and her husband David, who was briefly King Edward VIII before abdicating, having given his brother Bertie, Elizabeth’s husband (and henceforth King George VI), just 72 hours’ notice of his intentions. Those who take Elizabeth’s side say that her anger was due to the unbearable pressure this placed on the already insecure Bertie. However, according to David (later the Duke of Windsor, spewing bile from his lavish exile in France), Elizabeth’s anger was entirely down to her having wanted to marry him, not Bertie.

He would have said that, wouldn’t he?

In 1936, with Edward VIII’s abdication, Elizabeth became Queen Consort, a title she held until George VI died. She also became the first and last Empress Consort of India, a title she held until 1947, when Partition took place.

Russell’s book says that the Queen Consort — and later, the Queen Mother — the public saw was not the same person behind closed doors:

Russell’s book — a “life told through 101 anecdotes”, as he calls it (one for each year of his subject’s life) — paints an entertaining and, one feels, mostly honest picture of a woman who divided opinion more than is often realised by those who knew her only as “the nation’s granny”. She was definitely a granny (and before that a wife and mother) with claws. The socialite Stephen Tennant, who knew her when she was plain Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, wrote that “she looked everything she was not . . . Behind the veil, she schemed and vacillated, hard as nails.” Even Russell, who bends over backwards to be fair, admits that she possessed “an Olympian ability to hold a grudge”.

Russell writes that the Queen Mother used Queen Mary’s tactics to despatch Princess Margaret‘s divorced lover, Peter Townsend, in the 1950s:

she colluded in sending Group Captain Townsend to a pointless job in Brussels to get him out of Princess Margaret’s life.

There might have been more tenacity on display, as the Queen Mother once said she managed to get rid of written evidence of John Brown’s relationship with Queen Victoria:

the Queen Mother once told friends that she had burnt documentary evidence of Queen Victoria not only having an affair with her Scottish servant John Brown, but also secretly marrying him

… since Russell’s book derives its title and subtitle (“The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother”), plus a considerable amount of its content, from the Queen Mother’s legendary ability to consume industrial quantities of alcohol, you do wonder whether she really did apply the paraffin and Swan Vestas to Victoria’s private papers one dark night in Balmoral. Or was it just the gin and Dubonnet talking?

We’ll never know, just as we’ll never know what happened to Brown’s diary, which was never located after Victoria’s death.

There is obviously something to this John Brown story. After Queen Elizabeth II died, I pointed out the two portraits of him at Balmoral, only one of which features one of Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, which was another of Victoria’s residences and the one Prince Albert designed, also has a prominent portrait of Brown and Victoria, which you can see in this Telegraph article.

What other sources say

Other illuminating pieces of the puzzle of the Queen Mother’s personality have come to light over the years.

Influencing King Charles III

It’s hard to imagine that King Charles III’s views on certain things might have come from his grandmother, but a recent documentary says she had a big part to play in his early life.

In 2021, The Express featured an article on the influence the Queen Mother exercised over King Charles III’s life as discussed in a documentary, The Queen Mother, which aired that year:

The Queen Mother’s influence in Prince Charles‘ early life “created an antipathy” with his parents, according to royal commentators. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip‘s plans for their son were reportedly repeatedly “undermined” by the older royal. Channel 5 documentary, ‘The Queen Mother’, discussed how her close relationship with her grandson drove a wedge between the prince and his mother and father.

Lady Colin Campbell told viewers: “The word in the family is that she undermined the relationship between Charles and his parents in a rather destructive way.

“She would always encourage him in his hypersensitivities.

While the Queen and Prince Philip were trying to toughen him up for what the future held.

“This created an antipathy.”

Historical biographer Sarah Gristwood explained: “Maybe there was a sense that the Queen Mother wanted to pass on to the future king the vision of monarchy that she felt she and her husband had developed.

“So I guess she would have had a particular eye on the forming of the future king.”

Royal experts think this would have started in his early childhood when Princess Elizabeth lived with Prince Philip in Malta, where he was stationed with the Royal Navy:

Royal commentator Wesley Kerr added: “She would spend a lot of time in his nursery when Princess Elizabeth was away, not least in Malta with her husband.

“I think that’s a really powerful relationship for him through his whole life and a very powerful influence.”

The Queen Mother also tried to influence where young Charles would attend school:

Prince Philip had chosen Gordonstoun, an austere boarding school in Scotland, for his son.

According to biographer Angela Levin, the Queen Mother tried to persuade her daughter and son-in-law to send Charles to Eton, but they refused.

I should have watched that documentary.

Criticism after Diana’s death ‘upset’ the Queen Mother

In 2009, 12 years after Princess Diana’s death and seven years after the Queen Mother’s death, friends of the latter said that criticism of her daughter ‘hugely upset’ her.

Keep in mind that the Queen and Prince Philip were minding Princes William and Harry at Balmoral while their mother was on holiday in August 1997. When news broke of Diana’s tragic death, the Royal couple initially decided to protect the boys by keeping them in Scotland, safe and out of the public eye.

They were right to have that instinct. Central London, where I worked, was one great cesspool of emotion, the first the nation had ever seen. It was alarming, because some of these mourners were full of rage and did not hide their feelings about the accident being ‘the Royals’ fault’. I kept my head down on the Tube going in and, at night, returning home to outer London. It was awful.

The Sunday Telegraph featured an article on the subject, published on September 26, 2009:

Friends of Queen Elizabeth have … revealed her shock at the public outpouring of grief over the Princess’ death.

Sir Michael Oswald and his wife Lady Angela Oswald said Queen Elizabeth felt angry and defensive that her elder daughter was so widely criticised for her actions in the aftermath of the Princess’s fatal car crash in Paris in the summer of 1997 …

Lady Angela said: “The Queen was criticised for two things. One was taking the boys [Princes William and Harry] to church [on the day the Princess died]. But they wanted to go to church. If you are a Christian and your mother has been killed, it is a comfort going to church.

“The other thing was that people expected the Queen to abandon her two grandsons – whose mother had just been killed – and go to London to mourn with people who had never even met the Princess.

“If you stand back and think about it, it is an extraordinarily selfish attitude. Queen Elizabeth was hugely upset by the criticism of her daughter because she has always admired her so much. It was such a cruel criticism and it was unfair.”

Sir Michael, now 75, an Old Etonian and former manager of the Royal Studs, was Queen Elizabeth’s racing manager from 1970 to her death in 2002 aged 101. His wife, the daughter of the 5th Marquess of Exeter, was one of her ladies in waiting for 21 years from 1981.

following the publication of William Shawcross’s official biography of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Michael and Lady Angela spoke exclusively to The Sunday Telegraph – with the knowledge of Buckingham Palace – about their decades of royal service. Even though they both unfailing called her “ma’am” out of respect, they clearly considered Queen Elizabeth a close and loyal friend.

Sadness over Charles’s divorce

The couple said that the Queen Mother was devastated to learn of Charles’s and Diana’s divorce.

Lady Angela said:

“The one time I remember her losing her smile for any length of time was for a fortnight in 1991, or 1992, at Birkhall [her Scottish home] after she had been informed that the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales was effectively over.

“Normally with the bad things in life, she managed to pass by on the other side and not notice. But she had been made aware what unhappiness there was in the marriage. She was so sad, so tense and so obviously unhappy in herself.

“There was a very close bond between Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales. She was of a generation that felt that anything that went on in a marriage was private between the couple. So it is certainly fair to say that she would have been deeply shocked when private feelings and thoughts were broadcast worldwide” [a reference to Diana, Princess of Wales’s Panorama interview in 1995, in which she claimed the marriage was “crowded” because of her husband’s affair with the then Camilla Parker Bowles].

Drinking habits exaggerated

The Queen Mother’s drinking habits were often featured in the press or joked about.

Here is a 1987 photo of her at a pub in London’s East End:

One case in point was in 2019, when Nigel Farage visited Australia. The Guardian reported him as joking about it then, 17 years after her death:

The Brexit party leader was laudatory about the Queen – “an amazing, awe-inspiring woman, we’re bloody lucky to have her” – but abused her son, grandson and mother.

“When it comes to her son, when it comes to Charlie Boy and climate change, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Her mother, Her Royal Highness the Queen’s mother was a slightly overweight, chain-smoking gin drinker who lived to 101 years old. All I can say is Charlie Boy is now in his 70s … may the Queen live a very, very long time.”

I don’t recall that the Queen Mother smoked. Maybe she did, but, if so, she likely gave it up. After all, her husband, George VI, died of lung cancer.

The aformentioned Oswalds told The Sunday Telegraph that the Queen Mother had a daily routine but never overindulged:

Queen Elizabeth, they insist, was never a heavy drinker, usually enjoying a single gin and Dubonnet before lunch, a single Martini before dinner and wine with her meal. Far from drinking too much, they said she was constantly alert and that her memory for people and stories was incredible.

She lived to 101. That’s a good enough secret of longevity for me.

As for the horses:

Although Queen Elizabeth loved horse racing, she never had a bet.

Lady Angela said that the Queen Mother the public saw was the lady she knew:

Her life was full of laughter and sparkle.

I feel so privileged to have spent so much time with her. When I was with her at a reception, I sometimes ‘lost’ her because of her lack of height. But I could always tell quickly where she was because of the joyful expressions of the people who were talking to her. They looked different because they were so thrilled to be speaking to her. The wave of affection was tangible – and it went both ways. People loved Queen Elizabeth and she really did love them.

Conclusion

As with anyone else, the Queen Mother was complex. She was far from a caricature, and it is rather sad that many people still think of her as such.

We would do well to remember that she and George VI never left London during the Second World War. Their daughters went only as far as Windsor Castle during those years. They remained on our shores.

The family stayed together with the British people through thick and thin.

That is how and why Queen Elizabeth II had such an abiding sense of service and duty to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

While Nigel Farage took a two-week break from his early evening GB News show, actor Laurence Fox, who also founded the Reclaim Party, was his guest host.

What a surprise viewers had on Tuesday, October 4, 2022, when Fox spoke to Donald Trump on the phone:

It was an excellent interview, done in segments, after which a Democrat or a Republican appeared on air to give his or her views of what Trump had just said.

This is the full hour-long episode:

Fox began by reviewing Trump’s accomplishments while in office, pointing out that he got elected in 2016 because he could connect with millions of Americans and didn’t come off as an elitist like Hillary Clinton did:

America’s 45th president told Fox how surprised he was at Boris Johnson’s change of focus during his premiership, saying that he ‘went woke’:

This GB News article has more (emphases mine):

Donald Trump has called former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “woke” in a surprising attack on his ally.

In a world exclusive GB News interview, the ex-US President said Boris Johnson “went liberal all of a sudden” in a “crazy” move.

Trump called Mr Johnson a “good guy” but criticised him for “changing” as he spoke to Laurence Fox.

The 76-year-old said: “Boris was a friend of mine, perhaps he still is but I haven’t spoken to him in a while.

“The problem Boris has is he went liberal all of a sudden, and I think that is crazy.

“He’s a good man but something happened to him, he changed, he went for windmills all over the place and he went a little bit wokier than I believe he is and I think ultimately that is the thing that got him out.

“I don’t think it was the party [Conservatives] I think that was just an excuse.”

Although Trump has not met Boris’s successor Liz Truss, he is favourably disposed towards her:

Trump also said that he was surprised at the criticism Truss’s mini-budget received (more here):

The Telegraph reported on that part of the interview:

Former US president Donald Trump had said that he backs new Prime Minister Liz Truss and that he thinks “very highly” of her.

Speaking on GB News to Laurence Fox, Trump said of Truss that he liked “some of the things she’s done”, adding that he had “cut taxes very substantially and we did much more business and she’s done that”.

He said that he thinks “very highly of her and she had a great send-off from the Queen”, adding that as it was the late Queen’s last meeting it was a “big deal”.

Joe Biden’s former Chief of Staff appeared but she didn’t respond to anything Trump had said. She only wanted to bang on about how ‘divisive’ he had been as president. Talk about living in a parallel universe:

In a separate interview, Greg Swenson from Republicans Overseas UK lauded Trump’s economic policy and said that more countries around the world should implement them:

Trump discussed his own major accomplishments during his four-year term, which brought criticism from an adviser to both the Bush II and Clinton administrations. Fox ended this man’s three-minute rant by telling him to go and have another espresso:

Trump rightly told Fox that, if he were still president, there would be no war in Ukraine:

Former Royal Navy Commander Dr Chris Parry agreed:

Trump was discreet about his meeting with King Charles III a few years ago and offered his support to the new monarch. Trump also reminded us that his mother was Scottish:

GB News reported:

He told Laurence Fox: “I think he’ll probably not discuss certain elements of what he believes, in my opinion.

“I think Charles is going to do very well, he’s got a great way about him, I think he did very well during the ceremony [Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral].”

Despite his warm feeling towards the royal, Trump admitted he does not hold look upon Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as favourably.

He told GB News: “I’m not a fan, I was never much of a fan of her [Meghan].

“I don’t get it, but I hope he’s [Harry] happy, he didn’t seem too happy and he doesn’t seem too happy.

“I thought she was disrespectful to the Queen, which is a no no, you can’t do that.”

The Telegraph had more:

“I know him very well, quite well. And I spent a lot of time when I was over there as president with him. And with his wife [who] was absolutely lovely, by the way, and we had a good time together,” he said.

As for the King’s popularity versus his mother’s, he said:

Probably difficult when you’re the King you want to have 100% of the people love you like the Queen did. The Queen had – everybody loved her, right? She didn’t have that kind of an agenda.

And yet, you know, she was a very strong woman. I got to know her too. She was a very strong woman, a great woman.

The interview ended with a discussion about biopics. Fox plays Hunter Biden in My Son Hunter, released on September 7.

Trump said that, if it were ever to happen, he hoped that Fox could play him in a biographical movie:

Oh, that voice!

He enthused for another minute or so about Fox’s accent, then, with both parties happy, the call came to an end.

Fox’s interview style is conversational, something Trump would appreciate. What a great hour of television.

After Queen Elizabeth II died earlier this month on Thursday, September 8, 2022, Royal historians and experts said that we would never find out the actual time of her death.

On Thursday, September 29, however, her death certificate showed up on news broadcasts. I saw it on GB News in the late afternoon.

Guido Fawkes was right once again. His slogan is, ‘You’re either in front of Guido or behind’, meaning that most political pundits are behind.

At 3:07 p.m. that day, he tweeted that the Queen had died, then removed the tweet after getting a lot of flak for it.

However, the late Queen’s death certificate says that she died at 3:10 p.m. on September 8. Princess Anne oversaw the document’s contents.

Once again, Guido was correct.

One of the late monarch’s favourite pastimes was horse racing.

George V, whom she referred to affectionately as Grandfather England, got her interested in riding as a little girl.

On September 10, The Times reported:

When she was a child, her grandfather, George V, would lower himself to his hands and knees so that the young princess could lead him forward by his beard, as though he were a horse. She had her first riding lesson aged three; the following year she was bequeathed her first pony, Peggy, and that was that — she was still riding a pony at 90.

As a teenager, she became interested in horse breeding (emphases mine):

Her infatuation with the sport spawned from her inaugural visit, aged 16, to the Beckhampton stable of Fred Darling, who trained for her father. It was May 1942 and two of the King’s horses, Big Game and Sun Chariot, had recently won the season’s opening classics at Newmarket. Having run her palm down the silken coats of each racehorse, the young princess would not wash her hands for the rest of the day.

When she married Prince Philip in 1947:

She could barely conceal her excitement when she received a thoroughbred filly foal as a wedding present from the Aga Khan III. As it transpired, however, Astrakhan had troublesome knees, although she did manage to win an ordinary race in 1950.

When George VI died in 1952:

She inherited the Royal Studs at Sandringham in 1952 and became fascinated by the inexact science of breeding thoroughbreds. She immersed herself so intensely in this quest that royal historians declared her to be better informed than any of her antecedents

The Royal Studs are the oldest thoroughbred breeding establishment in the world, and by any measure, Her Majesty’s tenure enhanced them. Of the five classic races run annually in Britain, the only one to elude her was the Derby. She was the leading flat owner in Britain in 1954 and 1957, while Estimate’s triumph in the 2013 Gold Cup, Royal Ascot’s signature race, was the first posted by a British monarch in the 200-year history of the race

The Queen took as much pleasure from winning ordinary races with moderate horses as from a winner at Royal Ascot, where her horses won 23 races. And she bankrolled her own success: not a penny from the public purse was spent on the Royal Studs.

Horses that did not make the grade were deployed elsewhere:

For all the triumphs, notably the brace of classics won by Dunfermline in the silver jubilee year of 1977, the Queen was more concerned that each of her racehorses was given the opportunity to maximise its inherent ability. Conversely, those failing to make the grade were found new homes from which to pursue other equine disciplines.

The Queen was interested in treating horses with kindness:

Her primary concern was for her horses’ welfare. She espoused the virtues of kindness over brute strength, never more so than in her approach to breaking in young horses.

To that end, she employed the man known as The Horse Whisperer and had a bit part to play in his future fame by encouraging him to write a book:

She had heard of the extraordinary deeds of a self-styled “Californian cowboy” who would rise to global acclaim under another sobriquet, “the Horse Whisperer”. Monty Roberts was invited to Windsor to demonstrate his “Join-Up” techniques in 1989, and the repercussions were instant.

The Queen quickly adopted Roberts’s non-confrontational approach to breaking in young horses. His methods were revolutionary; so much so that the Queen insisted he should write a book to spread the gospel. To date, The Man Who Listens to Horses has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) gave the Queen more than one horse as a gift during her reign. The most famous of them was Burmese:

… Burmese, was given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969. Burmese earned her place in the royal heart after the monarch rode her for 18 consecutive years at Trooping the Colour. The black mare came to greater public prominence in 1981, when a teenager at the ceremony fired blanks from a gun that startled Burmese but failed to ruffle her accomplished rider.

The Queen got Princess Anne interested in riding. In 1971, aged 21, the Princess Royal won the European Eventing Championship and was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. She became an Olympian in 1976 at Montreal, riding in the British team’s Eventing challenge on the Queen’s horse, Goodwill. She continued to be involved in international riding events until 1994, her final year as president of the Fédération Équestre Internationale.

The Queen’s presence at so many prominent race meetings encouraged the presence of Middle Eastern potentates to also participate:

Her totemic presence on racecourses acted like a magnet, drawing wealthy Middle Eastern potentates to race their own horses in Britain, in the process ensuring that Britain remains pre-eminent in the global racing hierarchy.

It is unclear who will take the Queen’s place at the races in the years to come:

it is daunting to contemplate how flat racing will evolve in the Queen’s absence.

On September 10, The Telegraph featured an article on the Queen’s love of the sport, ‘Revealed: How racehorse-loving Queen Elizabeth spoke to trainer just two days before her death’.

This happened on Tuesday, September 6, as the Queen waited for Boris Johnson and Liz Truss to make their separate visits to her at Balmoral:

Clive Cox, who trained the final winner of the monarch’s career on Tuesday, described her as “sharp as a tack” during their telephone call.

The Queen’s horse raced at Goodwood that afternoon and the Queen awaited a briefing as to the horse’s — Love Affair’s — condition before the event:

The two-year-old won convincingly at Goodwood later that day, bringing to an end an owning and breeding career that saw her win some of the biggest prizes in the sport.

Clive Cox did not expect to speak with the monarch that day:

Cox, who trains several of her string, said: “Every time I have had a runner for Her Majesty I have spoken to her on the morning of the race.

“Those conversations have been the greatest privilege of my life but when I called on Tuesday I was told that the Queen was quite busy, which was understandable.

“But at 10 o’clock the phone rang and it was Her Majesty on the line.”

The racing community mourned the Queen’s death. Some surmise that, had she not been Head of State, she would have made an excellent trainer, or at least go to race courses more often:

Nicky Henderson, the former champion jumps trainer who handled many of her National Hunt horses, described her as “racing’s patron saint” and “racing’s best friend”, saying: “I bet she would have loved to go racing every day, but her diary was a bit different to most people’s.”

Traditionally committed to flat racing, Queen Elizabeth inherited the Queen Mother’s string of jump horses upon her death in 2002.

Henderson said training a winner for her during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations this summer at Worcester had been a “huge thrill”.

The Queen’s excitement at watching racing on television once brought her security detail running, Henderson says:

I remember once having a winner for her and she told me she’d been watching it in the sitting room. The horse led over the last, but it was a tight finish so she stood up and screamed it home.

With that, she said the security guards burst open the door thinking there had been some ghastly drama, but found her shouting at the television rather than an intruder! That always tickled me.

Legendary jockey Frankie Dettori rode many of the Queen’s horses:

Frankie Dettori, who rode more than 50 winners for Queen Elizabeth, said racing had lost its greatest friend.

“She was an incredible lady. I have been riding for the Queen for the last 30 years. She was such a special person and such a great sense of humour.

“Her knowledge of racing was incredible and her dedication to horses was plain for everyone to see.

“She loved her horses and loved the breeding side. She knew the families inside out.”

On September 14, the Daily Mail posted an article with a short video from 1991 showing the Queen’s excitement at winning a race at the Derby that June.

The video was part of a 1992 BBC documentary on the Queen’s life.

Apparently, the Queen bet on horses only when she was in the family box at the Derby. She did not own this horse, by the way:

Appearing on the 1992 BBC documentary Elizabeth R, the Queen and other members of the Royal Family are seen at Epsom for the 1991 Derby, taking part in the grand racing tradition of a low-money sweepstakes.

Even at Epsom, she watched on the television:

Her Majesty draws Generous from the hat in the sweep, and stands inside in the box to watch the 2420-metre race on the television.

As the horses turn onto the straight, Generous emerges with a handy lead.

Here’s what happened next — the Queen in an unusual burst of spontanaiety:

She dashed in to stand by the Queen Mother:

The Queen runs through the room with binoculars in hand to watch the three-year-old stallion get over the line from the balcony, which is opposite the finishing post. 

‘That’s my horse, isn’t it? That’s my horse!’ the Queen said while turning to her mother as she looks at Generous. 

‘Oh my god, Mother! We won!’

After the monarch watched the winning horse and trainer come back to parade in front of the excited crowd, an aide presented her with her winnings.

‘What do I get?’ Her Majesty asked, with the aide replying: ‘Well, you get 16, Ma’am.’ 

‘Sixteen pounds! Oh!’ she exclaimed.

It is believed the Queen never made bets aside from the Royal Family’s annual sweepstake at the Epsom Derby. 

She also told the Queen Mother how lovely it was to be at a race meeting in person. Normally, she attended only Ascot and the Derby.

The Mail says that the Queen was interested in even the smallest minutiae of horse breeding:

At the time of her death, she’d won 534 races from 3,205 runs as a racehorse owner and it is thought she made $13.1million from her hobby over the last 31 years.

Biographer Ben Pimlott quoted a horse-world confidante in his book, The Queen, when he described her passion for the animals and the sport.

‘She is very interested in stable management — and happiest with the minutiae of the feed, the quality of the wood chipping and so forth,’ he wrote.

There was no bluffing the Queen when it came to horses:

Top trainer Richard Hannon Senior said Her Majesty’s horse knowledge put many highly credentialed trainers to shame.

‘I always had to do my homework when I ran one of Her Majesty’s horses or when she came to visit our stables,’ he said.

‘She knows all the pedigrees of her horses inside out. There’s no small talk when discussing her horses. She knows all the bloodlines going back decades.

‘She also used to say to me after a stable tour, ‘It’s nice to come to a place that doesn’t smell of fresh paint’.’ 

It was a view shared by her racing adviser John Warren. 

‘If the Queen wasn’t the Queen, she would have made a wonderful trainer. She has such an affinity with her horses and is so perceptive,’ Warren once said.

The British Horseracing Authority paid tribute to the much-loved monarch as it suspended race meetings when news of her death broke

‘All of British Racing is in mourning today following the passing of Her Majesty The Queen. Her passion for racing and the racehorse shone brightly throughout her life,’ the authority said in a statement. 

The Queen leaves yet another legacy — her love of breeding horses.

As with so many other things she championed, who will pick up where she left off?

The Queen’s corgis truly led a dog’s life.

While they annoyed most others in the Royal household, the Queen showed them her unstinting affection.

On Saturday, September 10, 2022, The Times had an inspired article from Kate Williams, ‘The Queen and her corgis: Love me, love my yapping, snapping, pampered dogs’.

Many envied the corgis:

Oh, to be a corgi! Princess Diana called them a “moving carpet”, they knocked her butler Paul Burrell unconscious, and they snapped at courtiers with terrifying energy. But the Queen, tough and disciplined with staff and family, was as soft as butter with her pooches.

They got the best of everything (emphases mine):

Her corgis, along with her “dorgis” (crossbreeds of dachshund and corgi), would have the run of the palace apartments, tucking into food cooked by the HM chefs, and enjoying the everlasting confidence of their mistress.

During the Queen’s seven-decade reign, many were photographed and filmed with her:

Over the years the Queen owned more than 30 dogs, and corgis firmly established themselves as a symbol of her reign; in 2012 the trio of Monty, Willow and Holly even featured alongside her and Daniel Craig in the James Bond sketch she filmed for the London Olympics.

George VI started his daughter’s love of the short-legged pooches:

The short, squat-legged, floppy-eared Welsh breed had been beloved by the Queen ever since her father bought a male named Dookie in 1933 when she was six. Many corgis have a sweet, if yappish, temperament. Not so Dookie. He snapped at everybody except Elizabeth and her mother. At least one politician left the royal presence bleeding from a bite to the hand.

The article has a 1936 photo of the then-Princess Elizabeth with Dookie and a second addition, Jane.

This film, newly revealed in 2022, was made in the late 1930s. It shows Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in Scotland with George VI and the corgis at Loch Muick, on the Balmoral Estate. The Queen narrated it for the BBC as part of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations:

George VI gave Princess Elizabeth another corgi when she turned 18:

When the Queen turned 18, she received her own corgi — Susan, a present from her father. Susan went everywhere with her — even on honeymoon. As Philip found out, he had married the corgis as well as the girl.

Wow.

However, Prince Philip was unimpressed with his wife’s pets:

The Duke of Edinburgh complained about the “bloody dogs”.

This was a typical day for the corgis. Talk about a dog’s life:

A role as a royal corgi is probably as good as it gets, in canine terms. Their day would start with a walk with a footman. When the Queen woke, they would dash into her room, then accompany her to breakfast, where they jumped about the table as she fed them toast and marmalade. In the afternoon she put on a headscarf to take them for walks in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

They never had tinned dog food, only the freshest ingredients, which had to be carefully prepared:

One of the most important tasks of a palace footman was to pamper the corgis. Their menu was pinned on the wall of the royal kitchens and one of the chefs prepared their evening meal — freshly cooked steak, liver, rabbit and chicken, topped off with gravy and boiled cabbage. The food always had to be fresh — there was a scandal in Balmoral a few years back when the Queen came to suspect that some of the food in the royal dog bowls might once have been frozen.

The Queen often put their dinner into their polished silver bowls, forking in the pieces of dog biscuit.

She kept a gimlet eye on the canine’s meals:

Her passion was not always shared by her family and staff. A footman was demoted for adding gin and whisky to the dogs’ food.

At nightfall:

it was time for bed in the special corgi room, their wicker baskets raised to cushion them from draughts. Very occasionally, they were allowed to sleep in the royal bedroom.

Christmas was a special time:

At Christmas, the corgis, all descended from Susan, received their own stockings, full of chocolate drops and toys.

Burials were important, too:

When they died they were buried in royal grounds with headstones.

Eventually, the Queen decided she did not want any new canines:

Holly died at Balmoral in 2016. Monty died in 2012 and in 2015 it was revealed that the Queen had decided to have no new corgis.

The two surviving corgis are in the care of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife-companion Sarah (Fergie).

It seems that the long-lived corgi tradition disappeared with the Queen.

The King has other ideas:

He much prefers Labradors.

However, what is it like for a commoner to own a corgi?

On September 27, The Telegraph‘s Nicola Shulman wrote an insider account, ‘We all want a Royal puppy — but think carefully before spending £6,000 on a corgi’.

Until I read this, I could not fathom why George VI bought one.

However, Shulman told us of their appeal as puppies:

When I decided to get a dog, I only knew one thing: I didn’t want a corgi … Nasty, yappy bitey things with short legs, that was my opinion.

This had to be made clear from the outset, because I had a son who wanted us to get a corgi. He said nothing, but unleashed a silent campaign in which he sent me photographs and videos of corgi puppies every day. Have you ever seen a corgi puppy? Their enormous paws! Their floppy ears! Their freckled tummies! After a fortnight of this, a desire to possess a corgi took hold of me like a demonic possession.

It turns out that Shulman’s son is a young man, not a little boy. She searched high and low in Britain for a corgi. They are in high demand and cost around £6,000 apiece.

Finally, she found one at a corgi show in Leicester:

I went to Leicester in the snow and threw myself on the mercy of the breeders. The more the owners told me it was impossible, the more I gabbled, handing out cards, that I was the perfect prospective owner. I had the time. I had a garden. My children were grown up. I had come all the way to Leicester. The more I was disappointed, the more I beamed, hoping to look rueful-but-undeterred in the hope that this would recommend me as the sort of person who deserved a corgi. By the time I was halfway round the room, a puppy had materialised.

“He” was Mishka. A Pembroke Welsh Corgi boy, red and white, 11 weeks old, and with ears so big that they had been taped into special rolls that stuck out on either side of his head, in an attempt to make them stand up properly, making him look like an Ewok from Star Wars. It was all in vain: only one ear went up permanently, resulting in the flag-eared appearance that we consider his particular charm.

As Shulman found out, Corgis are not for most would-be dog owners:

… I often returned to the reasons I had wanted a dog. So that someone could look pleased to see me when I came home, a companion on my travels, a loyal friend who would stay with me through the bad times and good. If these are also the reasons you want a dog, get a golden retriever.

The corgi’s natural environment is on a farm. It likes to be kept busy:

Their job is to watch the farm and herd the cattle. They like to be where stuff is happening and are easily bored. A day lying in your room where you are bedridden with, say, Covid, looking adoring and occasionally giving you an encouraging lick, is not their idea of a good time.

His favourite spot in the house isn’t with us at all, but lying sentry at a window on the stairs, scanning our London street in order to save us from visitors and foxes.

Corgis are food-obsessed:

Where he is like all corgis is in being what the dog books call “food led”. He wakes in the morning thinking of food, thinks of food all day and deploys his famous corgi intelligence principally to discover who in the vicinity has food. While often deaf to exhortations such as “walkies” and “that’s enough barking”, the sound of a fridge door opening three floors away will bring him scrabbling in with a hopeful expression.

Such an obsession requires a budget to match:

In principle, they are not expensive to feed: they only need two small meals a day. But a corgi would say, with King Lear, “reason not the need”. In reality, the expense of feeding them can vary dramatically, depending on what you are eating and how much of it they can get off you.

Walks in town can take much longer than expected, because a corgi has to investigate everything:

Corgis are relaxing country dogs. As herders, they never run off: you are their herd and their job is to keep an eye on you. On a lead in town, not so much, as it is a corgi imperative to sniff pointlessly every bicycle and rubbish bin en route.

It can take 40 minutes to go three streets, and I am constantly trying to establish the difference between a walk for him and a walk actually to go somewhere. Their reputation for barking at everything and nothing is well-earned.

Other dogs, she says, can bring out a corgi’s aggression.

Shulman also points out that they shed a lot, especially in spring and autumn.

Despite this, like our late Queen, she is still smitten:

Luckily, you discover none of this until they are about two years old, and by then it is too late. You – like the late Queen and I – are enslaved.

The only caveat I would add is that good first aid skills and a nearby A&E department are recommended in case of bites, something Shulman has not experienced — fortunately — but other owners might do so.

The British royals were not always at the top of the league table when it came to pageantry.

In fact, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain was probably near the bottom.

The Guardian‘s 2017 article about Operation London Bridge, about which I wrote yesterday, says (emphases mine):

For a long time, the art of royal spectacle was for other, weaker peoples: Italians, Russians, and Habsburgs. British ritual occasions were a mess. At the funeral of Princess Charlotte, in 1817, the undertakers were drunk. Ten years later, St George’s Chapel was so cold during the burial of the Duke of York that George Canning, the foreign secretary, contracted rheumatic fever and the bishop of London died. “We never saw so motley, so rude, so ill-managed a body of persons,” reported the Times on the funeral of George IV, in 1830. Victoria’s coronation a few years later was nothing to write home about. The clergy got lost in the words; the singing was awful; and the royal jewellers made the coronation ring for the wrong finger. “Some nations have a gift for ceremonial,” the Marquess of Salisbury wrote in 1860. “In England the case is exactly the reverse.”

Near the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, courtiers and constitutionalists became concerned about the public perception of the monarchy during her latter years and death.

Something would have to be done:

Courtiers, politicians and constitutional theorists such as Walter Bagehot worried about the dismal sight of the Empress of India trooping around Windsor in her donkey cart. If the crown was going to give up its executive authority, it would have to inspire loyalty and awe by other means – and theatre was part of the answer. “The more democratic we get,” wrote Bagehot in 1867, “the more we shall get to like state and show.”

It was Edward VII — historians add his son George V here, too — who transformed embarrassing displays into sheer pageantry.

Victoria never trusted Edward VII to be a reliable heir. Many think she lived so long in an effort to prevent him from succeeding her. As I have mentioned before, there is a parallel between the two of them and the late Queen and Charles III.

Yet, Edward VII’s ten-year reign was considered to be a good one.

He is the one who started codifying and defining what royal pageantry should be, in life and in death:

Obsessed by death, Victoria planned her own funeral with some style. But it was her son, Edward VII, who is largely responsible for reviving royal display. One courtier praised his “curious power of visualising a pageant”. He turned the state opening of parliament and military drills, like the Trooping of the Colour, into full fancy-dress occasions, and at his own passing, resurrected the medieval ritual of lying in state. Hundreds of thousands of subjects filed past his coffin in Westminster Hall in 1910, granting a new sense of intimacy to the body of the sovereign.

That said, one German still did not think the Brits were up to scratch with military processions:

In 1909, Kaiser Wilhelm II boasted about the quality of German martial processions: “The English cannot come up to us in this sort of thing.” Now we all know that no one else quite does it like the British.

George V, whom the then-Princess Elizabeth referred to as Grandfather England, carried on his father’s vision of pageantry and brought the Royal Family closer to his subjects via the wireless:

By 1932, George V was a national father figure, giving the first royal Christmas speech to the nation – a tradition that persists today – in a radio address written for him by Rudyard Kipling.

In The Times‘s article, ‘Modern-day royal funerals trace their traditions to Victoria’, Valentine Low, the author of Courtiers, tells us about the funerals of Edward VII and George V.

Before going into her son’s and grandson’s deaths, he says that Victoria’s funeral broke two previous conventions:

For the previous 200 years the funerals of sovereigns had been held in the evening: hers was the first to be held in the daytime. It was also the first to be filmed.

Edward VII’s Highland terrier, Caesar, was the star of his funeral, much to the annoyance of those attending the service. They knew how ill-behaved the dog could be. Only the King had a fondness for him. Royal historians who spoke on GB News said that the dog was in the funeral procession in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Low says:

Caesar immediately captured the public imagination, and became a cult figure. His “memoirs”, entitled “Where’s Master?” were a popular Christmas present that year.

Low also says that the King’s favourite horse was in the outdoor procession in London:

At the funeral of Edward VII — who had insisted his obsequies, unlike those of his mother, were planned well in advance — his favourite charger, Kildare, walked behind the coffin in the procession from Westminster to Paddington, her master’s boots reversed in the stirrups. Behind her, led by a Highlander, trotted Caesar, the late King’s rough-haired terrier.

From Paddington Station, the Royal train transported the King’s coffin to Windsor.

George V’s death in 1936 was the first occurrence of the Vigil of the Princes at Westminster Hall. It was private:

When George V lay in state in Westminster Hall, on the evening of the fourth day King Edward VIII and his three brothers decided to pay a last tribute to their father by standing around the coffin in full-dress uniform, stationing themselves between the officers already on vigil.

He wrote later: “I doubt whether many recognised the King’s four sons among the motionless uniformed figures bent over swords reversed. We stood there for 20 minutes in the dim candlelight and the great silence. I felt close to my father and all that he stood for.”

On the day of his funeral, radio listeners were able to hear the funeral procession as it happened:

For all the expressions of public grief, and the growing involvement of the media — the funeral of George V was the first to have radio microphones placed along the processional route so that the world could listen to the tramp of feet and the thump of muffled drums — it should not be forgotten that royal funerals are also moments of private grief for the families themselves.

George VI never expected to become king. However, his older brother Edward VIII abdicated, and he had to step up. Continuing his father’s Christmas broadcasts proved to be difficult, and he had to get the help of a speech therapist, the Australian Lionel Logue, in order to overcome his stammer. The film, The King’s Speech, is a moving account of that story.

George VI and the Queen Mother never left England, even at the height of the Second World War. The princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, lived in Windsor Castle for much of the war.

When he died in 1952, the whole country mourned:

Immense crowds lined the streets for the funeral procession of George VI, the shy, simple, devoted king who had seen the country through the Second World War. As two minutes’ silence was observed around the country, miners in South Wales knelt at the coalface, heads bowed, their helmets on their knees.

Not many Britons had television sets at that time, yet his funeral was the first to be televised, setting a new marker for the visibility of the Royal Family:

Of all the modern royal funerals it was that of George VI that saw one of the most poignant moments of private royal grief. His funeral was the first to be televised, but what the cameras were unable to capture was how, too frail to attend the funeral of her son, Queen Mary watched the procession from the window of Marlborough House.

Her friend and lady-in-waiting Lady Airlie, who sat with her, wrote: “As the cortège wound slowly along the Queen whispered in a broken voice, ‘Here he is,’ and I knew that her dry eyes were seeing beyond the coffin a little boy in a sailor suit. She was past weeping, wrapped in the effable solitude of grief. I could not speak to comfort her. My tears choked me.

“The words I wanted to say would not come. We held each other’s hand in silence.”

Another relatively recent development in monarchs’ deaths is the known role of their personal physicians in their final hours.

In the case of George V, his doctor’s role was revealed long after his death:

Half a century after George V’s death it emerged that his life had been ended prematurely by his doctor, Lord Dawson, who hastened his journey to the next world so that it could meet the deadlines of the respectable morning newspapers, in particular The Times.

“The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close,” was the final notice issued by Dawson at 9.30pm on the night of January 20, 1936. Not long afterwards he injected the king with 750mg of morphine and a gram of cocaine — enough to kill him twice over — in order to ease the monarch’s suffering. However he had another motive, too, as revealed in a 1986 biography by the historian Francis Watson. Dawson wrote in his notes: “The determination of the time of death of the King’s body had another object in view, viz, of the importance of the death receiving its first announcement in the morning papers rather than the less appropriate field of the evening journals.”

In the case of Elizabeth II, we knew that her physician was Professor Sir Huw Thomas, 64, and read of her final hours.

The Guardian‘s 2017 article stated:

In these last hours, the Queen’s senior doctor, a gastroenterologist named Professor Huw Thomas, will be in charge. He will look after his patient, control access to her room and consider what information should be made public.

On Friday, September 9, 2022, the day after her death, The Times reported:

The doctor overseeing the Queen’s medical care had been in charge of her health for the past eight years, during which time she became increasingly frail but insisted on continuing with her royal duties.

Professor Sir Huw Thomas, 64, is head of the medical household and was physician to the Queen. He was appointed a physician to the royal household in 2005 and promoted to the most senior role in July 2014.

The details about the Queen’s health provided by Buckingham Palace yesterday were sparse, but the language hinted at the severity of the situation. Doctors were “concerned” and the Queen remained “under medical supervision”. The latter phrase was likely to mean that her health problems were serious enough that they required active monitoring by doctors.

Thomas oversaw the Queen’s care during the coronavirus pandemic and advised her to reduce her workload after she underwent preliminary tests and spent a night at King Edward VII’s Hospital in west London last October.

He said during an interview about being knighted for his royal duties: “It’s been a busy couple of years in this role . . . You very much become part of that organisation and become the personal doctor to the principal people in it, who are patients just like other patients.”

The royal doctors at Balmoral might have needed to be involved in anything from interpreting vital signs to prescribing medication that could ensure, as the palace statement added, that the Queen “remained comfortable”.

Those of us who admire the  British royals have much for which to thank Edward VII and George V. They gave us the transparency and majesty we have come to expect today.

In 2017, The Guardian posted a long article: ‘”London Bridge is down”: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death’.

Halfway through, it says (emphases mine):

The reporting for this article involved dozens of interviews with broadcasters, government officials, and departed palace staff, several of whom have worked on London Bridge directly. Almost all insisted on complete secrecy. “This meeting never happened,” I was told after one conversation in a gentleman’s club on Pall Mall. Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, has a policy of not commenting on funeral arrangements for members of the royal family.

Royal funeral plans are top secret, which makes the article even more amazing. I don’t know how the journalist, Sam Knight, managed it.

Queen Victoria’s death

Until Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria was the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch.

A monarch’s death is preceded by an announcement about illness, signifying that the end is near:

“The Queen is suffering from great physical prostration, accompanied by symptoms which cause much anxiety,” announced Sir James Reid, Queen Victoria’s physician, two days before her death in 1901.

Her longevity produced a shockwave of reaction, particularly as she did not perceive her heir, Edward VII, to be worthy of succession. This suggests a parallel between the Queen and Charles III:

It is not unusual for a country to succumb to a state of denial as a long chapter in its history is about to end. When it became public that Queen Victoria was dying, at the age of 82, a widow for half her life, “astonished grief … swept the country”, wrote her biographer, Lytton Strachey. In the minds of her subjects, the queen’s mortality had become unimaginable; and with her demise, everything was suddenly at risk, placed in the hands of an elderly and untrusted heir, Edward VII. “The wild waters are upon us now,” wrote the American Henry James, who had moved to London 30 years before.

The parallels with the unease that we will feel at the death of Elizabeth II are obvious, but without the consolation of Britain’s status in 1901 as the world’s most successful country. “We have to have narratives for royal events,” the historian told me. “In the Victorian reign, everything got better and better, and bigger and bigger. We certainly can’t tell that story today.”

George V’s death

In a well run monarchical system, a symbiosis exists between monarchs and their subjects:

The bond between sovereign and subjects is a strange and mostly unknowable thing. A nation’s life becomes a person’s, and then the string must break …

This is what happened when the Queen’s grandfather died. Note how George V’s physician thought it was important for the news to make the morning rather than the evening newspapers:

“The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close,” was the final notice issued by George V’s doctor, Lord Dawson, at 9.30pm on the night of 20 January 1936. Not long afterwards, Dawson injected the king with 750mg of morphine and a gram of cocaine – enough to kill him twice over – in order to ease the monarch’s suffering, and to have him expire in time for the printing presses of the Times, which rolled at midnight

“For a little while,” wrote Edward VIII, of the days between his father’s death and funeral, “I had the uneasy sensation of being left alone on a vast stage.”

Other Royal deaths

Sometimes, Royal deaths are unexpected events, leading to differences in who finds out first:

On 6 February 1952, George VI was found by his valet at Sandringham at 7.30am. The BBC did not broadcast the news until 11.15am, almost four hours later …

“It is with the greatest sorrow that we make the following announcement,” said John Snagge, the BBC presenter who informed the world of the death of George VI. (The news was repeated seven times, every 15 minutes, and then the BBC went silent for five hours).

Also:

When Princess Diana died at 4am local time at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris on 31 August 1997, journalists accompanying the former foreign secretary, Robin Cook, on a visit to the Philippines knew within 15 minutes.

I do remember watching BBC1’s Peter Sissons on the Saturday evening when the Queen Mother died in 2002:

On the BBC, Peter Sissons, the veteran anchor, was criticised for wearing a maroon tie. Sissons was the victim of a BBC policy change, issued after the September 11 attacks, to moderate its coverage and reduce the number of “category one” royals eligible for the full obituary procedure. The last words in Sissons’s ear before going on air were: “Don’t go overboard. She’s a very old woman who had to go some time.”

I thought his maroon tie was disrespectful, as was the way he read out that bit of news. It was as if he did not care. That started my dislike of the BBC’s treatment of current affairs, which only escalated afterwards.

The Duke of Norfolk

As the Royal Family has been Anglican for centuries, it is ironic that the person they entrust with their funerals and coronations is the highest ranking Catholic layman of the realm, the Duke of Norfolk.

Dukes of Norfolk have been organising these events since 1672:

The 18th Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal, will be in charge. Norfolks have overseen royal funerals since 1672. During the 20th century, a set of offices in St James’s Palace was always earmarked for their use.

The current Duke is Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, 65. In April 2022, he ran a red light while talking on his mobile phone. He was found guilty of these traffic violations on September 26 and pleaded not to have his driving licence revoked for six months. His request was refused.

On his role as Earl Marshal, the Daily Mail reports:

Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, 65, became England’s most senior peer and the 18th duke following the death of his father Miles in 2002.

For more than 350 years, his ancestors have passed down the ancient office of Earl Marshal – meaning that they are responsible for overseeing funerals for members of the Royal Family, the coronations of Britain’s monarchs, and even state openings of parliament

And because the office is hereditary, it meant that the peer’s grandfather Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, the 16th Duke of Norfolk, was responsible for organising Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953, the state funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965 and the investiture of Charles as the Prince of Wales in 1969.

Eddie, as he is known to his friends, oversaw the planning and execution of the most majesty send-off of a Sovereign in living memory – as 2,000 VIPs including King Charles and the British royal family emperors, kings and queens, prime ministers, presidents, and members of the public including decorated war heroes, members of the Armed Forces and NHS staff who worked tirelessly during the pandemic attended Westminster Abbey for the state funeral …

an overwhelming majority of Britons (86%) believe that the Duke of Norfolk did a ‘good job’ of commemorating the late Monarch. 

The duke began planning the Queen’s funeral the week of his father’s death 20 years ago, though plans for the service – codenamed Operation London Bridge – have been in place since the 1960s. Eddie held annual meetings in the throne room of Buckingham Palace, working closely with Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Mather, a long-serving member of the royal household who commanded the bearer party at Churchill’s funeral, for the first 10 years. In the two decades which followed, the number of people involved swelled from just 20 to 280 in April this year.

Just days before the funeral, the peer explained that the funeral was being held in Westminster Abbey for the first time in more than 200 years – since George II in 1760 – so that 2,000 guests could attend. He also revealed that he extended the Queen’s lying in state at Westminster Hall for an extra day ‘to allow an additional 85,000 people to file past the coffin’

His niece Lady Kinvara Balfour told Tatler magazine: ‘In organising the Queen’s funeral (and the coronation to come), Uncle Eddie has done a truly outstanding job. What a show of elegance, efficiency and rare precision he has produced for our nation, and the world – just like the late Queen Elizabeth II herself did. He is an incredible father of five, a grandfather too’

As for the guilty verdict on his traffic violations:

His Grace The Duke of Norfolk, Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, 65, appeared at Lavender Hill Magistrates Court after being caught by the officers who told the court he appeared to run a red light while not paying attention.

The Duke pleaded guilty to one count of driving his six year-old blue three-litre diesel BMW while using a hand-held device in Battersea Park Road, south-west London on April 7.

The Oxford-educated father of five, who is a descendant of Elizabeth I, was also fined £800, with £350 costs and ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge.

His Grace received six penalty points for using his mobile phone.

‘That means, as you know, you will be disqualified for six months because you have more than twelve points on your licence,’ magistrate Judith Way told him.

‘We have been advised of the test for exceptional hardship and it is the burden of the defendant to show exceptional hardship,’ announced magistrate Judith Way.

Before the ruling was handed down, his Grace had tried to argue it was necessary for him to keep his licence.

The highest-ranking duke in England argued he would suffer ‘exceptional hardship’ if he was disqualified, highlighting his official duties along with his conservation work to prevent ‘nature’s complete collapse’ and ‘the end of mankind’. 

In his hereditary role as Earl Marshal he told the court he is in charge of the coronation of King Charles III and asked for part of the hearing to be held in private in the interests of ‘national security’, while his legal team told the court he needed to be able to drive to ensure the organisation went smoothly.

His Grace, of Arundel Castle, Arundel, Sussex already has nine penalty points on his driving licence for two speeding offences and this latest conviction means he has been subjected to the minimum six-month ban under totting rules.

Dismissing The Duke’s application to keep his licence, Ms Way said: ‘We have heard sworn evidence from the defendant.

‘We accept this is a unique case because of the defendant’s role in society and his role in the King’s coronation and even though inconvenience may be caused we do not find exceptional hardship.

‘We know the need for security clearance for any driver and we do not think this is insurmountable for his high-profile role.

‘We believe the defendant has the means to employ a driver.’

Indeed he does.

Managing the Queen’s death rituals

Keeping in mind that The Guardian‘s article was written in 2017, this was true in the event:

During London Bridge, the Lord Chamberlain’s office in the palace will be the centre of operations … The government’s team – coordinating the police, security, transport and armed forces – will assemble at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Michelle Donelan, formerly of the Department for Education, is the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Someone in that group of officials also had the job of printing tickets for various events:

for invited guests, the first of which will be required for the proclamation of King Charles in about 24 hours time.

Everyone on the conference calls and around the table will know each other. For a narrow stratum of the British aristocracy and civil service, the art of planning major funerals – the solemnity, the excessive detail – is an expression of a certain national competence. Thirty-one people gathered for the first meeting to plan Churchill’s funeral, “Operation Hope Not”, in June 1959, six years before his death. Those working on London Bridge (and Tay Bridge and Forth Bridge, the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral) will have corresponded for years in a language of bureaucratic euphemism, about “a possible future ceremony”; “a future problem”; “some inevitable occasion, the timing of which, however, is quite uncertain”.

Operation London Bridge had been in place for well over 50 years and was regularly updated from then until this month:

The first plans for London Bridge date back to the 1960s, before being refined in detail at the turn of the century. Since then, there have been meetings two or three times a year for the various actors involved (around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks) in Church House, Westminster, the Palace, or elsewhere in Whitehall. Participants described them to me as deeply civil and methodical. “Everyone around the world is looking to us to do this again perfectly,” said one, “and we will.” Plans are updated and old versions are destroyed. Arcane and highly specific knowledge is sharedThe coffin must have a false lid, to hold the crown jewels, with a rim at least three inches high.

Processions were also carefully timed.

After the Queen died, the military personnel involved rehearsed day and night to get everything exactly right.

King Charles III was also involved:

… in the hours after the Queen has gone, there will be details that only Charles can decide. “Everything has to be signed off by the Duke of Norfolk and the King,” one official told me … In recent years, much of the work on London Bridge has focused on the precise choreography of Charles’s accession. “There are really two things happening,” as one of his advisers told me. “There is the demise of a sovereign and then there is the making of a king.” Charles is scheduled to make his first address as head of state on the evening of his mother’s death.

In the event, he made it the following evening at 6 p.m.

The Throne Room at Buckingham Palace was the site for the Queen’s lying at rest before going to Westminster Hall:

In every scenario, the Queen’s body returns to the throne room in Buckingham Palace, which overlooks the north-west corner of the Quadrangle, its interior courtyard. There will be an altar, the pall, the royal standard, and four Grenadier Guards, their bearskin hats inclined, their rifles pointing to the floor, standing watch. In the corridors, staff employed by the Queen for more than 50 years will pass, following procedures they know by heart.

It is ironic that The Guardian published an article waxing incandescent over staff redundancies — lay-offs — because this piece makes it abundantly clear that they knew the King would bring in his own staff:

“Your professionalism takes over because there is a job to be done,” said one veteran of royal funerals. There will be no time for sadness, or to worry about what happens next. Charles will bring in many of his own staff when he accedes. “Bear in mind,” the courtier said, “everybody who works in the palace is actually on borrowed time.”

Dying in Scotland

Although the article does not mention it, the Queen’s death in Scotland activated Operation Unicorn.

However, that operation dovetailed with London Bridge:

The most elaborate plans are for what happens if she passes away at Balmoral, where she spends three months of the year. This will trigger an initial wave of Scottish ritual. First, the Queen’s body will lie at rest in her smallest palace, at Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh, where she is traditionally guarded by the Royal Company of Archers, who wear eagle feathers in their bonnets. Then the coffin will be carried up the Royal Mile to St Giles’s cathedral, for a service of reception

Thankfully, her coffin was flown back to London. According to this, a train journey would have been difficult to organise if she had travelled by rail:

put on board the Royal Train at Waverley station for a sad progress down the east coast mainline. Crowds are expected at level crossings and on station platforms the length of the country – from Musselburgh and Thirsk in the north, to Peterborough and Hatfield in the south – to throw flowers on the passing train. (Another locomotive will follow behind, to clear debris from the tracks.) “It’s actually very complicated,” one transport official told me.

Coming by plane also enabled an extra day of viewing at Westminster Hall.

How the media probably found out

Informing the media is also a big part of Royal deaths, especially the Queen’s.

Radio and television channels had — and have — their response plans ready.

In the case of the Queen, the following more or less happened:

For many years the BBC was told about royal deaths first, but its monopoly on broadcasting to the empire has gone now. When the Queen dies, the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. At the same instant, a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates …

The BBC has a special, secret transmission system, RATS:

At the BBC, the “radio alert transmission system” (Rats), will be activated – a cold war-era alarm designed to withstand an attack on the nation’s infrastructure. Rats, which is also sometimes referred to as “royal about to snuff it”, is a near mythical part of the intricate architecture of ritual and rehearsals for the death of major royal personalities that the BBC has maintained since the 1930s. Most staff have only ever seen it work in tests; many have never seen it work at all. “Whenever there is a strange noise in the newsroom, someone always asks, ‘Is that the Rats?’ Because we don’t know what it sounds like,” one regional reporter told me.

Royal experts were at the ready because they were pre-booked a long time ago. Media outlets have had obituaries ready to go, with only minor updates for the death to be added:

All news organisations will scramble to get films on air and obituaries online. At the Guardian, the deputy editor has a list of prepared stories pinned to his wall. The Times is said to have 11 days of coverage ready to go. At Sky News and ITN, which for years rehearsed the death of the Queen substituting the name “Mrs Robinson”, calls will go out to royal experts who have already signed contracts to speak exclusively on those channels. “I am going to be sitting outside the doors of the Abbey on a hugely enlarged trestle table commentating to 300 million Americans about this,” one told me.

Radio stations were also prepared with suitable music:

For people stuck in traffic, or with Heart FM on in the background, there will only be the subtlest of indications, at first, that something is going on. Britain’s commercial radio stations have a network of blue “obit lights”, which is tested once a week and supposed to light up in the event of a national catastrophe. When the news breaks, these lights will start flashing, to alert DJs to switch to the news in the next few minutes and to play inoffensive music in the meantime. Every station, down to hospital radio, has prepared music lists made up of “Mood 2” (sad) or “Mood 1” (saddest) songs to reach for in times of sudden mourning. “If you ever hear Haunted Dancehall (Nursery Remix) by Sabres of Paradise on daytime Radio 1, turn the TV on,” wrote Chris Price, a BBC radio producer, for the Huffington Post in 2011. “Something terrible has just happened.”

Incredibly, all television presenters wore black immediately:

… there will be no extemporising with the Queen. The newsreaders will wear black suits and black ties. Category one was made for her. Programmes will stop. Networks will merge. BBC 1, 2 and 4 will be interrupted and revert silently to their respective idents – an exercise class in a village hall, a swan waiting on a pond – before coming together for the news. Listeners to Radio 4 and Radio 5 live will hear a specific formulation of words, “This is the BBC from London,” which, intentionally or not, will summon a spirit of national emergency

According to one former head of BBC news … The rehearsals for her are different to the other members of the family, he explained. People become upset, and contemplate the unthinkable oddness of her absence. “She is the only monarch that most of us have ever known,” he said. The royal standard will appear on the screen. The national anthem will play. You will remember where you were …

The passing of the Queen will be monumental by comparison. It may not be as nakedly emotional, but its reach will be wider, and its implications more dramatic. “It will be quite fundamental,” as one former courtier told me.

And so it turned out to be.

Media broadcasts

I’m still wrapping my head around 12 days of continuous news coverage focusing on the Queen.

Somehow, it never got boring.

That is because there were seven decades of historic reign to cover, as well as the years between 1926 — the year of the Queen’s birth — and 1952, when she succeeded George VI:

there will be an almighty psychological reckoning for the kingdom that she leaves behind. The Queen is Britain’s last living link with our former greatness – the nation’s id, its problematic self-regard – which is still defined by our victory in the second world war. One leading historian, who like most people I interviewed for this article declined to be named, stressed that the farewell for this country’s longest-serving monarch will be magnificent. “Oh, she will get everything,” he said. “We were all told that the funeral of Churchill was the requiem for Britain as a great power. But actually it will really be over when she goes.”

… The second Elizabethan age is likely to be remembered as a reign of uninterrupted national decline, and even, if she lives long enough and Scotland departs the union, as one of disintegration. Life and politics at the end of her rule will be unrecognisable from their grandeur and innocence at its beginning. “We don’t blame her for it,” Philip Ziegler, the historian and royal biographer, told me. “We have declined with her, so to speak.”

The obituary films will remind us what a different country she inherited. One piece of footage will be played again and again: from her 21st birthday, in 1947, when Princess Elizabeth was on holiday with her parents in Cape Town. She was 6,000 miles from home and comfortably within the pale of the British Empire. The princess sits at a table with a microphone. The shadow of a tree plays on her shoulder. The camera adjusts three or four times as she talks, and on each occasion, she twitches momentarily, betraying tiny flashes of aristocratic irritation. “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service, and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she says, enunciating vowels and a conception of the world that have both vanished.

Conclusion

In summary:

London Bridge is the Queen’s exit plan. “It’s history,” as one of her courtiers said. It will be 10 days of sorrow and spectacle in which, rather like the dazzling mirror of the monarchy itself, we will revel in who we were and avoid the question of what we have become.

It was an incredible time which galvanised the United Kingdom:

“I have to be seen to be believed,” is said to be one of her catchphrases. And there is no reason to doubt that her funeral rites will evoke a rush of collective feeling. “I think there will be a huge and very genuine outpouring of deep emotion,” said Andrew Roberts, the historian. It will be all about her, and it will really be about us. There will be an urge to stand in the street, to see it with your own eyes, to be part of a multitude. The cumulative effect will be conservative. “I suspect the Queen’s death will intensify patriotic feelings,” one constitutional thinker told me, “and therefore fit the Brexit mood, if you like, and intensify the feeling that there is nothing to learn from foreigners.”

That is quite true. The conclusion that most of us drew from television coverage was that no one does monarchy and ritual quite like Britain. We are still the greatest in that regard.

On Monday, September 19, four million television viewers tuning in from around the world to pay their respects agreed.

Today’s post was supposed to be a comprehensive retrospective of what people around the world experienced this week in seeing Queen Elizabeth II being laid to rest.

However, I have information and reflections for more than one post.

Today’s will look at the religious aspects and history of Westminster and some Royal funeral traditions.

Westminster’s religious history

One thing I learned is that the area that is called Westminster, which we connect with the Abbey and the Palace (where the Houses of Parliament meet) was originally a monastery with a church on the site.

‘West’ refers to the location being to the west of where most people were settled long before the Norman Conquest in 1066.

The word ‘minster’ is the Anglicised version of the Latin ‘monasterii’, ‘monasterium’ and ‘monasteriensis’, dating back to 669.

My curiosity was piqued when I read the inscription of the four tall candlesticks immediately flanking the Queen’s catafalque. Unfortunately, I do not have the full wording, but ‘Westmonasterii’ and ‘Petri’ are on them, gold lettering on a red border, just underneath where the large, thick beeswax candles sit.

Then came the story of how the monastery became linked to St Peter, the fisherman who became a bold Apostle preaching Christ after the first Pentecost.

In 2017, Cambridge University Press published a paper by Bernhard W Scholz, Sulcard of Westminster: Prologus de construccione Westmonasterii.

An extract reads, in part (emphases mine):

Sulcard, a monk of Westminster in the eleventh century, is the author of the first history of his monastery, the unprinted Prologus de construccione Westmonasterii. In this brief tract he describes the foundation of Westminster in the days, as he claims, of King Æthelberht of Kent, and the patronage and endowment extended by various benefactors, notably Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury and King Edward the Confessor. Sulcard also records the marvellous dedication of Westminster by St. Peter, patron of the church, and two other miracles worked in Westminster by the prince of the apostles.

Of the original church, replaced by the structure we know today, the Wikipedia entry for Westminster Abbey states:

According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the seventh century at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present church began in 1245 on the orders of King Henry III.[5]

Here is where St Peter comes in. A tradition dedicated to him continues today:

A late tradition claims that Aldrich, a young fisherman on the River Thames, had a vision of Saint Peter near the site. This seems to have been quoted as the origin of the salmon that Thames fishermen offered to the abbey in later years, a custom still observed annually by the Fishmongers’ Company

Sulcard‘s entry reads:

The sole work which Sulcard is known to have produced is the so-called Prologus de Construccione Westmonasterii (“Prologue concerning the Building of Westminster”), dedicated to Abbot Vitalis of Bernay (c. 1076—?1085) and hence datable to about 1080.[2] It relates the history of the abbey, beginning in the time of Mellitus, bishop of London (604—17), with the foundation of its first church on what was then Thorney Island by a wealthy Londoner and his wife. It concludes with the dedication of a new church erected by King Edward the Confessor (r. 1042–1066) for the monastery. In the dedication to Vitalis, Sulcard writes that he intended his work to serve as a ‘commemorative book’ (codex memorialis) for his house. He was primarily interested in promoting the cult of St. Peter, the abbey’s patron saint, who is said to have miraculously appeared in the early 7th century to dedicate the church in person. Two copies of the history are extant, the earliest being a chartulary from Winchester (c. 1300), BL, Cotton MS Faustina A.iii, fols. 11r—16v. The other copy is in BL, Cotton MS Titus A.viii, fols. 2r–5v. The title is not contemporary, but derives from the heading in the former chartulary, to which it serves as a prologue.[3]

Apart from relating local traditions about St. Peter’s miraculous involvement, the narrative of Sulcard’s prologus is relatively free of embellishments.[1]

It does not appear that the monks had an easy time of it on Thorney Island:

Thorney Island was the eyot (or small island) on the Thames, upstream of medieval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (commonly known today as the Houses of Parliament) were built. It was formed by rivulets of the River Tyburn, which entered the Thames nearby. In Roman times, and presumably before, Thorney Island may have been part of a natural ford where Watling Street crossed the Thames,[1] of particular importance before the construction of London Bridge.

The name may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon Þorn-īeg, meaning “Thorn Island”. [2]

Thorney is described in a purported 8th century charter of King Offa of Mercia, which is kept in the Abbey muniments, as a “terrible place”. In the Spring of 893, Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, forced invading Vikings to take refuge on Thorney Island.[3] Despite hardships and more Viking raids over the following centuries, the monks tamed the island until by the time of Edward the Confessor it was “A delightful place, surrounded by fertile land and green fields”. The abbey’s College Garden survives, a thousand years later, and may be the oldest garden in England.[4]

Since the Middle Ages, the level of the land has risen, the rivulets have been built over, and the Thames has been embanked, so that there is now no visible Thorney Island. The name is kept only by Thorney Street, at the back of the MI5 Security Service building; but a local heritage organisation established by June Stubbs in 1976 took the name The Thorney Island Society.

In 1831 the boundaries of the former island were described as the Chelsea Waterworks, the Grosvenor Canal, and the ornamental water in St James’s Park.[5]

Thorney Island is one of the places reputed to be the site of King Canute’s demonstration that he could not command the tides, because he built a palace at Westminster.

In 2000, the politician John Roper was created a Life peer and revived the name of Thorney in Parliament by taking the title Baron Roper of Thorney Island in the City of Westminster.[6]

Royal traditions at Westminster Hall

The Daily Mail has an excellent article on Westminster Hall’s history from 1087 to the present, beginning with William the Conqueror’s son, William II, or William Rufus.

The Queen’s lying in rest was another historic milestone. By September 15, just four days before her funeral, someone described it as a:

piece of history that will never be repeated.

Before the public viewing started, Westminster Abbey’s clergy and the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a 20-minute service, accompanied by the Abbey choir.

Although the Hall is unconsecrated ground, it nonetheless felt as if it were a church.

The hundreds of thousands of people who filed past over four days, until 6:30 a.m. on the morning of Monday, September 19, 2022, also respected it as such. The continuing silence was overwhelming in its beauty.

Although there are traditions relating to monarchs long ago, the Westminster Hall visitation is a relatively new one, as The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley tells us:

The modern lying-in-state was invented in 1910, for the funeral of Edward VII. No tickets were issued; rich and poor queued in torrential rain. As the doors opened at Westminster Hall, a work girl was heard to cry, “They’re givin’ ’im back to us!”

When the ceremony was repeated for George V in 1936, cynics sneered at its elitist “pomp”. The writer G K Chesterton advised them to open a history book. In aiming to modernise royalty by bringing George’s body closer to the people, he said, the court turned the clock back to the Middle Ages, to when kingship was more personal and tangible. The coffin of a medieval sovereign was generally topped with a waxwork effigy, so that even the lowliest subject could see what he looked like.

The body of a monarch was, in a sense, sacred, transformed by coronation into an instrument of God. But, like Doubting Thomas, we need to see to believe. Hence even as monarchy became more absolutist over time, better convinced of its divine rights, the principal actors still felt the need to put on a show.

France’s monarchy was even more open than ours. The public could watch Louis XIV and his family at Versailles:

Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, rose every morning, washed, shaved and dressed in front of an audience of around 100 people. Anyone could come to see him at Versailles; all you needed to get in w[ere] a hat and a sword, and the concierge did a nice sideline in selling both. Tourists could watch the royal family going to chapel, eating, even playing cards – you could say Versailles was the Center Parcs of its day, though reviews were scathing about the pickpocketing and the smell. The palace did not benefit from modern plumbing. People relieved themselves in the corridors. There’s a story that Marie Antoinette once stepped out for a walk and a woman in the window above emptied a chamberpot over her head.

Returning to Westminster Hall last week, Stanley says:

Let’s call it what it is: a pilgrimage. The body has been returned to the people; the people have come to see it, drawn by belief, by spectacle or raw instinct. When I entered Westminster Hall, I saw at once that it was a shrine, marked by candles and shrouded in silence. Phones were banned.

Alone at the coffin, some bowed, some curtsied, some crossed themselves. These ritual gestures, observed Chesterton back in 1936, are “not only more serious but more spontaneous” than the “ghastly mummery of saying a few words” … The poverty of the 21st-century imagination betrays the dead and the living. Tradition honours with awe, and it provides those left behind with the language and actions to articulate the inexpressible.

The person who willingly submits to the ritual of the lying-in-state, argued Chesterton, “may not be an exceptional person but at least he understands what is meant by an exceptional occasion.” By contrast, the bright spark who stands above it all forfeits the wisdom of the crowd, and by rejecting history, discards a part of themselves, too – so that they are ignorant even of their own identity. Worse, they are without hope. If you believe, as we are encouraged to believe today, that death is it, the funeral is a “goodbye” that can’t even be heard by the deceased. But if you believe, as the late Queen did, that there is a life after this one, then the rite is a demonstration of faith that things will continue.

To inhabit a tradition means not only to participate in it but to pass it on. Its survival is a tribute to the perseverance of life itself. We will be told that all we’ve seen is old hat; we’ll be told that even if it was grand, Queen Elizabeth was its last shout. Well, they’ve said that a million times before, and yet here we are lining the streets, or crowding around the television, bearing witness to an ancient institution that has the audacity to claim its origin from King Solomon.

Bemusement? It renders clarity. Despair? It offers hope.

I will return to faith in a moment.

Also writing for The Telegraph, Christopher Howse described the ‘sacred mysteries’ surrounding royal ceremonies:

The lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth, her coffin covered by the royal standard upon which rested the Imperial State Crown, made an argument hard to reduce to words. It argued for a constitutional monarchy and the ancient conventions surrounding it. Millions of people this week have quietly taken part in recognising that reality.

In religion, an old saw says: lex orandi lex credendi – the law of prayer is the law of belief. In other words, prayers and liturgy express implicit meanings behind them. Perform the rites and you learn what you believe.

Something similar operates in state ceremonial. I know that traditions are reinvented, and that the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall is little over a century old. But it incorporates remarkably old elements. In the Imperial State Crown, for example, is the sapphire of St Edward, said to have been part of the coronation ring of King Edward the Confessor, who came to the throne in 1042.

It is not too soon now … to consider the coronation of King Charles. There is antiquity here too, the inheritance of which should not be thrown away. The motet Zadok the Priest, for example, has been sung at every coronation since 973, for King Edgar. The words are based on the First Book of Kings (1:38): “Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king. And all the people rejoiced and said: God save the King! Long live the King! God save the King!”

… Some of my fears have been assuaged by the words of King Charles. He had once spoken of being the defender of faiths, rather than the faith of the Church of England implied by the abbreviations found on our coinage: FID DEF – fidei defensor. In his first address on coming to the throne, King Charles called the Church of England “the church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted”.

The Coronation takes place within the service of Holy Communion (even if films from 1953 omit images of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh receiving the Sacrament, as they did).

And, no matter what, we are better off with an established church in England than without one, precisely for these reasons:

Sometimes I find the Church of England annoying. Who doesn’t? But I’d rather have it as the Established Church than not … as the godly anointing of the head of state and supreme governor of the Church of England, the Coronation must retain the Christian elements that define it.

The only noise we heard was during the changing of the guard, which took place every 20 minutes. Unless one does it as a job, i.e. in front of one of the palaces, it is difficult to stand completely still in one place for much longer.

Lucy Denyer wrote an article for The Telegraph describing what an honour it was for her to see her husband as part of that guard:

My husband is – imperceptibly, infinitesimally – swaying. Backwards and forwards he goes, gently, so, so gently. Blink and you’d miss it; to all intents and purposes he is standing stock still, eyes front, unsmiling, upright. You’d only catch the tiny movement if you were looking very intently.

The rocking – forwards and backwards from the heel to the ball of the foot – keeps the blood flowing; stops him passing out. Watch really carefully and they’re all at it. 

The Queen herself also did that when standing for long periods of time. It does work.

She, too, commented on the silence:

Inside, under the bright lights hanging from the mediaeval beams, it is silent, bar the tapping of feet, the discreet click of an official photographer’s lens and once, the wail of a baby.

Suddenly comes the bang of sword on stone, the signal for the guard to change. It is precisely 12:20am and the four on the corners swing their swords in a graceful arc in perfect time, before making their careful way down the steps of the dais on which the late Queen’s catafalque stands …

My husband tells me afterwards that all he could think of, at this point, was not to trip, fall – and become a global meme.

She discussed the power of ritual and solemnity of a vigil:

A vigil can at once be grand or simple, awe-inspiring or strangely intimate – or all of those things – and Queen Elizabeth II’s is no exception. Ignore the velvet ropes and the electric lights – and the anoraks, trainers and clutched plastic bags – and this could be a moment from another time; it is timeless.

Soothing, too; the endless river of people filing by the coffin. Most slow, some bow, others curtsey, some blow kisses. Many linger after they have passed by, reluctant to leave this sanctuary that it has taken them so long to reach. Exhaustion is etched on faces; there is the odd dazed-looking child stumbling along between its parents.

Among this stream of awkward humanity, the officers on guard stand in marked contrast – statues, doing their duty. They have been practicing all week: their entrances and exits, their synchronised sword drills run through at home in spare half hours with umbrellas. Standing orders have been dusted off, breastplates refitted, helmets adjusted, boots polished. I have seen the pomp and ceremony hundreds of times, yet never carried out so silently; there is no shouting of orders in here.

The sword bangs once more; it is time to leave. On top of the coffin, the Black Prince’s Ruby suddenly flashes red. I pause, bow my head, say a prayer of thanks – for Her Majesty’s life, but also, in her death, to have been able to see this, to watch my husband carry out this enormous honour.

Returning to Windsor — and to God

After the Queen’s committal at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Tim Stanley wrote a moving tribute for The Telegraph:

The Committal was a homecoming. To Windsor and to God.

This is one of England’s holiest spots, burial site of kings, church of the Order of the Garter, it once hosted a splinter of Christ’s cross. Its slender pillars are like the trunks of ash trees. 

Beneath its canopy of silver lattice, the coffin was borne to the quire and rested at the catafalque, to a setting of Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills.”

Then the choir sang the Russian contakion of the departed, also performed at the Duke’s funeral, a nod to the family’s Orthodox heritage. Absent a eulogy, it was the music that expressed Her Majesty’s character and convictions, including a motet arranged by Sir William Henry Harris who, it is believed, taught the young Princess Elizabeth how to play the piano. As a child, she could often be found in the organ loft listening to him play for the services down below, especially at Christmas.

The words by John Donne crystallised the message of the readings: “Bring us, O Lord God… into the house and gate of Heaven”, where there shall be no darkness “but one equal light”, no noise “but one equal music” and one “equal eternity”.

Put another way, Elizabeth II lived as a queen but, in death, she is a soul equal to any other, returned to God. In an age of atheism, when Christians are persecuted across the world, it’s remarkable that perhaps history’s largest ever TV audience was given over to a statement of unafraid Christian belief – and over the course of the Committal, one cleric after another expressed the vision of their church with utter clarity.

There is the reality of mortality, as described by the Dean of Windsor in Psalm 103: “The days of man are but grass… As soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.”

There is the certainty of life after death, as stated in the prayers: “We rejoice at thy gracious promise to all thy servants, living and departed, that we shall rise again at the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” And there is the vision of triumph at the end of times, as the Dean quoted from Revelation: “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying.”

This passage was read at the funerals of the Queen’s grandparents and father, casting us back over an unbroken line of succession.

There was no qualification in any of these words, no Thought for the Day “some might say, others will feel differently”, but instead pure hope rooted in unshakable faith. The Queen has died, but her story does not end. That’s true for the monarchy, as well

Finally, the coffin lowered into the ground as the Dean continued: “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul.” The Garter King of Arms proclaimed the late Queen’s titles; a bagpiper played a lament from the North Quire Aisle, slowly walking into the distance, till the figure and his tune became a ghost in the ash forest. You might say that physically we were in England, but spiritually we were in Balmoral.

And the congregation awoke from its reverie into a new era …

Later, of course, the family would say a very private farewell to Queen Elizabeth, and she would be laid next to her beloved husband – concluding a set of rites that, like Russian dolls, grew smaller and more precious in form

For the public, the emotional journey to this moment was intense. Over 10 days, the lying in state allowed us to participate in the Queen’s farewell and, let’s be honest, make it a little bit about us. How British were the queues, we said, how democratic the whole thing.

But at the Abbey and the Chapel, we saw what this was really all about: namely the late Queen, her precious traditions and the principles they exist to pass on. Ultimately, the Committal articulated love – for country, for family, for horses and dogs, all the things that make a life worth living.

The Church of England is preoccupied by church growth programmes.

They do not need that at all.

What they need is a continuous replay of the Queen’s four days in Westminster Hall, her funeral at Westminster Abbey and her committal service at St George’s Chapel.

My message to Anglican clerics is: build it and they will come.

————————————————-

It is not too late to send the Royal Family a message of condolence:

My better half and I were in London yesterday. Friends told us that floral tributes were still being laid in the relevant parks and at Windsor Castle.

It is good to see that mourners are still remembering our late monarch, especially as the Royal Family now have a chance to grieve in private for the next few days.

May God bless them on that difficult journey.

Long live the King.

Reflections on the Queen continue next week.

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