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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?

In the United Kingdom, we had 12 days of wall-to-wall television coverage of the late Queen Elizabeth II and her family, which ended on Monday, September 19, 2022.

The commercial channels broadcast as usual but during the day BBC1, BBC2 and, throughout, the news channels covered her life and what the Royal Family were doing at this time.

GB News dropped all their advertising, substituting a memorial ident instead and, at other times, playing an instrumental version of the National Anthem accompanied by a photo montage of the Queen.

At first, it seemed unimaginable. Yes, our usual programmes were rescheduled for different days at different times, so we adjusted our video recorders to automatically catch up according to that day’s television guide.

Yet, the reality of it was that, by the day of the funeral, I’d become quite used to the coverage. GB News had part of their broadcasts showing the live queue — the Elizabeth Line — in Westminster Hall for viewers to watch while listening to interviews in the studio. The Elizabeth Line was never boring. There was always something to see.

By mandating 12 days of mourning, it seems the Queen wanted us to learn something about our constitutional monarchy as a national institution. It seems she wanted us to reset the way we think about it and how we pass that knowledge and history on to the next generation.

This post covers the two days before the Queen’s funeral on Monday, September 19, 2022, and looks at what Britons discovered throughout the days of mourning thus far.

What next for the monarchy?

If there were any lessons to be learned in the immediate aftermath of the Queen’s death, it was that the monarchy goes on.

Charles became King immediately and had his Accession Ceremony two days later. There were no obstacles. The crown passed to him automatically.

A relieved nation cried, ‘God save the King’ and ‘Hip, hip, hooray’.

On September 14, YouGov took a poll asking if the mourning period would change the way we perceive this ancient institution. Forty-four per cent said they thought it would change the UK in the long term for the better:

Bob Moran, The Telegraph‘s former cartoonist, was still upset that the Queen did not step in during the pandemic to call the Government to account over the sometimes fatal procedures at care homes, which are allegedy continuing in some of them:

Yet, most people interviewed on television and the clergy giving sermons at the church services remember with gratitude the Queen’s message on the night then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson went to St Thomas Hospital in London with coronavirus. Neither the Queen nor we knew it at the time her message was broadcast, but who can forget her closing words about lockdown, borrowed from the wartime Dame Vera Lynn song:

We’ll meet again.

The Queen was adamantly pro-vaccine and in 2021 said that people who didn’t get it should think of others instead of themselves. I have seen on Mark Steyn’s GB News show several people whose loved ones got the vaccine because of her words and later died of complications. The Government is giving each of those families £120,000 in compensation.

However, quibbles with the monarchy go much deeper than the pandemic. On September 15, The Telegraph addressed the issue of how monarchs attempted to stave off republicanism throughout the ages.

The 1990s were the worst years that the Queen saw during her reign. Princes Andrew and Charles divorced, Windsor Castle caught on fire and Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris.

Regardless, the Royal Family regrouped and returned to normality (emphases mine):

“Diana died at the end of August 1997 and by the time of the Queen’s golden wedding anniversary that November she was pretty much re-established,” says royal biographer Hugo Vickers. Fast forward 15 years, to the Diamond Jubilee, and the Royal family were popular as never before, enjoying a near 50-point lead in polls over anti-monarchists.

Though so much about the British monarchy can appear unchanging, it was a hard-won transformation, relying on careful reflection and updating after the calamities of the 1990s. In making such adjustments, the royal house showed it could learn not just from its own experience, but from the experience of centuries of fluctuating royal fortunes.

In order to keep republicanism at bay, it is essential for the Royal Family to remain visible:

“In this country,” says historian Andrew Roberts, author among others of a book on George III, “there are five areas that give Republicanism a chance to move from being a minority fetish into a mainstream threat.” The first four are disastrous relationships, religious meddling, political interference and money. But it is perhaps the last and simplest that is the most important: steadfast presence.

“Sheer visibility is tremendously important,” says Roberts. That enduring presence accounts for the astonishing popularity of Queen Elizabeth, he thinks, building on the legacy of her mother and father, who made such efforts to be visible to Britons even in the darkest days of the war. And absence has led perhaps to the darkest days of the monarchy, in the years following the death of Prince Albert, when Queen Victoria in her grief almost completely vanished from the public stage.

Centuries ago, money became a huge issue that still waxes and wanes today:

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is just the most notable example of a massed uprising at taxes levied by the king (in that case to support the Hundred Years’ War). But grumbling about paying for the royal house’s upkeep never went away. A key part of the rejuvenation of the House of Windsor’s popularity in the 1990s came after the Queen agreed to pay tax. “At one stroke it took away one of the main planks of republicanism,” says Roberts. Even today, some anti-monarchists are moaning about the cost of the Queen’s funeral, or the income the new Prince of Wales receives from the Duchy of Cornwall, but it has become far easier to defend the Crown on cash-terms. “It’s not the most gracious argument in favour of the monarchy,” says Roberts, “but the pocketbook is an important one.”

We all know what role religion played in British history as driven by Henry VII, Charles I and James II, so there is no need to elaborate further.

Another issue is — or was — the conflict between Parliament and the monarch. In 1649, Charles I made a fatal mistake:

He, though, committed the sin which would become unforgivable for his successors in the centuries to follow: disdaining parliament.

He was tried in Westminster Hall and executed on January 30, 1649, during the English Civil War:

Alienating, then suspending parliament was, of course, not the Stuart king’s only problem. But interfering with the nation’s political system was becoming an increasingly dangerous game to play. By the time James hot-footed it out of the country to be replaced by William of Orange, the era of kings by “divine right” had given way to kings approved by parliament. The constitutional monarchy had arrived.

Not that all monarchs understood. George III and prime minister Lord Bute impinged upon the supremacy of parliamentary power in the 1760s, drawing fierce criticism. “George became so unpopular in the 1760s that people pelted his carriage with dirt,” says Roberts.

George III learned how to recover the situation:

… he learned his lesson and, by the time of his descent into – and recovery from – madness, he had come to be loved for his personal qualities: fidelity to his wife, frugality and piety.

Fast-forwarding to the 20th century, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin insisted that Edward VIII abdicate. He got his way:

When it came to Wallis Simpson … Edward stayed by his woman and, on Stanley Baldwin’s insistence, lost the throne.

Fortunately, George VI and the Queen Mother resolved the constitutional crisis:

George VI and his own queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) were the ideal pair to succeed, setting the formula – visible, dutiful, steadfast – which so characterised their daughter’s long reign.

So far, Charles III has been doing the right things, says historian Hugo Vickers:

“of course King Charles will have to be very aware. But his first speech as King dealt immediately with many of them – his new role, what he can and can’t do [politically], about the Church of England, because there was talk about him wanting to be a defender of all faiths. It puts things to rest very quickly. It was very effective.” The result was an immediate bounce in popular support, with the number of those who think he will make a good king near doubling to 63 per cent.

While republicanism will never die, it is hoped that people will value the monarchy over an elected president:

… from today’s vantage point it seems unlikely that could be so serious as to prompt Britons to dispose of the monarchy altogether. Because ultimately, says Roberts, what makes us love it is not the individual, but the institution. “Even when individuals are unpopular, Britons recognise constitutional monarchy is a good idea, being a power above politics and therefore above politicians. And the British people like the idea of politicians not being at the top of the heap.”

Well said.

Funeral attire

To find out more about the traditions of the Royal Family’s funeral attire, I happened across a Telegraph article written in April 2021, after the Queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, died.

The Royal Family did not always wear black.

In fact, throughout the Middle Ages until 1560, at least, there was a convention of wearing white (emphases mine):

“white mourning” or deuil blanc … deployed by medieval royals and seen in portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots after she lost her father-in-law, mother and husband within months of each other in 1560 …

The modern convention of wearing black began three centuries later, with Queen Victoria upon the death of her husband Prince Albert. However, even she had gold thread spun into her dresses, as one can see in the photograph in the article:

“Mourning dress has been part of European royal culture for centuries, but it reached its peak in the 19th century with the influence of Queen Victoria, who set a standard for the rest of society to follow,” says Matthew Storey, curator at Historic Royal Palaces, which holds the Royal Ceremonial Dress collection. “When her beloved husband died in 1861 she abandoned the colourful clothes of her married life and, with the rest of the royal court, adopted black clothing as an outward sign of grief. Her subjects duly followed suit, causing a rush on suppliers of mourning fabric up and down the country.”

That was a time when death was something of a societal obsession and there were strict rules around the wearing of “widows’ weeds”. “Widows were required to wear black, then either white or mauve, for at least three years before being able to return to richly coloured clothing. Victoria chose never to leave mourning and wore her now iconic black dresses and white widow’s caps for the rest of her life,” Storey continues. There was no concession even at moments of celebration: “She even insisted that her daughter, Princess Alice, had an all black trousseau when she married in 1862.”

The mood oscillated from the dour to the unexpectedly glamorous; Victoria often wore her bridal veil with her black dresses and took to wearing a necklace containing a lock of Albert’s hair, but she also popularised striking jet jewellery. “Her clothing was anything but dowdy,” Storey confirms. “Every example in the collection is exquisitely made and highly embellished, as befitted her status. Victoria may have been a widow, but she was always a queen.”

Queen Victoria died in January 1901. Her son, Edward VII, reigned until his death in 1910. His wife, Queen Alexandra, began wearing purple, although black was still the favoured colour:

After Victoria’s death, mourning dress became even more opulent. An exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2014, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, included two exquisitely beautiful embellished purple gowns worn by Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, in the year after her mother-in-law’s demise. You’d really only know they denoted mourning if you were familiar with the strict dress codes of grief. And when Edward died, weeks before Royal Ascot in 1910, there was no question of cancelling, but attendees wore magnificent black outfits instead. That year’s event is now remembered as Black Ascot.

In 1938, when the Queen Mother’s mother, the Countess of Strathmore died, the Queen Mother was weeks away from joining George VI on a state visit to France. At that time, war was looming and Britain was still getting over the abdication of the King’s brother, Edward VIII. Under the circumstances, black seemed too gloomy. Something had to be done, so the Queen Mother enlisted the help of her couturier, the incomparable Norman Hartnell:

A black wardrobe simply wouldn’t do, as it was imperative to come bearing optimism.

Hartnell was the one who researched earlier monarchs and found the aforementioned portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots:

Within weeks he had scrapped the original colourful outfits intended for the tour and crafted an entirely white set of looks in their place.

The Queen has taken with her on her state visit to Paris a superb white wardrobe consisting of 12 gowns, seven coats… one cape, eight hats – and a lace parasol,” the Telegraph’s report from July 20 1938 read. “Created by leading London designer Norman Hartnell, it symbolises the links between the two countries.”

The report went on to explain that Hartnell had referenced the French Pompadour look and pannier, as well as English garden florals and Victorian silhouettes. Hartnell had the idea to revive the crinoline after being shown Winterhalter’s portraits of Queen Victoria and her family by the new king.

The Queen Mother became a fashion sensation:

Though the reason for the Queen’s all-white dressing was sombre, the reception to the wispy, lacy creations was rapturous. “No wardrobe of modern times has created greater interest than the state wardrobe chosen by the Queen for the visit to Paris,” another glowing Telegraph review reported, going on to publish sketches of the gowns in glorious detail. The autumn fashion collections shown later that year were heavily influenced by the Queen’s “white wardrobe” and her style more generally – Schiaparelli and Molyneux both included tartan as a nod to her Scottish heritage.

The Queen loved her white collection and the style muse status it had bestowed upon her so much that the following year she commissioned Cecil Beaton to photograph her at Buckingham Palace wearing the designs, resulting in a romantically optimistic set of portraits that do little to suggest that the clothes they capture are a symbol of mourning, nor that the Second World War is months away. The floaty, delicate look of Hartnell’s designs influenced the Queen Mother’s style for the rest of her life.

The Queen Mother’s husband, George VI, died in 1952. Although he had a chronic illness, no one expected him to die while Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were on holiday in Kenya. The Queen had no black dress to wear once she got off the plane in London.

Reports differ as to how a black outfit reached her. One Royal historian told GB News that an attendant was on hand when the plane reached Rome for refuelling. The Telegraph has a different account, intimating that she received mourning attire in London:

when the plane landed, a black dress had to be taken on board for her to change into, an incident that means that no royal reportedly now travels without a black outfit in their luggage, just in case. On alighting the plane, the 25-year-old queen looked elegant yet solemn in her dark coat, brooch and neat hat.

On the day of the funeral, the Queen Mother, the Queen and Princess Margaret wore long silk veils. The Telegraph has a photo of them:

At her father’s funeral, eight days later, the new queen, her mother, grandmother Queen Mary and sister Princess Margaret cast ethereal figures in their long black veils, said to be around 18 inches over the face and one and a half yards down the back. “There is no court regulation with regards to them,” the Telegraph had written in 1936, “but the practice of wearing them has always been observed at the funeral of a Sovereign.”

By the time the former Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, died in 1972, only Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Windsor wore a veil. The Queen and her mother opted for the turban, the stylish hat of the day for women:

It was notable, then, that at the funeral of the Duke of Windsor in 1972, the Royal family refrained from wearing veils. The abdicated king’s wife, Wallis Simpson, however, sported a couture coat and chiffon veil that Hubert de Givenchy had reportedly stayed up all night to make for her … By contrast, the Queen wore a black version of the turban style hats she loved at the time, adding Queen Mary’s Dorset Bow brooch.

When it came time for Prince Philip’s funeral, the Royal Family wore black, but the Queen quickly reverted to wearing her usual clothes afterwards.

Who waited to pay respects to the Queen

For many gathering to pay their respects to the Queen, a family death brought back a deep seam of emotion.

Although The Telegraph‘s Lauren Libbert watched proceedings from the comfort of her home, what she experienced seemed to ring true for a goodly number of those camping outside in the cold:

For me, at 44 and then again at 49, I watched my parents being taken from their home in a coffin and transported to their final resting place at the nearby cemetery. Watching Queen Elizabeth’s coffin make its journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh transported me right back to that heart-wrenching, inexplicable gut-punch of a feeling, remembering how it felt to know my beloved parent was inside and I’d never enfold them in my arms again.

It’s a sadness that has not gone unnoticed at home. “But you didn’t even know the Queen,” said my teenage son, noting my smudged eyeliner and tears when watching the news earlier this week.

“I know,” I replied. “But I really miss my mum and dad.”

He held me, but he was a bit baffled at the connection. Admittedly, so am I.

Other people, whether in the Elizabeth Line, Parliament Square or near Buckingham Palace, were hardcore attendees of other Royal occasions, as The Times reported. Keep in mind that the nightly temperatures turned distinctly autumnal, in the 50s Fahrenheit:

Mary-Jane Willows loves the sound of metal barriers clattering onto the streets of Westminster. “It means everything is getting organised,” she says.

It is 10pm on Thursday and Willows, 68, is settling down for a night’s sleep in a camping chair just off Parliament Square. She and her crew of royal superfans are zipped into military bivvy bags and wrapped in foil blankets — at that point of the week they were not allowed to use tents or sleeping bags for security reasons.

It is a hardcore existence, but they will endure. Because on Monday, for the Queen’s funeral, they will be in the “best spot in the world”.

Just half a mile away there is another camp, also in the best spot in the world. They arrived “on site”, on the Mall and overlooking Buckingham Palace, the previous Thursday. And they came with “equipment”: bin liners and trolleys jammed with Union Jack flags, hand warmers, underwear, first-aid kits, torches, baby wipes, wine gums and corned beef sandwiches. They have been there since.

These two groups are the most dedicated royal watchers on the planet, bound by births, weddings, jubilees and deaths, and held together by WhatsApp groups and meme-sharing. They are always the first ones to arrive, pitching up on virgin pavement, knackered, cold and in it for the long haul.

John Loughrey, 67, and his friends on the Mall, Sky London, 62, and Maria Scott, 51, have done weddings together (Cambridge, Sussex, York, York), births (George, Charlotte, Louis), jubilees (Diamond, Platinum) and deaths (Diana, Princess of Wales; the Queen).

“If you want to be part of the gang you’ve got to be with the gang,” says London. “It’s the camaraderie. It’s seeing history and being part of it.”

However, whether remembering family losses or cadging the best seat in the house, as it were, how do these people view Britain?

Rob Johns, a politics professor at the University of Essex, claims to have the answer.

I’m not so sure.

He interviewed 400 mourners by the time The Guardian interviewed him on Saturday, September 17. Johns said:

… it is less a case of royalists simply wanting to mourn the Queen in person, and more “a collective gathering that is as much about the queue as it is about reaching the end of all the queueing”.

This is the part about which I have doubts:

Who would be willing to wait outdoors for as long as 24 hours , braving the elements along the Thames, for a few seconds alongside the Queen’s coffin – and why?

Now, as the Queen’s lying in state in Westminster approaches its final hours before Monday’s state funeral, researchers believe they have found the answer. A narrow majority vote Conservative, almost two-thirds backed remain and most of them are enjoying a feeling of “subdued positivity” as they wait in line for hours.

Really? I don’t know how one could wait outdoors in the cold for a day and support EU supremacy over our monarchy.

With history and contemporary background covered, let us move on to what happened last weekend.

September 17

On Saturday, September 17, the King was back at work.

He had successfully completed his visits to the component nations of the United Kingdom during the mourning period under a plan called Operation Spring Tide. It derives its name from a particularly high tide in springtime known as king tide.

ITV reports that there were sub-operations to Spring Tide:

Scotland (Operation Kingfisher), Wales (Operation Dragon) and Northern Ireland (Operation Shamrock).

In London, Operation London Bridge continued apace.

The Queen’s state funeral is the first such event to be held since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.

However, unlike Churchill’s funeral, the Queen’s was mammoth by comparison. Police forces from around the UK travelled to London to participate in maintaining order. Only two were exempt.

The numbers of military engaged were also unprecedented.

Operation London Bridge required meticulous logistical planning to make sure everyone in the capital, including visiting heads of state and other dignitaries, were kept safe.

In the morning, the King visited members of the police and military working all hours to make this a success:

He went on a walkabout at the Elizabeth Line to express his appreciation of people’s willingness to pay tribute to his late mother. William Prince of Wales and Sophie Countess of Wessex met mourners in other parts of the queue:

Then it was time for the King to return to Buckingham Palace for more meetings and a reception:

Early that evening, the Queen’s grandchildren — The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Sussex, Princess Beatrice (Andrew), Princess Eugenie (Andrew), Lady Louise (Edward), Viscount Severn (Edward), Zara Tindall (Anne) and Peter Phillips (Anne) — held a Vigil of the Princes in Westminster Hall. I have added the relevant Royal parent’s name in parentheses for clarity.

The aforementioned ITV article says that the events taking place at Westminster Hall were run under Operations Marquee and Feather:

This covers the four days of the Queen’s lying-in-state, focusing on the arrangements inside Westminster Hall.

It’s expected to begin on Wednesday, September 14, ending on Sunday before her funeral the next day.

Senior royals are also expected to pay their respects once more here, standing guard in a tradition known as the Vigil of the Princes.

It is linked to Operation Feather, the arrangements for the public who are expected to queue in their thousands for an opportunity to see the monarch’s coffin as they did 20 years ago for her mother.

Here is the beginning of the grandchildren’s Vigil of the Princes. Members of the Royal Family watched from a viewing point on one side of the hall. Once again, the public could file past:

This video from the Royal Family’s YouTube channel has the full vigil, which was very moving indeed. Viscount Severn, who is only 14, was so composed for someone so young. As with other videos from this channel, click ‘Watch on YouTube’ and it should play, at least for the near future. If not, try the link in their tweet:

Here are some close-ups:

This video is of the young Royals filing out afterwards:

The days of mourning at Westminster Hall nearly passed without incident. On Friday, a man suddenly appeared in the queue outside and exposed himself to two women from behind. He jumped into the Thames but quickly got out. Police were on hand to arrest him. The Guardian reported:

… a man appeared at Westminster magistrates court following allegations that two women were sexually assaulted while they were waiting in the queue to see the Queen lying in state.

On Friday evening, a man inside Westminster Hall was arrested after lunging towards the Queen’s coffin. The Telegraph reported:

The individual was reportedly taken to the floor by Metropolitan Police officers and arrested.

The Met told ITV: “At 22:00hrs on Friday 16 September officers from the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command detained a man in Westminster Hall following a disturbance. He was arrested for an offence under the Public Order Act and is currently in custody”.

Viewers of the BBC’s live stream reported that the feed went down for 10 minutes.

The aforementioned Guardian article says:

Broadcasters showing the procession of mourners cut away from the scene and instead showed the view from outside parliament.

There are always simple ways to set things right. In this case, broadcasters were prepared with a still of the Palace of Westminster.

The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole looked at the bigger picture of the mourners and tweeted a poke at the anti-monarchist metropolitan elite:

September 18

Sunday, September 18, put the logistics of Operation London Bridge to the test as 500 heads of state and other dignitaries arrived in London for the Queen’s funeral.

As it would have been impossible for all of them to have been driven in separate cars to Buckingham Palace that day and to Westminster Abbey on Monday, the plan was to ‘pod’ the leaders into private coaches, painted in plain white.

Scheduled pickups of the great and the good at designated points in central London helped the plan run smoothly and safely.

Only Joe Biden was exempt. The Beasts — one operational and one decoy — were here along with his usual security motorcade.

France’s Emmanuel Macron arrived with his wife Brigitte early enough to do an incognito walkabout during the afternoon:

Meanwhile, somehow with the permission of Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Chinese were allowed into Westminster Hall. Hoyle had pledged to MPs that they would not be allowed anywhere on the parliamentary estate:

Conservative MPs were less than impressed:

That evening, after a brief shower, a beautiful rainbow appeared, just as a double rainbow did when the flags were lowered to half mast over Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle on the day of the Queen’s death. This must mean something, surely:

The King and Queen Consort held a formal reception for the dignitaries at Buckingham Palace that evening.

Meanwhile, soldiers participating in the funeral were busy polishing medals and sewing on badges:

A few newspapers printed the last photographic portrait of the Queen for Monday’s editions. Ranald Mackechnie took the photo in May, a few weeks before her Platinum Jubilee celebrations:

The Telegraph had an article about the portrait. As ever, the Queen’s choice of jewelry told the story:

The Queen, who is dressed in a dusky dove blue dress with her hair neatly curled, is wearing her favourite three-strand pearl necklace, pearl earrings and her aquamarine and diamond clip brooches which were an 18th birthday present from her father George VI in 1944.

The two art deco-style pieces, worn one below the other, were made by Boucheron from baguette, oval and round diamonds and aquamarines.

The Queen wore the brooches when she addressed the nation on the 75th anniversary of VE Day in 2020 and for her Diamond Jubilee televised speech in 2012.

The image was taken by photographer Ranald Mackechnie, who also took the Jubilee portrait of the Queen released to mark the start of national festivities of her milestone 70-year reign.

I cannot help but agree with The Star‘s ‘Kingdom United’. Thank you, your Majesty, for these 12 days of mourning:

The Independent was less sure about ‘Kingdom United!’ They wrote of a ‘turning point’:

The Guardian showed us a window of a house in Windsor and how the world was descending there and in London:

The i paper also focused on a world farewell:

The Financial Times took a final look at Westminster Hall:

In closing, The Metro published my favourite portrait of the Queen after she was inducted into the Order of the Garter. Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988) painted the portrait in 1955:

It is simply timeless, as is its subject.

I hope to cover the funeral and committal services in their entirety tomorrow.

To commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Accession Day on Sunday, February 6, The Telegraph republished its front page of Thursday, February 7, 1952:

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The text of the lead article in the left hand column reads as follows:

HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE VI DIED IN HIS SLEEP AT SANDRINGHAM HOUSE IN THE EARLY HOURS OF YESTERDAY MORNING. A SERVANT FOUND HIM DEAD IN BED AT 7:30 A.M. AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM SANDRINGHAM REPEATED IN A SPECIAL EDITION OF THE LONDON GAZETTE LAST NIGHT, SAID:

The King, who retired last night in his usual health, passed peacefully away in his sleep early this morning.

Princess Elizabeth, who immediately became Queen, was informed of her father’s death while she was at the Royal hunting lodge near Nyeri in Kenya. A thunderstorm delayed for two hours the departure of the plane which is to bring her to London, where she is expected at 4:30 p.m. to-day.

The Accession Council, which consists of members of the Privy Council summoned with others, “notables of the Realm” such as the Lord Mayor of London, to act on the demise of the Crown, met at 5 p.m. yesterday to decide on the accession proclamation. This will be read at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. James’s Palace, at Temple Bar and on the steps of the Royal Exchange in the City.

The Queen, who is 25, is expected to take the Royal oath before a second meeting of the Council to-day. She was proclaimed Queen Elizabeth II in Ottawa yesterday. Prince Charles automatically becomes Duke of Cornwall.

Mr. Churchill will broadcast on all B.B.C. wavelengths at 9 o’clock to-night for 15 minutes.

OUT SHOOTING ON PREVIOUS DAY

The King, who was 56 and in the 14th year of his reign, was born at Sandringham. During what proved to be his last stay there he was out shooting on Tuesday morning and afternoon, and appeared to be in good health. In the evening, he walked in the grounds.

The Queen-Mother and Princess Margaret accompanied him when he went to Sandringham last Friday. On the previous day he had gone to London Airport to see his elder daughter and the Duke of Edinburgh leave for Nairobi.

Queen Mary was informed at Marlborough House of her son’s death. The Duke of Gloucester, who was at his home in Barnwell Manor, Northants, went to Sandringham on hearing the news. The Princess Royal was told at St. James’s Palace. The Duchess of Kent returned from Germany last night and the Duke of Windsor leaves New York in the Queen Mary to-day.

The Prime Minister and Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, Home Secretary, were given the news by telephone. A Cabinet meeting was held. The House of Commons and the House of Lords met formally for two minutes and adjourned until after the Accession Council, when M.P.s and Peers began to take the Oath of Allegiance to the new monarch. The two Chambers are expected to meet on Monday for addresses of condolence and then adjourn until Feb. 19.

Subject to the wishes of the new Queen, the body of King George will lie in state in Westminster Hall from Monday until the funeral, the date for which has not been fixed. Carpenters at Sandringham finished midday the coffin of oak from the estate last night. 

CINEMAS AND THEATRES CLOSED

The effect of the news from Sandringham was felt immediately throughout the nation. All cinemas were closed and the Lord Chamberlain directed that theatres should be shut for the day and also on the day of the funeral of the King. B.B.C. programmes were cancelled except for news bulletins. There will be a restricted programme from to-day until after the funeral. The Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s closed, courts adjourned and a number of public dinners and other functions were postponed. Flags in every town were at half-mast.

All sport stopped except for the four Football Association Cup ties. Saturday’s Rugby Union International between England and Ireland at Twickenham has been postponed. Football League and Rugby League fixtures will be played as arranged. National Hunt racing was suspended.

As soon as the news became known a crowd began to gather outside Buckingham Palace and was there until late at night. Ambassadors were calling throughout the day to sign the visitors’ book as an official expression of their sorrow, and messages of sympathy flowed in from every quarter.

Mr. Churchill issued a statement from 10, Downing Street last night, asking that there should be no public gathering at London Airport when the Queen arrives from Kenya.

A few historical notes follow:

London Airport became Heathrow Airport in 1966.

– The Lord Chamberlain is the most senior officer of the Royal Household.

– The Duke of Gloucester at the time was Prince Henry, the King’s brother; he, too, was born at Sandringham.

– The BBC programmes at the time were exclusively on the radio — or wireless, as the British say.

The Telegraph‘s article about their front page from 1952 has a lot of photos and more news items from the days before and after the King’s death. History lovers will find them fascinating.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne were young children at the time; the family lived at Clarence House:

On 31 January 1952, 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth bid farewell to her children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, at Clarence House as she departed for a tour of the Commonwealth that was planned to include visits to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Princess Elizabeth and her consort were standing in for her father, who had been in poor health from lung cancer:

The couple were standing in for the King, who had been battling illness for some time as they aimed to strengthen the relationship between the Commonwealth. Little did they know that they would not meet him again …

Final farewell: Against medical advice King George VI – along with Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother – sees off the young princess on her first royal tour of the Commonwealth. The Telegraph reports that the “King looks well.”

The Commonwealth tour began in Nairobi and ended in Kenya:

Greetings from England: The young Princess – in a mauve, blue and pink calf-length frock – greets citizens of Nairobi alongside the Duke of Edinburgh at a garden party on the first afternoon of the Commonwealth tour.

Calm Before the Storm: The couple explores the grounds of the lodge, gifted to them from the people of Kenya. The day’s highlights include seeing a herd of 30 elephants.

Winston Churchill said that the Queen was ‘just a child’:

A face that reflects the nation: Churchill in top hat returns from the Accession Council at St James’ Palace, summoned automatically on the death of the monarch. The Prime Minister was brought to tears upon the news of the King’s passing, remarking that the new Queen was “just a child”.

I read elsewhere that he was sceptical about meeting regularly with her to discuss affairs of state but was pleasantly surprised at her mastery of the subject matter.

Churchill, his deputy Prime Minister (and eventual successor) Anthony Eden and the previous Prime Minister Clement Attlee met the Queen at London Airport:

Left a Princess, returns a Queen: Queen Elizabeth II lands at London (Heathrow) airport at 4:30pm, greeted by Churchill, Eden and Attlee, among others. The Queen was brought suitable mourning clothes by an aide before alighting from the plane.

The Royal couple returned briefly to Clarence House before leaving for Sandringham:

Returning to Clarence House: The Queen is met by silent crowds as she travels from the Mall to her residence with her husband. The royal standard is unfurled for the first time over Clarence House as she approaches her home …

Through the gates: The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are saluted by a policeman as they arrive at the Jubilee Gate of Sandringham House, two days after the King’s death. After greeting her mother and sister, she and the Duke head to the room where her father lay.

This is how the King’s coffin was transported to London:

Taken to the church: George VI’s body, guarded by keepers from his estate, lies in the Church of St Mary Magdalene in the grounds of Sandringham. He was taken from the House at dusk with his family following in procession.

Final journey begins: Five days after arriving in Sandringham, Elizabeth makes her way to Wolferton Station to take the King’s body to London. Crowds gather to watch the new Queen and her sister pass by.

Last stop: People line the streets in the rain to see the coffin in the capital. George’s body is carried from the train at King’s Cross Station and taken on a three-mile journey to Westminster Hall. On the coffin rests the Imperial State Crown and a wreath from the Queen Mother …

Lying in state: George VI lies in Westminster Hall. Over the next few days, 300,000 people would come to pay their respects, braving the February snow and a queue that backed up to Vauxhall Bridge.

Westminster Hall is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster and is attached to the main building which houses both chambers of Parliament.

The Queen Mother lay in state there; I was one of 200,000 Britons who paid their respects in 2002.

The Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret went to Buckingham Palace:

Day of mourning: The Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, clad in veils, travel down from Sandringham. They watch the procession at King’s Cross Station, before ending their journey at Buckingham Palace.

London’s streets were lined with mourners:

Packed London streets: Members of the public pay their respects as the procession bearing George VI’s coffin enters New Palace Yard from Parliament Square. The coffin was carried on a gun-carriage by the Royal Horse Artillery.

Three hundred thousand people paid their respects at Westminster Hall:

Lying in state: George VI lies in Westminster Hall. Over the next few days, 300,000 people would come to pay their respects, braving the February snow and a queue that backed up to Vauxhall Bridge.

The King’s funeral was held in Windsor. The funeral train left from Paddington Station.

The funeral service was brief:

Three Queens in mourning: Wearing black veils, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mary and The Queen Mother at the King’s funeral. The service took place at St George’s Chapel in the walls of Windsor Castle, lasting less than half an hour.

George VI lies buried beneath St George’s Chapel:

Homecoming: The funeral procession arrives at Windsor Castle. Around 1,400 people were present to watch George’s coffin descend into the Royal Vaults beneath St George’s Chapel.

That concludes the story of the death of the Queen’s father, much loved by his subjects.

I am grateful to The Telegraph for that walk through history.

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