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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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On Monday, September 19, 2022, the United Kingdom held its first state funeral since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.

The public viewing of the Queen’s casket at Westminster Hall ended at 6:30 a.m.:

I am certain that more than 250,000 people filed past in four days in London, because in 2002, 200,000 filed past her mother’s coffin in three days. I was one of them. It was an unforgettable experience.

The Sky News article had more numbers before the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey began:

The Mayor of London’s office said an estimated 80,000 people were in Hyde Park, 75,000 in ceremonial viewing areas and 60,000 on South Carriage Drive.

Overall numbers will be much higher as crowds formed on virtually the entire route to Windsor, where Thames Valley Police said 100,000 people had turned out.

The Telegraph reported much higher numbers for Westminster Hall. These seem more realistic to me:

The four-day lying-in-state ceremony has seen more than a million mourners packing the banks of the Thames, waiting in a queue which, at its peak, took 24 hours and stretched 10 miles, beyond London Bridge to Southwark Park.

On the final day, Westminster Hall was attended by dozens of foreign leaders and royals who have arrived in London ahead of the state funeral, which starts at 11am.

They included Joe Biden, the US President, Emmanuel Macron, the French leader, Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and his wife Michelle, King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain, and King Phillipe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

On Sunday morning, the Government warned people not to travel to the queue “to avoid disappointment”.

Another Telegraph article had more statistics about the Elizabeth Line (emphases mine):

At an average queueing time of 12 hours – perhaps even more – they had clocked up a total of 4.8 million hours between them as they shuffled forward, uncomplainingly, in the sunshine, and in the cold, and in the dark. It means that since the late Queen’s lying in state began last Wednesday, her people had spent a cumulative 550 years saying their final thank you.

And if each of them entered the winding, folding queue at its end in Southwark Park, they would have walked 4 million miles between them, the equivalent of 153,846 marathons.

The fact that all of them knew how arduous the wait would be, having been given ample warning, is an even more reliable measure of how much Queen Elizabeth meant to them.

From children in push-chairs to pensioners and even global celebrities, they patiently waited their turn to spend only a few minutes in the presence of the late Queen’s coffin, almost all of them pausing to bow or curtsy, many of them turning away in tears.

As one of my readers, dearieme, pointed out, this shows the trust our Queen had in her subjects and foreign visitors:

How often in the history of civilisations would governments, here or elsewhere, have allowed – even encouraged – huge mobs of the public to congregate, and trust largely to their natural instincts to keep themselves in order?

I think the answer might be “rarely”.

Douglas Murray pondered all of the above in his Telegraph article: ‘Our late Queen’s final act was to bring her nation and the world deeply together’.

Excerpts follow:

The passing of Elizabeth II is remarkable for many reasons. But just one of them is the way in which the Queen’s final act seems to have been to bring her nation deeply together.

There is the literal way in which that has happened, with the mini-nationalists across Britain ceasing – for a moment at least – their relentless task of trying to tear our country apart. The Scottish nationalists observed the death of our monarch without a series of “buts”. Even Sinn Fein paid tribute and passed condolences to the Queen’s son and heir – an act that would have been unthinkable beforehand.

People have rightly remarked on the way in which hundreds of thousands of people have queued to pay their own personal respects to the late Queen. But almost as remarkable is the way in which other nations around the world, as well as their media, have mourned her death

The Queen leaves behind a Commonwealth that has been united in mourning – hardly the expected reaction if she had been the cruel tyrant of the New York Times’s imagination

What is more, although the dissenters have received an extraordinary amount of attention, more extraordinary by far is how united the world’s response has been.

France, for instance, is not a country known for its love of monarchy. But on the death of Queen Elizabeth the French political and media class were united in paying tribute to her. She was honoured on the cover of almost every French magazine and periodical, as she was across the European and world media.

This reaction is largely a tribute to a reign of unparalleled length and dignity, a life given to the service of the country and the deepening of alliances with our friends and allies. But it also serves as a reminder of the way in which Britain is regarded around the world. With the exception of a few raucously noisy malcontents, we find that most people do not regard Britain as some terrible tyrannical power, either now or in history. Most see us, rightly, as having been among the fairer, certainly more benign, world powers

This is the Britain that is still influential both in its impact abroad and also in the lives of its citizens. I doubt that there has been a figure in history whose death has led to such a voluntary outburst of feeling. There may have been despots whose death had to be mourned by their citizens and subjects, but there can have been few, if any, who have ever produced such willing devotion.

And there is a lesson in this for our institutions, and for institutions and nations around the world: people are loyal to institutions that are loyal to them. Break any part of that pact and you break the whole; sustain it and you sustain the whole.

Queen Elizabeth II swore an oath to this country as a young woman, and it was an oath she kept until her dying day. That loyalty is what is being honoured and mirrored today: the respect of people around the world for a life of service and duty. Something to remember, certainly. But something to emulate and live up to as well.

On the subject of tributes from abroad, a Belgian created this inspired photo montage of the Queen:

The next two short videos are well worth watching. The first is about Elizabeth II’s ‘Queenhood’, probably written by the poet laureate with footage from her coronation. The second is a film montage of her entire life from beginning to end:

Operation London Bridge — the Queen’s funeral plan — was now in its final phase in the capital and at Windsor Castle.

A military procession arrived at Westminster Hall to take the Queen for her final time to Westminster Abbey.

A new bouquet of pink and purple flowers with foliage and herbs — rosemary for remembrance and myrtle from the plant which supplied the sprigs for her wedding — replaced the white wreath for her lying in state:

Eight pallbearers from the military carefully placed her coffin onto a gun carriage. Naval ratings holding onto ropes in front and in back guided the gun carriage on its way.

This tradition began with Queen Victoria’s funeral, which took place in January 1901. Horses were supposed to transport the gun carriage, but part of it snapped off in the cold, thereby making it impossible. Prince Louis Battenberg, who was Prince Philip’s grandfather, came up with the solution, which, he said, had operated satisfactorily during the Boer War:

If it is impossible to mend the traces you can always get the naval guard of honour to drag the gun carriage.

The tradition continued throughout the 20th century:

The gun carriage is part of the materiel of the King’s Troop, commanded for the first time by a woman, Captain Amy Hooper. She told The Telegraph that she was in Canada when the Queen’s death was announced:

“BRIDGE, BRIDGE, BRIDGE,” the text stated. “Operation LONDON BRIDGE has been activated. Initiate telephone cascade. All personnel are to return to camp”

She was in Calgary when the news broke, along with soldiers exercising alongside Canadian mounted units. The British party was flying back to the UK within five hours

Soldiers as far away as Turkey and America had to cancel their family holidays and return to the UK

On Monday, she will be leading the gun team in Hyde Park for the Queen’s funeral.

King’s Troop, a unit of about 160 soldiers with an equal split of men and women, has one of the most important ceremonial roles in the British armed forces.

Their six 13-pounder quick-fire guns, built between 1913 and 1918, all of which have seen active service in the First and Second World Wars, are used regularly for royal salutes in Hyde Park, Green Park or Windsor Great Park for State Occasions and to mark royal anniversaries and royal birthdays …

The gun carriage is known as the George Gun Carriage, and carried King George VI’s coffin from Sandringham Church to Wolferton Station in February 1952. It was also used in the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002.

Queen Elizabeth’s funeral had more troops and regiments than had ever been gathered at one time.

These included troops from around the Commonwealth, particularly Canada and Australia:

The soldiers walked at a 75 beat per minute pace, which is slow and difficult to sustain.

The Times reported on the use of a metronome, mimicked on the day by drum beats to ensure proper timing:

Military chiefs have been told to “up their game” for the Queen’s funeral today and listen to a metronome at 75 beats per minute to ensure the right pace during the procession.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the defence staff, admitted to nerves but said an enormous amount of planning for the event had gone on for “a very long time”. He said more than 10,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women would perform their “last duty” to the Queen during the day’s events.

Queen Elizabeth wished to have her funeral at Westminster Abbey because she had been married and crowned there.

The last monarch to have a funeral at the Abbey was George II on November 13, 1760. The other monarchs had theirs at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Queen’s children along with Princes William and Harry walked in the procession to the Abbey.

Meanwhile, heads of state and dignitaries took their places inside. Charity workers also were seated.

The Queen Consort and the Princess of Wales arrived with Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7:

The procession arrived at the Abbey and the pallbearers carefully carried the Queen’s coffin inside:

You can find the Order of Service here:

The Times has an excellent article on the service.

You can see the procession from Westminster Hall and the full funeral service. As with the other Royal Family YouTube links I have posted, if you get a message saying it cannot be viewed, click on  ‘Watch on YouTube’ or this tweet:

The Queen chose the music, which held particular significance to her and to the Abbey:

Pardon the irreverence, but this is an aerial view of the seating plan in the transept. Look how far back Joe Biden was. Apparently, his Beasts and motorcade got caught up in traffic, although he arrived before the service began. By contrast, the dignitaries who took the white coaches in the ‘podding’ system got there on time. Even if he hadn’t been late, he would still have been seated in the same place.

The altar is to the left and, out of shot, to the right are more seats for guests:

https://image.vuukle.com/7e30ba7f-4b3a-4ae2-b29a-1c92f7219cf8-4544ff54-d68d-45f4-a999-a193e9dbf19b

Likely sitting out of shot was, ironically, The Guardian‘s editor, Kath Viner:

Guido Fawkes has a quote from one of her recent editorials. I cannot bear to cite it in full, so here are the first and last sentences:

Royal rituals are contrived affairs meant to generate popular attachment to a privileged institution and to serve as reminders of a glorious past … How much Britain will be changed once this moment floats past the country is as yet unknown.

Guido commented (emphasis his):

Of course that didn’t stop the Guardian’s editor Kath Viner accepting a ticket to the funeral from the “privileged institution” herself. Maybe she’s sentimental…

Another hypocrite turned up, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, she of the second independence referendum.

The Times has a photo of her and her husband, Peter Murrell, along with a few quotes:

Nicola Sturgeon has said it was an “honour to represent Scotland” as leaders from across the world joined the royal family and other mourners at the state funeral.

The first minister was among some 2,000 mourners at Westminster Abbey along with leaders of the other main Scottish political parties. She spoke of a “final and poignant goodbye to a deeply respected and much-loved monarch”.

As I listened to the liturgy, I could not help but think that this is the last time we will hear language from the King James Version of the Bible and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer at a service for the Royals. How I will miss it. I hope I am wrong.

There was one prayer from an even earlier version of the Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Cranmer’s, from 1549. This was put to music. The choir did it full justice:

THOU knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears unto our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee. Amen.

This was the Bidding Prayer:

O MERCIFUL God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who hast taught us, by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our sister doth; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which thy wellbeloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our mediator and redeemer. Amen.

The entire liturgy was a lesson about faith and salvation. Even an unbeliver could not miss it.

I pray that it works on the hearts and minds of those in attendance who are indifferent.

The Queen always liked Psalm 42 for its reference to the hart, which reminded her of Scotland:

LIKE as the hart desireth the waterbrooks : so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God : when shall I come to
appear before the presence of God?

My tears have been my meat day and night : while they daily say unto me, Where is
now thy God?

Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself : for I went with the
multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;

In the voice of praise and thanksgiving : among such as keep holyday.

Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul : and why art thou so disquieted within
me?

Put thy trust in God : for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his countenance.

Prime Minister Liz Truss read the second Lesson, John 14:1-9a:

LET not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.

After Psalm 23 was sung, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon followed:

Near the end, clergy from the main Christian denominations recited their own prayers in thanksgiving for the Queen’s long reign of service.

The Abbey’s Precentor then recited a prayer from John Donne (1573-1631):

BRING us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.

After the blessing, the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry sounded The Last Post:

The congregation sang two verses of the National Anthem.

The funeral service closed with a poignant military lament, Sleep, dearie, sleep, performed by the Queen’s Piper, Warrant Officer Class 1 (Pipe Major) Paul Burns. He stood on a balcony overlooking the congregation. Words cannot describe it.

This video has brief highlights from the funeral:

After the funeral ended, the Queen’s coffin resumed its place on the gun carriage for a procession past Whitehall, down The Mall, then past Buckingham Palace, finishing at Wellington Arch on Constitution Hill.

A gun salute also took place:

The Royals walked with the military, as before. This was a long walk.

Every person in this procession has seen active military service. I put that in bold, because some living overseas think that these are ‘toy soldiers’, as it were. They are anything but.

Here they are in front of Buckingham Palace. Note that the Queen’s household are standing in front of the gates in their normal working clothes to pay their respects:

The horses leading the procession were gifts to the Queen from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), or the Mounties. The Queen was their honorary commissioner.

The Times reported:

George, Elizabeth, Darby and Sir John are the latest in a long line of horses given by Canada to the Queen and ridden by senior royals, including King Charles and the Princess Royal, during the annual ceremony of Trooping the Colour …

In 1969, the RCMP presented her with Burmese, a seven-year-old black mare who went on to become the Queen’s favourite horse.

She rode her at Trooping the Colour for 18 years, including in 1981 when Marcus Sarjeant, then 17, shot six blank rounds at the Queen as she was travelling down The Mall to the parade that marks her official birthday.

Although Burmese was briefly startled, the horse won praise for remaining calm due to her RCMP training, in which she had been exposed to gunfire.

Burmese, who died in 1990, was the first of eight horses given to the Queen by the Mounties. George was given to her in 2009. Now 22, he has been ridden each year at Trooping the Colour by Charles.

Elizabeth, now 17, named in honour of the Queen Mother, was a gift to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 …

Sir John, 14, was a 90th birthday present for the Queen and is ridden at Trooping the Colour by Princess Anne, a former Olympic equestrian.

Darby, a 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding, was one of two horses received by the late monarch in 2019.

[Sergeant Major Scott] Williamson is one of four RCMP officers who will ride at the front of tomorrow’s funeral procession after the Westminster Abbey service.

It will travel up Whitehall and along The Mall, passing Buckingham Palace before ending at Wellington Arch. Here, the Queen’s coffin will be transferred from the state gun carriage to a hearse for her final journey to Windsor.

I will cover the committal service at Windsor in tomorrow’s post.

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.

With the late Queen’s casket in London, those who wished to pay their respects at Westminster Hall began to queue.

This post covers the events of Wednesday, September 14 and Friday, September 16.

Parliament and commerce act ‘out of respect’

Some rather unusual developments in Parliament and elsewhere in the United Kingdom occurred, notionally ‘out of respect’ for the late monarch.

On Tuesday, September 13, Guido Fawkes posted a tweet about a fire drill for Tuesday, September 20, that would be turned into a virtual one, as it was ‘too close to Her Majesty the Queen’s funeral’, which took place on the 19th:

In Parliament, two female MPs — one Labour, one Conservative — decided to stop working ‘out of respect’:

Guido’s post conveyed the absurdity of it all. Note the first paragraph in particular (emphases his):

The Queen’s passing led many across the country to suspend their duties as a mark of respect over the weekend: the Met Office stopped reporting the weather, the football was called off, and the Bank of England delayed its decision on interest rates for a week, Norwich council have stopped residents locking up their bikes, and Wetherspoons has reportedly stopped selling condoms in its loos*. All as Her Majesty would have wanted.

A few MPs are also throwing themselves into a period of mourning. Both Victoria Atkins and Alex Davies-Jones closed their offices on Friday. “Out of respect” for the sovereign…

Alex Davies-Jones (Labour) was first. She left a Facebook message.

Victoria Atkins (Conservative) followed suit, also via Facebook.

Guido posted the messages and followed up:

This morning Davies-Jones clarified that her constituency office had only closed on Friday out of respect for HM The Queen’s sad passing“, and is now open. If you’re a constituent of Victoria Atkins and you haven’t heard from her since Friday, though, you can probably assume your problems have been sent to the “non-urgent” pile. Presumably neither MP will be forgoing last Friday’s salary as a similar mark of respect…

*Guido remains sceptical about the truthfulness of this tweet…

More followed from the Palace of Westminster.

IPSA — the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority — the independent body that regulates and administers the business costs and decides the pay and pensions of the 650 elected MPs and their staff in the UK, announced a delay in publishing MPs’ expenses because the Queen had died:

Guido recalled that something similar happened nearly a year ago after the murder of Sir David Amess MP:

This latest nonsensical expression of sympathy with His Majesty the King’s recent bereavement comes just days after Guido revealed two MPs had suspended “non-urgent” casework as a mark of respect. IPSA’s move also comes almost a year after they stopped publishing MPs’ expenses details in the wake of Sir David Amess’s murder. It’s almost like they’re looking for any excuse…

Everyone knew there was going to be a long queue for four days in order to see the Queen lying at rest in Westminster Hall. The queue was quickly dubbed the Elizabeth Line, which is a nod and a wink to London’s Crossrail route of the same name which the Queen opened in May 2022. It was one of her last public appearances.

The public were angry over arrangements for MPs, peers and some parliamentary staff to get priority and to bring at least one guest to Westminster Hall while everyone else — including MPs’ staffers — would have to queue, day and night, for many hours. Guido’s tweet below received a lot of angry responses:

Guido posted the official instructions and said:

The parliamentary staffer squabble over the Queen’s Lying-in-State is about to get worse. Despite rumours that Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt is reviewing the decision to ban MPs’ staffers from skipping the queue, a new announcement on the parliamentary intranet reveals those who already have priority access – including grey passholders such as cleaners and cooks – are now even allowed to invite a guest as they pay their respects …

MPs and Lords are entitled to up to four guests; grey passholders are allowed one. Staffers, many of whom have a not dissimilar sense of entitlement, will have to queue up for 20 hours like everyone else. Unless they make friends with a priority attendee pretty quickly…

I do not know how that ended.

Meanwhile, the Royal Family, particularly the King and Queen Consort, were undertaking daily engagements around the country.

Speaking of the Royal Family, some staff at Clarence House, which, for a while, continues to be the residence of King Charles, received redundancy notices while he and the Royal Family were in Edinburgh.

On September 13, The Guardian reported (purple emphases mine):

Dozens of Clarence House staff have been given notice of redundancies as the offices of King Charles and the Queen Consort move to Buckingham Palace after the death of the Queen, the Guardian has learned …

Private secretaries, the finance office, the communications team and household staff are among those who received notice during the thanksgiving service for the Queen, at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh on Monday, that their posts were on the line.

Many staff had assumed they would be amalgamated into the King’s new household, claiming they were given no indication of what was coming until the letter from Sir Clive Alderton, the King’s top aide, arrived. One source said: “Everybody is absolutely livid, including private secretaries and the senior team. All the staff have been working late every night since Thursday, to be met with this. People were visibly shaken by it.”

In his letter, seen by the Guardian, Alderton wrote: “The change in role for our principals will also mean change for our household … The portfolio of work previously undertaken in this household supporting the former Prince of Wales’s personal interests, former activities and household operations will no longer be carried out, and the household … at Clarence House will be closed down. It is therefore expected that the need for the posts principally based at Clarence House, whose work supports these areas will no longer be needed.”

That said, staff will receive assistance in finding other posts:

Staff who are made redundant are expected to be offered searches for alternative employment across all royal households, assistance in finding new jobs externally and an “enhanced” redundancy payment beyond the statutory minimum.

A Clarence House spokesman said: “Following last week’s accession, the operations of the household of the former Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have ceased and, as required by law, a consultation process has begun. Our staff have given long and loyal service and, while some redundancies will be unavoidable, we are working urgently to identify alternative roles for the greatest number of staff.”

However, former Royal Butler Grant Harrold told GB News at the weekend that staff contracts state they are in the employ of specific members of the Royal Family, e.g. Prince/King Charles. Therefore, most staff know that they might not have jobs for life.

The same thing happened when the Queen Mother died in 2002:

When the Queen Mother died, the Duke of York took over Royal Lodge at Windsor. While some of her 83 members of staff were redeployed within other royal households, others were let go.

The Guardian also reported that King Charles will not be paying inheritance tax as those assets are surrendered to the Government in return for a sovereign grant to the Royal Family:

King Charles will not pay tax on the fortune he has inherited from the late Queen, although he has volunteered to follow his mother’s lead in paying income tax.

Under a clause agreed in 1993 by the then prime minister, John Major, any inheritance passed “sovereign to sovereign” avoids the 40% levy applied to assets valued at more than £325,000.

The Crown Estate has an estimated £15.2bn in assets, of which 25% of the profits are given to the Royal Family as the sovereign grant. The estate includes the royal archives and the royal collection of paintings, which are held by the monarch “in right of the crown”.

These assets cannot be sold by the King and they are in effect surrendered to the government in return for a grant. The government’s guidance concludes that it would therefore be “inappropriate for inheritance tax to be paid in respect of such assets”.

Separately, Charles also inherits from the Queen the Duchy of Lancaster, a private estate that includes portfolio of lands, properties and assets held in trust for the sovereign.

He is exempt from inheritance tax on these assets, among others, in order to preserve “a degree of financial independence from the government of the day”.

And rightly so.

September 14

On Wednesday, September 14, the Queen’s casket lay at Buckingham Palace until the middle of the afternoon when the King, his siblings, his sons, his nephews Peter Philips and the Earl of Snowdon along with the Duke of Gloucester and Princess Anne’s husband Sir Tim Laurence walked behind it in a ceremonial procession to Westminster Hall.

The King and Queen Consort made the short journey from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace mid-morning, where the crowd warmly cheered them:

While the Elizabeth Line began building near Westminster Hall near Parliament, other people remained at Buckingham Palace:

Mourners’ flowers accumulated in the park, said to be more fragrant as the days passed. Nearby, this was the scene on The Mall:

Those in the Elizabeth Line could be assured of help throughout the ensuing four days:

Nearly 2,000 law enforcement officers, stewards, other officials and volunteers were on hand for mourners:

The procession from Buckingham Palace began around 2:30 p.m. Other members of the Royal Family followed in cars in the cortege:

Once the cortege, which included other members of the Royal Family, arrived at Westminster Hall, a 20-minute service took place:

This video has the end of the procession, the placing of the Queen’s casket on the catafalque in Westminster Hall and the service, much of which is in traditional language and includes the funeral Collect from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The Archbishop of Canterbury is there and the choir from Westminster Abbey sound like angels.

I’m not sure why the video shows an ‘unavailable’ message. Click on ‘Watch on YouTube’ and you should be able to see it. I still can, although it might expire in time:

Afterwards, the Royal Family returned to Buckingham Palace.

Outside, no one complained about waiting in the Elizabeth Line. These two women told Sky News why they were there.

Vanessa was first in the queue:

Even the unpredictable weather couldn’t keep this lady away:

Many people made friends quickly in the queue. It was wonderful hearing their stories, many more of which followed into the weekend.

September 15

On Thursday, September 15, The King and Queen Consort had a well deserved rest day at home. They left London on Wednesday evening via helicopter.

It is thought that Camilla was dropped off first at her home in Wiltshire. From there, Charles journeyed to his estate.

We discovered that Camilla had a broken toe. That must have made her walkabouts quite painful.

September 16

September 16 is an important date to the Welsh who resent having non-Welsh Princes of Wales. It is Owain Glyndŵr Day.

The last true Welsh prince was Owain ap Gruffydd (c. 1359 – c. 1415), also known as Owain Glyndŵr, Glyn Dŵr and, in English, Owen Glendower. Shakespeare gave him the name Owen Glendower in Henry IV, Part 1.

He took up his rightful place as Prince of Powys on September 16, 1400, at his estate. Owain became the last Welsh Prince of Wales in 1404, a ceremony witnessed by emissaries from Scotland, France and Castile (Spain).

He had been fighting the English under Henry IV for some time and continued to do so until 1412. Henry IV appointed Hotspur of Shakespeare fame, Henry Percy, to lead the English side of the battle.

In 1412, Owain disappeared, not to be seen for the next three years. Meanwhile, in 1413, Henry IV died and Henry V was more conciliatory towards the Welsh.

In 1415, one of Owain’s supporters, Adam of Usk, wrote in his Chronicle:

After four years in hiding, from the king and the realm, Owain Glyndŵr died, and was buried by his followers in the darkness of night. His grave was discovered by his enemies, however, so he had to be re-buried, though it is impossible to discover where he was laid.

Owain was 56 years old.

As of 2015, his final resting place remained uncertain.

The Tudors effectively conquered Wales and found little resistance in so doing. It is said that they made the Welsh more prominent in English society.

Future English monarchs installed non-Welsh Princes of Wales, including the new one, Prince William. One Welshman started a petition, ‘End “Prince of Wales” title out of respect for Wales’. As I write, it has over 32,000 signatures.

The petition reads, in part:

… the title has been held exclusively by Englishmen as a symbol of dominance over Wales. To this day, the English “Princes of Wales” have no genuine connection to our country.

The title remains an insult to Wales and is a symbol of historical oppression. The title implies that Wales is still a principality undermining Wales’ status as a nation and a country. In addition, the title has absolutely no constitutional role for Wales, which is now a devolved country with a national Parliament. Neither the Welsh parliament nor the people of Wales were notified, let alone consulted about this controversial decision.

The Welsh Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru (pron. ‘Plied Cuhm-ree’), is not happy about Prince William’s appointment or the possible investiture in to follow in Wales within the next year or two.

On September 13, Guido reported that Plaid’s leader, Adam Price, made his views known:

Guido’s post says that the Welsh First Minister, Labour’s Mark Drakeford, opposes Prince William’s probable investiture in Wales, which his father had in 1969:

With Prince William assuming the Prince of Wales role last week, thousands of furious Welsh nationalists have signed a change.org petition demanding he be stripped of the title “out of respect for Wales” given its symbolism of “historical oppression“. Now Plaid leader – and Mark Drakeford’s right-hand man – Adam Price has waded in to pour fuel on the fire:

I welcome what the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, had to say on the question of an investiture. I’ve seen stories in the London press that an investiture is going to happen and I think that a line is crossed because that gives the Prince of Wales a quasi-official status in Welsh life. I think that’s a decision that we in Wales should make in a time when we’re living in a modern democratic Wales – it’s a decision we need to make here before any announcement is made […] I’m a republican, and there is sensitivity and pain around the [Prince of Wales] title for many of us…

However, not everyone in Wales was upset either by the prospect of King Charles or a new Prince of Wales. These residents of Caerphilly seemed content:

It was against this historical backdrop that King Charles and Camilla Queen Consort visited Wales on Friday.

While the new Prince and Princess of Wales visited Sandringham to greet mourners and view their tributes …

… the King and Queen Consort attended a service in memory of the Queen at Llandaff Cathedral then travelled to Cardiff to the Senedd, where they received condolences in the chamber from members and speak with them afterwards.

I was hoping to find a video of them on walkabout. The crowds were warm and welcoming. Unfortunately, the news videos for that day are mostly about London with only two about Wales.

The service at Llandaff Cathedral was beautiful, especially the hymns, which I sang when I lived in the United States. Part of it was in Welsh. The bilingual Order of Service is here. This article from the Church in Wales (Anglican) has more.

The full video is available from the BBC for another 26 days.

The Bidding Prayer (p. 7) was exquisite, touching all the right notes for the late Queen and for the new King:

We are gathered in the sight of Almighty God
to give thanks for the life
of our Most Gracious Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second,
for her steadfastness and devotion to her sacred calling,
her courage and unwavering sense of duty
to the people of this Realm and Commonwealth.
As we entrust her to our Redeemer and Lord,
in whose promises she gained assurance and hope,
we pray for our Most Gracious Sovereign Lord
King Charles the Third,
that God may grant him peace in these days of mourning,
wisdom as he faces the challenges of sovereignty
and grace to accept the mantle of his calling.

First Minister Mark Drakeford read 1 Kings, 3:4-15:

The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt-offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed, I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.’ Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream.

The motion of condolence and subsequent reception at the Senedd went well.

The Conservative leader, Andrew R T Davies, was happy with the Royal visit:

This lady, who was at the religious service, remembered the visits the Queen made after the Aberfan Disaster, 21 October 1966, which involved a huge slag heap destroying a school while children were in class. Five teachers and 109 pupils died. The lady in the video was 11 years old at the time:

This was the first time a monarch visited a disaster outside of wartime, with pressure from the usual quarters urging her to go to Aberfan. It was one of the rare times she came close to tears:

https://image.vuukle.com/71283898-5747-4196-bef2-20ded1203630-8b2fd69f-460f-41eb-80c4-5fe1c5685956

The lady whom GB News interviewed said that the Queen could not have done anything to help. What had happened was already done. She and other residents appreciated the Queen’s visits nonetheless.

The Royal Couple left Cardiff for London in the late afternoon.

That evening, at 7:30, the King, his sister and two brothers held the first of two Vigils of the Princes at Westminster Hall:

As in Edinburgh, the public were allowed to file past to pay their respects to the late monarch. This was a first both at St Giles’ Cathedral and at Westminster Hall, where the tradition started with the death of George V in 1936. It was closed to the public that time and again in 2002, when the Queen Mother died.

Another Vigil of the Princes took place on Saturday, this time with the Queen’s grandchildren.

More to come tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post introduced the significance of Scotland to Queen Elizabeth II.

In it, I mentioned that, after the 1707 Acts of Union, the history of Scotland began to be romanticised through the efforts of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert as well as Walter Scott’s novels.

Romantic history

A royal historian told GB News that Prince Albert was quite taken by the countryside in Aberdeenshire, which reminded him of his native Rhineland.

He and Victoria had an amazing love life, according to a television documentary I saw many years ago. In the early days, at least, he used to dress and undress her. Her silk stockings were a favourite part of the ritual.

After Albert died in 1861, Victoria moved up to Balmoral for a time and became close friends with one of his servants, John Brown, a Scot. A film about their relationship, Mrs Brown, made its debut in 1997.

In 1863, courtiers and the Royal Family thought that Brown could rehabilitate the mourning Queen. Instead, he began controlling her daily life at her holiday idyll.

In time, rumours about the extent of their relationship began circulating not only among her inner circle but also in London, where a republican sentiment began growing in her absence. Courtiers and the Royal Family changed tack, this time urging Brown to get the widowed Queen back to the capital to make public appearances.

Brown followed orders, although his and Victoria’s relationship was never the same afterwards.

On the other hand, her resumption of public appearances quelled restive republicans.

Brown remained a loyal servant, foiling an assassination attempt on the Royal Family. In 1883, he contracted pneumonia. Victoria visited him in his room and apologised for not having been a better friend. Brown died a short time later and left behind a diary, which, allegedly, has disappeared.

Victoria’s two main courtiers, Sir Henry Ponsonby and Sir William Jenner, found it and read it. Only they knew what happened to it afterwards. One of them said later on that the then-Prince of Wales — Edward VII — was so resentful of Brown that he threw a bust of the man over the palace wall in London after his death.

At Balmoral, John Brown is immortalised in two paintings which hang in the drawing room where Queen Elizabeth II received Boris Johnson and Liz Truss on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.

On September 7, The Times helpfully told us more about the room’s features, including the paintings which flank the fireplace (emphases mine):

Victoria and John Brown, her servant and close friend after the death of Prince Albert, feature twice in the room’s paintings. To the left of the mantelpiece they appear in Sir Edwin Landseer’s chalk and pastel drawing Sunshine: Balmoral in 1860 or Death of the Royal Stag. Albert stands proudly in the foreground with a gun over his shoulder, dogs at his heel and a stag at his feet. In the background Victoria sits side-saddle on a horse led by Brown, her ghillie.

To the right is Gilbert Sprague’s copy of another Landseer painting of Victoria, in mourning as she sits on her pony Flora outside Osborne House, her retreat on the Isle of Wight. Victoria commissioned the original in 1861 after Albert’s death, telling Landseer that she wished to be depicted “as I am now, sad and lonely, seated on my pony, led by Brown, with a representation of Osborne”.

Queen Elizabeth also experienced the magic of Scotland that her forebears helped to create.

As a child, she remembered happy days at Glamis Castle then Balmoral. As an adult, she associated possibly her happiest memories with Balmoral. There, the love of her life, Prince Philip, proposed to her. The happy couple also spent their honeymoon there.

On September 8, The Times published an insightful article: ‘Balmoral gave Elizabeth the chance to feel “free”‘, excerpted below:

Scotland played a large and emotional part in Elizabeth’s life. Her happiest memories were of the childhood days she spent with “Granny Strathmore”— Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, who was also her godmother — at Glamis Castle.

At the family home in Angus she enjoyed parties, children’s theatre after tea, and visits to nearby Cortachy Castle, owned by Lord Airlie, where she once “borrowed” the young David Ogilvie’s little blue pedal car, much to his fury. At Balmoral, she felt she could be “normal” — almost a housewife, like ordinary people; it took her into another world. “Here I can be free,” she told a friend once.

Not that it was exactly ordinary; there were certain traditions. A piper played every morning before breakfast, and, when guests were staying, there would be pipers at dinner. The ladies would depart after the meal, leaving the men to talk over the brandy.

There were shooting parties, with the Queen and her dogs driving out to join the guns at lunch, then “picking up”: her dogs retrieving the birds they had shot. “She was an ace picker-up,” recalled one friend. Back at the house the first duty would be to feed the dogs.

She insisted on doing the washing-up after picnics, when Philip managed the barbecue and she did the rest. Those picnics — some of them in the evening, in one or other of the huts in the grounds of the estate, always kept open, and often used by members of the public — were famous occasions, remembered by guests long after for their combination of relaxed informality and perfectly organised routine.

Then it would be back to the castle. What one friend noticed, however, was that, as soon as Elizabeth walked through the door of Balmoral Castle, she became Queen again. This was the royal residence, and there was no mistaking who was in charge.

The Queen also enjoyed an annual week-long stay in Edinburgh at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The city’s Lord Provost would deliver the keys to the palace to her in the Ceremony of the Keys and a closing ceremony of her returning them to him took place upon her departure.

She would visit St Giles’ Cathedral, probably the only Presbyterian cathedral in existence, and, beginning in the late 1990s, Holyrood, the Scottish parliament.

The independence movement strengthened by an SNP government has grown leaps and bounds since I last visited Scotland 30 years ago.

It is difficult to pin down what exactly the SNP expect as an independent nation, including where they stand on the monarchy. Although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the Queen in death, she was less forthcoming in June during the Platinum Jubilee weekend:

After the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew, she said that there should be a “debate” about the future of the monarchy; she notably failed to deliver a message of loyalty at the time of the Platinum Jubilee; and she did nothing to contradict a statement from the Green Party, her allies in government, which accused the monarchy of “holding back” progress.

However:

None of that has diluted the Queen’s affection for Scotland, and her pride in her Scottish connections. As Sir Charles Fraser, who was purse bearer at the Palace of Holyroodhouse for nearly 20 years, commented: “Over many conversations with the Queen, she always spoke of her love for Scotland and her commitment to her Scottish ancestry. Throughout her reign she gave us leadership and hope, where others have failed.”

Incidentally, former Royal servants say that all of them enjoyed being at Balmoral and could hardly wait for their annual stay there. It seems that it was as delightful for them as it was for the Queen. 

Monday, September 12

In my preceding post, I wrote about a young woman getting arrested on Sunday, September 11, near St Giles’ Cathedral for an anti-monarchy poster with an obscenity written on it. This happened during the proclamation of Charles III as the new King.

People in England were upset about it, but Scotland has its own speech laws which are much stricter than ours:

Guido Fawkes thought that the arrest was overkill. I tend to agree but, then again, I don’t know anything about Scottish policing (emphases his):

The 22-year-old woman who was arrested after holding up this anti-monarchy placard at St Giles’ Cathedral has been charged “in connection with a breach of the peace” and is reportedly due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today. Amid the emotional royalist fervour, the country is feeling it is even more important to stand up for universal and enduring values. The Free Speech Union has expressed concern that the protester been arrested for voicing anti-monarchist views during the Proclamation of King Charles III yesterday.  Defenders of free speech know that if they don’t stand up for views with which they disagree or even find offensive, they’re not defending free speech. Whatever your views on the monarchy, this protester has a right to hers.

The Free Speech Union has already reached out to the protester to offer their assistance.

That day, Guido reported that the SNP’s deputy leader John Swinney expressed surprising pro-monarchy views. He sounded like a Conservative:

Guido said that, on Sunday, Swinney said he watched the broadcast of Charles III’s Accession Ceremony in London:

I thought that when I watched the accession council in London yesterday because right at the heart of it was the significance of Scotland’s place within the Union and the extraordinary significance that was attached to that and the declarations and commitments that the King made and the fact the Secretary of State for Scotland, the First Minister of Scotland, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland, were signatories to the documents which essentially facilitate the accession.

On Monday, Swinney went further:

This morning, Swinney went even further in irritating the most ardent of Scottish nationalists, stating the SNP would continue to have the UK monarch be Head of State in the event of independence, as they promised during the 2014 referendum:

The monarch should be the head of state of an independent Scotland. It’s what we argued in the referendum in 2014 and it’s what we will continue to argue.

Will the death of the Queen accidentally cause a cooling of temperatures in the Scottish independence debate?

That is part of what Operation Unicorn — the days of mourning in Scotland — was designed to do.

For much of Monday, the Queen continued lay in rest at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This allowed staff to pay their respects in quiet privacy from Sunday afternoon onwards.

Senior members of the Royal Family, such as Princess Anne, were there awaiting the arrival of King Charles. Upon his and the Queen Consort’s arrival, the Lord Provost would go to conduct the Ceremony of the Keys.

Meanwhile, in the morning, King Charles was in London, addressing both Houses of Parliament in the ancient Westminster Hall, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament.

Westminster Hall was built by William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus (William II) in 1097. It is the largest hall of its kind in Europe. The beamed ceilings were added in 1399 when Richard II had the pillars removed so that everyone inside could see what was going on. On the two occasions when the Palace of Westminster caught on fire or when it was bombed during the Second World War, the first priority of firefighters is to save Westminster Hall over the parliamentary palace.

The building has been used throughout the ages as Parliament, as court for the trials of Charles I and the real Guido Fawkes (a traitor) but has also been the venue for coronation banquets. It is still used by both houses of Parliament and is open to the public on important occasions when it is used for the lying in state of distinguised politicians such as Winston Churchill (1965) and members of the Royal Family. The Queen Mother was the last person to lie in state there. I went to pay my respects to her in 2002. The Queen is lying in state there as I write.

The Queen also spoke there on her Silver Jubilee (1977), her Golden Jubilee (2002) and her Diamond Jubilee (2012). A beautiful stained glass window commemorating her Diamond Jubilee is installed on one side of the hall.

Charles’s visit was of historical significance and not only because he is the United Kingdom’s first King in 70 years.

Both Speakers — of the Lords and of the Commons — wore their dress robes, which are gilded. Their respective serjants of arms brought each House’s mace up to the appropriate Speaker and laid them down on a raised platform.

The Speakers stood across from each other below the raised platform on which Charles was due to speak. The maces were covered with a black cloth, indicating not only mourning but also that they were subservient to the Sovereign.

Peers and MPs, as well as staff members, were in attendance.

The Speaker of the Lords, Lord McFall spoke first to extend his and the Lords’ sympathy to the King.

The life peer, a Scot, is a testament to the progress people can make in modern Britain:

Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke next for the Commons, reminding the new monarch of the increased powers of Parliament since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The King smiled wryly:

Then it was time for the King to address the room:

The Telegraph‘s summary has the key points of his speech:

We gather today in remembrance of the remarkable span of the Queen’s dedicated service to her nations and peoples.

While very young her late Majesty pledged herself to serve her country and her people and to maintain the precious principles of constitutional government which lie at the heart of our nation.

This vow she kept with unsurpassed devotion. She set an example of selfless duty which, with God’s help and your counsels, I am resolved faithfully to follow.

The King had already met with senior Government ministers, including Liz Truss, over the weekend at Buckingham Palace. Shadow (Opposition) ministers also met with him:

After the event at Westminster Hall ended, a reception was held, but the King and Queen Consort did not attend as they were due to fly to Edinburgh.

While the Royal couple were on their way, people lined up along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile:

Once Charles and Camilla arrived at Holyroodhouse, they and other members of the Royal Family assembled to be led by members of Scottish regiments for the procession to St Giles’ Cathedral, for a service of remembrance.

I know from first hand experience that it is a long walk and did not envy the Royals who did walk behind the hearse, especially on the cobbled road.

The Royals who walked were the Queen’s children: the King, the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew and the Prince Edward. Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Princess Anne’s husband, also walked with them.

Prince Andrew was not allowed to wear his military uniform. He appeared in morning dress with his military medals.

A young heckler shouted at Prince Andrew in reference to sexual allegations with an underage girl, was quickly tackled by a member of the public, then police dragged him to his feet and arrested him:

He was arrested for breach of the peace:

The SNP had toughened up that law in 2010:

The procession up the ancient road was deeply moving, like something out of a film.

Prince Charles wore the green sash and star of the Order of the Thistle.

The Queen’s coffin was draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland.

The Guardian‘s diary for the day added:

The Queen’s coffin is … dressed with a wreath of flowers consisting of white spray roses, white freesias, white button chrysanthemums, dried white heather from Balmoral, spray eryngium, foliage, rosemary, hebe, and pittosporum.

The hearse is flanked by a bearer party found by the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the King’s Body Guard for Scotland.

The cortege arrived at St Giles’ shortly after 3 p.m. Watching the procession, I do not think they allowed enough time.

Heralds and Pursuivants of Scotland stood outside the cathedral door to receive the Queen for one last time. The Guardian has a magnificent photo of their uniforms.

The Crown of Scotland (see photo) was placed on the Queen’s casket before the service.

Here is a photo of the military bearer party dressed in kilts placing the casket on the catafalque in the cathedral.

The Guardian reported (emphases theirs):

At the beginning of the service of thanksgiving for the Queen, Reverend Calum MacLeod welcomed the royal family, “representatives of our nation’s life” and “people whose lives were touched by the Queen in so many unforgettable ways”.

Among those attending the service are the prime minister, Liz Truss, as well as Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Unfortunately, there is no video of the service, which was very well done and oecumenical.

The Order of Service is here.

Nicola Sturgeon read Ecclesiastes 3:1-15. We know the first several verses well but here are the next:

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

The Church of Scotland has a transcript of the sermon that the Right Revd Dr Iain Greenshields preached:

Excerpts follow:

Death has been overcome, these are the words of hope expressed and centered around Jesus who died and rose again.

And this is clearly something that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth acknowledged and personally embraced.

These last few days, as tributes to her Majesty have poured in and we have watched images of her on screen from her earliest years, capturing that remarkable life, yet now beginning to sink in that she is gone from us – “gone home” to express her own words.

Today, we gather in this place of worship and throughout the nation, to express our thanks to God, for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s extraordinary life.

We are united in sorrow at the death of our Monarch, but we are also so aware that His Majesty King Charles and all his family are not just grieving the loss of their Queen, but their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother too.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth began her reign, like King Solomon by asking for wisdom, something that she demonstrated in large measure and to which was added duty, honour, commitment, and faith.

These are the words that we reach for today to describe the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth, whose passing is mourned not only in her native land but across the Commonwealth and the world, as has been so evident to us in recent days.

Most of us cannot recall a time when she was not our monarch.

Committed to the role she assumed in 1952 upon the death of her beloved father, she has been a constant in all of our lives for over 70 years.

She was determined to see her work as a form of service to others and she maintained that steady course until the end of her life.

People who were in her company always felt that they were being listened to carefully and attentively and with compassion.

She possessed a sharp, intelligent mind, with amazing recall, a kindly heart and a gentle sense of humour.

She understood the breadth of world affairs and also cared about what happened to all of her people.

And although sometimes buffeted by events around her, she continued resolutely and cheerfully fulfilled her responsibilities

Much has been said about the Queen’s contribution to the life of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth which meant so much to her.

But here in Scotland we acknowledge with gratitude her deep links with our land and its people.

Her love of the Balmoral estate is well known and being there latterly brought her great comfort.

There she was valued as a neighbour and a friend and there she drew strength and refreshment during the summer months.

She was active in the life of civic Scotland, travelling across the country to support numerous causes, entertaining guests at Holyrood Palace and presiding at ceremonial events, many of which took place in this Church.

Here she received the Scottish crown in 1953, an event vividly memorialised in the painting by the Orcadian artist Stanley Cursiter.

Her links with the Scottish churches were also deep and lasting.

She was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but she worshipped in the Church of Scotland here north of the border, at Canongate Kirk and especially at Crathie Kirk where she took her pew each Sunday morning, prevented from doing so latterly only by infirmity.

She perceived little difficulty in belonging to two Churches and appreciating the strength of each.

It is clearly evident and without doubt that the Queen’s Christian faith was genuine, and often gave clear and sincere expression in those remarkable Christmas broadcasts.

She spoke unashamedly of her trust in God and of the example and teaching of Jesus Christ whom she sought to follow as best she could – indeed, of that faith she said she had no regret

Today we mourn her passing but we also celebrate the long and happy reign that we experienced with her.

And we pray God’s blessing upon King Charles who will surely draw strength from his mother’s example and the many affectionate tributes of these days and from our assurance to him as a Church of our steadfast prayers at all times and of our unstinting support to him as was offered to his mother, the Queen.

The Cathedral’s website has more about the Queen’s visits.

The service lasted an hour and ended at 4:15.

The Royal party then returned to Holyroodhouse.

However, their day was far from over.

The King met with Nicola Sturgeon. He and the Queen Consort then went to Holyrood to visit the Scottish parliament where MSPs delivered a motion of condolence.

At 7:20 that evening, the senior Royals returned to St Giles’ for the Vigil of the Princes. It would be the first time that a female — Princess Anne — would take part.

More on that tomorrow.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Pope Benedict XVI is to speak at London’s Westminster Hall, adjacent to the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament).

He will deliver his address in mid-September.  The Telegraph article gives us a glimpse into his itinerary thus far:

It is understood … that the visit will begin on September 16 and that it will end after the Pope has personally presided over the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, possibly in Wembley stadium, on Sunday September 19.

The address in Westminster Hall will be one of two public speeches that the Pope will deliver during the trip. The other will be to academics at Oxford University.

Westminster Hall, built approximately 1000 years ago, is known for some of the most famous death sentences in English history.  Lately, however, it has been used for the public viewing of Winston Churchill (1965) and the Queen Mother (2002) so that people could pay their respects.  

I’ve been there.  It’s quite moving, especially when you recall that

It is sacred to many Catholics because it was where many martyrs and saints were tried for High Treason during the Protestant Reformation.

Most notably it was the scene of the trial of Thomas More, the former Lord Chancellor canonised as a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1935 and made patron saint of politicians by Pope John Paul II.

More was beheaded after he refused to take an oath attached to the Act of Supremacy that made the King the supreme head of the Church in England.

A plaque marking the spot where the trial took place was kissed by Mother Teresa of Calcutta during one of her visits to Britain.

During the Elizabethan era, St Edmund Campion, the Jesuit missionary, was also tried in the hall and in the reign on James I it was the setting for the trial of Guy Fawkes, who had tried to blow up the building in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

In the same century dozens of innocent Catholic priests falsely accused by Titus Oates of plotting to kill King Charles II and put his Catholic brother James on the throne were tried and sentenced to death there. Samuel Pepys, the diarist and naval administrator, was implicated in the plot, was also tried but was acquitted.

Yet, let us not forget that the Puritan Cromwell condemned the Anglican Charles I to death there. This was because Cromwell thought he was bringing the reforms of the Church of England too close to the Catholic Church. Erroneous, but Cromwell’s bee in the bonnet was geared towards Charles’s banning of Calvinism in England. Charles I is considered a martyr for the faith and there are Anglican churches and a devotional society named after him.

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