Another death in the House of Windsor, another long public walk behind a beloved mother’s flag-draped coffin, another sad day in this family’s history.
Yesterday, the Queen’s four children walked through Edinburgh behind the hearse with their beloved mummy on one of her last journeys.
And as they marched slowly through the quiet streets of the Scottish capital, it was reminiscent of another September funeral, long ago.
The deaths of Elizabeth II and Princess Diana may be a quarter of a century apart, but many who saw this melancholy progress were reminded that the rites of royal death remain the same.
On that morning in 1997, Windsor’s men were walking behind Diana’s coffin through London. Many years later, Prince Harry would claim that the ordeal damaged him for life.
He has spoken out, criticizing that no child should have been asked to do what he did, to have his mourning ‘observed by thousands of people’.
He was just 12 years old at the time, looking small and vulnerable in his grown-up lounge suit. Perhaps he’s right — and we certainly live in more enlightened times when it comes to providing mental health safeguards for all ages.
Yet different standards are set for royal mourners. If grief is the price we pay for love, as the Queen once said, then public fame in times of personal grief is an unfortunate part of the royal accord.
Unlike the little prince, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward may have age and wisdom on their side, but the ordeal must have been no less painful.
Another death in the House of Windsor, another long walk in public behind a beloved mother’s flag-draped coffin, another sad day in this family’s history
Earl Spencer (4th left) Prince William, Prince Harry and The Prince of Wales (far right) look at the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, leaving Westminster Abbey after her funeral
Yesterday the Queen’s four children walked through Edinburgh behind the hearse with their beloved mum on one of her last journeys
As the procession wound its way through the medieval heart of the city, from the Palace of Holyrood up the cobbled hill to St Giles’ Cathedral, the four of them marched in lockstep behind the procession, their eyes turned like hunting dogs, a certain grim determination at every difficult step.
There Charles shuffled steadfastly on, his hand on his ceremonial sword; Anne washed away with grief and suddenly looked older; Edward pale and hollowed-out eyes.
All three were in military uniform; curled up in golden braids and ribbons like gift-wrapped emissaries from the army of orphans in old age; each of them mourned under their gilded caps and intricate epaulettes.
Prince Andrew, the only one of the quartet to actually serve on active duty in a war, was not in uniform. “That’s because he’s no longer a working royal,” whispered James Naughtie, who provided the live narration for Scotland: A Service For HM The Queen (BBC1). We all know that’s true and not true, but it was a nice bit of tact from a broadcaster who wasn’t always known for diplomacy.
Undaunted, burly Andrew marched on past the whiskey bars and fudge shops of the Royal Mile, his bare head and civilian clothes a mark of disgrace and a symbol of the shattered relationship with his family and the narrowing of his life as a royal.
Did he deserve such public disgrace? It’s hard to imagine that this is what his mother would have wanted.
Earlier in the program there had been interviews with ordinary Scots who had met the Queen. It was absolutely delicious.
There was a man named Hector, an engineer on the Forth Road Bridge. A secretary who was invited to the opening of the bridge just because she was a local. And those who remembered the Queen coming to Dunblane in the wake of the tragedy of the school shooting. Someone spoke of HM’s ability to “personify the feelings of a nation” in a way that represents us all.
King Charles III and other members of the Royal Family hold a vigil at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh on Monday
“We all felt relieved,” said another contributor.
Scotland hadn’t expected to play a major role in the Queen’s death, but the country looked beautiful when her procession first embarked on the long journey to London, as it traveled over the weekend from the Balmoral highlands to the lowlands moved.
Now it was Edinburgh’s turn to put on a show, and the city did not disappoint. On these sunny but saddest days of September, a brisk breeze coming in from the River Forth blew in the crimson cassocks of the assembled clergy, fluttered the eagle feathers tucked into the Balmoral caps of the Royal Company of Archers and rippled over the bearskins. of the Queen’s Guard.
Yesterday’s whole procession was poignant but beautiful; the swinging sporrans, the muffled drums, the pageantry set against the medieval architecture of the old town.
The only thing that ruined it was James Naughtie, who noticed the silence and solemnity of the crowd on the Royal Mile, but just wouldn’t stop talking.
He cackled about John Knox and gave a history lesson to viewers who witnessed history themselves. We didn’t have to tell him about the “difficult and bloody upheavals of the 16th and 17th centuries that meant so much to the Queen.”
What? We were also informed that St. Giles was a ‘centrifugal building’, targeting ‘the unicorn that sits atop the Mercat cross’ and even told what the assembled crowds were thinking.
“They are moved to know that this is a sight they will never see again,” he said rather pompously. Were they?
How could he have known? Get rid of his microphone, if not his head.
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