Death of the Queen

If they ever let us choose, I’d certainly vote for a republic, yet I appreciated the historical significance of Queen Elizabeth’s death and wanted to capture the atmosphere in London before the funeral. In any case, for those two weeks everything else was cancelled!

People left flowers and soft toys, shop windows marked her life, but I encountered little grief and no tears (see don’t be fooled that everyone queueing in London is mourning the Queen). For me the death of a stranger brought back memories of those I’ve lost, and how my left-leaning Mum was royalist while my right wing Dad called the royal family “parasites”, and in the ten days before the funeral I felt contradictory responses.

Most ludicrous to republican eyes and yet fascinating was The Queue. During the day it snaked along the river like a pilgrimage, or like the supermarket car park queues of early Covid lockdown, while overnight it transformed into huddles of tired figures shivering in blankets as if they were suddenly homeless or refugees from war or natural disaster. By the day of the funeral I’d had my fill of crowds and tried to photograph what was happening elsewhere in London, ending up in a pub with a smashed window, but then those contrasting emotions made me dash to see the hearse turning onto the A4 (Cromwell Road, I should add).

Was it all less about national pride and loyalty than a common feeling of “job done” – by her in how she’d defined and redefined her role, by the government which didn’t screw things up, and by police and armed forces. It wasn’t just the ceremonial, but I noticed how they’d sealed every side road for the length of The Queue to protect people from vehicle attack, and portable toilets had been placed everywhere. After a reign that began as Britain was losing its empire and ended after a decade when England had lost its mind, for a few days everything worked as it should.

The following spring the Coronation seemed a more muted celebration than I’d expected, and it was a stroke of luck that in my local park I spotted a replica of the Coronation carriage sponsored by Uber. I ended up watching the big day on TV while brewing a beer.