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The monarchy

The Queen’s quiet grief spoke volumes

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Even us Americans found the image of Queen Elizabeth II sitting alone in a chapel choir stall at Prince Philip’s funeral “indescribably poignant”, says Edward Ryan in The New York Times. No other image has “so perfectly captured our experience as a world since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic more than a year ago”. That solitary woman “portrayed it all”: grief, isolation, loneliness – and through it all, determination, deep faith and incomparable dignity.

It brought me to tears, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph – of sadness and rage. What a “revolting, arbitrary and un-British cruelty” those ridiculous lockdown rules inflicted on Her Majesty last Saturday. The Queen, who turned 95 on Wednesday, is fit as a fiddle, sharp as a tack and double vaccinated. Yet our great monarch was made to look “small, shrunken and unsupported” by petty rules at a moment of “supreme anguish”. I checked with the Office of National Statistics how many people had Covid in Windsor on Saturday. “It was four.” To borrow a favourite Prince Philip word, “it’s bunkum”.

People will see those pictures of our sad, “bird-like” monarch as a sign that the crumbling monarchy’s days are numbered, says Mary Harrington in UnHerd. “We can be sure that some will celebrate the Queen’s birthday by calling for her deposition.” But anyone who knows the monarchy’s history must see they’re missing the point. A powerless regent serves Britain’s democracy subtly – Her Majesty exists as a living reminder that the relative freedom guaranteed for us by “our ceremonial priest-kings” may be replaced by something far more direct and assertive. Despots crave a power vacuum. Having the reins of the state and not wielding that power is quite some feat. “As such, she acts as a kind of inoculation against real tyranny.”

She has also earned her keep, says Ayesha Hazarika in the Evening Standard. I love the Queen, “even though I’m a brown leftie woman and probably shouldn’t”. We think of the royal family as having “a jolly nice time” but the reality is “more like being a government minister”. The Queen has spent most of her adult life grinding out a punishing schedule and has done it with charm and skill. She even has a red box like a cabinet minister. Because of her intelligence and work ethic, I grew up thinking “women ruled the world”. We are lucky to have her. “Happy birthday, Ma’am.”