Neither government advice nor appeals from the Royal Family could stop the flow of benefactors going to Windsor Castle to lay flowers for Queen Elizabeth ahead of her husband Prince Philip’s funeral next Saturday.
For staunch supporters, an almost religious element remains in their dedication to the royal family, including for the Duke of Edinburgh who died last Friday at the age of 99, something of a caricature in the media until the torrent deluge portrayed him otherwise. week.
“We felt it was important to let the children pay our respects and show how much he meant to everyone,” said Dave White, an IT consultant from Sidcup in London whose 5-year-old daughter, Ella, drew a picture. condolence card to the queen. “The Royal Family is something very special that we have in this country,” he said.
Prince Philip’s death has come at a difficult time for both his family, still reeling from the explosive TV interview of his grandson, Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle, of the self-imposed exile in the US last month. as for the nation as a whole as it tentatively emerges from the ravages of the coronavirus to a new future outside the EU.
“There are repressed feelings that emerge at these key moments. The fashionable metropolitan communities are skeptical of the monarchy and skeptical of Brexit, but they may be out of touch with the feelings of the country as a whole and feel that, despite all his idiosyncrasies, the Duke really did a tremendous amount of good , ”said Vernon Bogdanor, professor of history at King’s College London.
The national mourning that is officially underway has been muffled by the pandemic’s persistent restrictions. Pubs were allowed to reopen outside this week, and in Windsor people were drinking at the Duke’s. But the funeral itself is being scaled back.
TV crews turned off the gates of the castle grounds for days in the hope that something would happen or that someone important might arrive. But nothing and nobody did much.
Only 30 mostly family members will attend the ceremony on Saturday at St George’s Chapel, in line with the coronavirus restrictions that still apply to gatherings. None of them will be allowed to sing, they will all wear masks and the queen will sit alone.
“It’s very sad. But there will still be a lot of people coming to Windsor on Saturday,” said Kathy Lathlieff, a retired accountant from Sutton, Surrey, who hoped the potted rose she left behind would find its way into a royal flower bed. She also traveled to London for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, an event that spoke of a very different moment in Britain’s relationship with its royal family, watched by more than 2.5, according to the BBC. billion people worldwide.
However, despite all the admiration, there was also a feeling among some visitors that Prince Philip’s death would accelerate the modernization of the monarchy. Sarah Moore, a school administrator who administers the Duke of Edinburgh outdoor activity awards program at her school in Surrey, said she was inspired by the love and support he had always shown for the Queen.
But she felt it was time for the royals to be scaled back – something that could de facto happen with Prince Philip’s death, Prince Harry’s decision to step down from royal duties, and Prince Andrew’s removal from the front line as a result. of his friendship with disgraced financier and convicted sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein. The prince denies any wrongdoing.
“We have to face the facts and accept that not everyone is a royalist,” said Sarah. Her friend Jayne Shelton, a retired local government official, added: “The respect our parents and grandparents had is gone. We struggle with our own children to make them understand the royal family. “
That generation gap, with polls showing younger Britons less attached to royalty, may have contributed to the response to TV coverage of the Duke’s death. After pulling scheduled programs last Friday to make way for 24 hours of tribute, the BBC received 109,741 complaints from the public – the highest number in the broadcaster’s history.
“His life was great and it deserves to be commemorated. He has been at the heart of public life for 70 years or more, but we don’t have to go overboard, ” said Chris Mullin, the former Labor MP whose tweet describing BBC coverage as ‘North Korean’ went viral. .
Robert Lacey, the historical advisor behind the Netflix series about the royal family, The crown, agreed that some of the coverage was exaggerated. But he didn’t see that as evidence of a significant rift.
However, he pointed to a generation gap that was brought to sharp relief by reflecting on Prince Philip’s death and the uproar of the previous weeks over his grandson publicly expressing grievances.
Prince Philip was in another way as inscrutable as the Queen. Behind the hail man who got together well, there was a mystery. That was a very valuable tool that the monarchy has lost, ”he said.
Clive Irving, another close observer of the royal family who had clung to an investigative journalist when the Queen was newly to the throne, noted the magnitude of Britain’s decline as a world power in the course of her reign, suggesting a wave of nationalism. which was accompanied by the death of her consort.
“It’s sad that something like this creates this feeling of wanting to turn inward in a way that the monarchy becomes a comforting agent of decay, almost like a drug you’re taking to still feel good,” said Irving, author of The Last Queen: Elizabeth II’s Seventy Years of Struggle to Save the Windsor House
Irish writer Fintan O’Toole took a peek at it and said that what was more remarkable was how uncomfortable the commentators had been to address the very European nature of Prince Philip’s story throughout the ‘orgy of reporting’.
“He was a ‘rootless cosmopolitan,’ one of Theresa May’s citizens of nowhere: Greek, Danish, German. British. He changed his name, his religion, his citizenship, his identity,” said O’Toole.
“There is a profound contradiction of Englishness in this. The monarchy, which guarantees the ‘island state’, is a multinational corporation. No one embodied this more than Philip.”