Peter Rhodes on bagpipes, protocol and the passing of the Forever Queen

Back in June, after the Platinum Jubilee, I was surprised how many people said we’d never see anything like it again.

The lying-in state – too short?
The lying-in state – too short?

But if there’s one thing this nation does well, and regularly, it is staging magnificent royal spectacles.

As I wrote then: “The Queen is not immortal and most of us will witness the ultimate Royal Funeral, followed by the bling and ballyhoo of another Coronation.”

But I doubt many of us expected the monarch’s death to come barely three months later, and then so swiftly.

We may never know the exact cause of death but it seemed to take the doctors and the Royal Family by surprise.

The dying process can take many days. Yet Her Majesty passed away only 48 hours after greeting her new Prime Minister and smiling for the camera.

She had a good life and a serene death in the place that she loved best.

In some sense many of her subjects expected Elizabeth II to be with us for all time.

There was, somewhere in our national psyche, an echo of Handel’s gloriously improbable exhortation to King George II in his great anthem Zadok the Priest: “May the king live / Forever, forever, forever.”

But even Elizabeth, the post-war generation’s forever monarch, had to pass.

What a sudden, political process it was as, in a nano-second, a queen died and a king took her place.

Did you feel just a hint of betrayal singing the National Anthem and urging God to save the King, not the Queen?

On to the spectacle. Much of the mourning was dictated by protocol and the Queen’s personal wishes so it’s almost heresy to suggest it was anything other than perfect.

Yet at times it looked frenetic, almost unseemly.

I lost count of how many times Elizabeth’s coffin was picked up and put down in the space of just 10 days.

A simpler, longer lying-in-state at a single venue would have meant shorter queues and given time for people to pause in prayer.

The funeral itself was magnificent and acted as a reminder that all the massed choirs and trumpets in the world cannot express this nation’s grief quite as powerfully as a simple lament from a lone piper.

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