Saturday, 17 April 2021

The Occasion

 It may be a cliché, but it's still true – by God, we do this kind of thing superbly well! This kind of thing being represented today by Prince Philip's funeral, a beautifully choreographed event, packed with resonant imagery and moving moments, the kind of occasion that reminds you that, despite present woes, this is still some kind of a great nation.
In the lead-up to the funeral service, just seeing those ranks of perfectly placed servicemen all with their heads bowed, and hearing that stirring English music was enough to get me in the heartstrings – not get me as I was got by Diana's funeral, which completely undid me, but I was moved, as I always am by big communal endeavours done seriously and for a good purpose. It is a very human thing, this urge to come together and create something far bigger and more important than the participants, and these great royal events are a powerful expression of it. As at Diana's funeral, the weather enhanced the effect: then it was mellow autumn sun, now sharp spring sunlight casting crisp shadows. The service itself achieved a fitting grandeur, despite the reduced scale of the occasion. Neither the Archbish nor the Dean of Windsor did much to enhance the grandeur, but the words and music did the work, and the sadly reduced choir of four singers were magnificent. The lamenting piper (much though I hate the bagpipes) was a brilliant piece of theatre.
The saddest sight, of course, was the grieving Queen, sitting alone and uncomforted, and with her face covered by a black mask – the most potent image of the day, and one that epitomises the deeply strange times we are living through.  Even the Royal Family must submit to the inhuman and arbitrary regulations that are at present governing the lives of the rest of us. That must have been the one detail the Prince did not foresee when he meticulously planned his own funeral. 


  1. Well, to return the compliment Zoe – your latest, Emerging from the Ruins, is wonderful. I know just what you mean about this strange, apparently inappropriate melancholy – the events of the past year have been seriously and deeply unsettling, even to those of us who did our best to sail above them...