Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I reviewed a series of TV films that imagined Agatha Christie as a crime-solver not just a mystery writer. Tina shared thoughts on two books set in England: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell and Into the Cornish Wind by Kate Ryder.
I’ve been fascinated all week by the various ceremonies around the death of the monarch and the continuation of the monarchy epitomized by the traditional phrase: The Queen is dead. Long live the King.
Here is the official announcement at Buckingham Palace, a sign fastened to the palace gates that hearkens back to days when we didn’t all learn about the news from electronic media.
The only Britons who remember singing “God Save the King” instead of “God Save the Queen” are roughly 75 years old or older. Here is the first official rendition of the new-again version of the national anthem, sung at the end of a memorial service at St. Paul’s Cathedral:
The proclamation ceremony, where the powers that be acknowledge the new king, is hundreds of years old. It hasn’t happened for 70 years and, so, has never been televised. I had no idea that it happened. But it makes sense, when you think about the stability of the succession. If there’s any doubt about who should be next, this ceremony would quell opposition. I loved the trumpets and fancy dress.
On Wednesday, the Queen’s coffin was conveyed by horse and carriage from Buckingham Palace, along Pall Mall, to Westminster Hall. I watched parts of that live. We’ve been watching the documentary The Royal House of Windsor on Netflix this week. We saw footage during that of the same procession for King George V and King George VI — Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather and father.
While she’s lying-in-state, the public will be allowed to convey their condolences and honor this historic moment by passing her coffin. This will happen 24 hours a day, with people waiting in a queue that is miles long for many hours to have their brief moment of connection, respect, and reflection. The BBC is streaming it live, and I keep dropping into watch. It’s mesmerizing. Every twenty minutes, there’s a pause for the guard change which is orderly and pleasing to watch. I’m frequently moved by the moments that people take with their queen — a bow, a curtsy, or a blown kiss. I’m inspired by the variety of faces. For me, that’s a reminder that whatever the glory or damnation of the British Empire, it’s all represented in modern-day London, now, with a potential for demonstrating how mutual appreciation and justice can provide us all with a richer cultural experience.
Of course, there is more pomp and ceremony to come.
The funeral will be on Monday. I’m sure it will be broadcast live on many venues. I’ve paid more attention to live streams of British events in the last couple of years and I have some observations that might help people choose how they want to watch Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
The Royal Family Channel on YouTube usually shows events without commentary. If you want to hear only the sounds in the room, this is the channel to watch.
The BBC channel on YouTube offers quiet, respectful, British-based commentary. That’s helpful if, like me, you’re curious about the traditions and the people that you’re witnessing.
Many American broadcast networks are likely to carry this live via their normal TV channels, websites, and/or YouTube. They often have American commentators alongside a British expert. Since the BBC is unlikely to explain things that pretty much everyone in Britain knows, sometimes I like having American commentators who ask the same stupid question that I’m wondering about. The downside, though, is that I’ve seen American commentators make gaffes and things happen too quickly for the British expert to correct the mistake.
I’ll probably watch the BBC channel just because it amuses me that I can sit here in the middle of the US and see what people in Britain are seeing on their televisions. That’s a very recent phenomenon!
The next big event will be the coronation of King Charles III. We will observe a respectful period to mourn the loss of the previous monarch before that date is announced. The coronation is a big deal requiring a lot of planning. On the other hand, King Charles is 73 years old. I don’t imagine that he’ll want to wait the more than 15 months that passed between Queen Elizabeth’s accession and her coronation. My prediction is late spring when the weather starts to get nice in London for crowds to gather in the streets.
If you’re looking for appropriate music to play during this time, I’ve been cycling between a couple of YouTube playlists. This one is filled with lush, but somber, classical music: Dark Royalty Core Classical Music. For a brighter mood, I’ve been playing The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – Music for a Royal Occasion with regal instrumental pieces interspersed with UK patriotic songs.
How are you observing this time of transition in the British monarchy?