If any­one de­serves a break, it’s the Queen

Daily Mail - - Life -

On the sur­face, it was just a quiet an­nounce­ment from Buck­ing­ham Palace, a lit­tle no­ti­fi­ca­tion of change in ac­cepted prac­tice. the Queen will not be lay­ing the wreath at the Ceno­taph next month, as she has done for 65 years. In­stead, Prince Charles will take over the piv­otal duty that lies at the heart of Bri­tain’s Remembrance Sun­day com­mem­o­ra­tions. Yet it was so much more than that. to me, it was a mo­ment of na­tional melan­choly. It was a cloud pass­ing across the house of Wind­sor, a por­tent of what is to come, the mis­sion creep of the end of the Queen’s reign. And what will come after that, God knows.

Per­haps the very first thing will be Charles rolling up at Bal­moral with a dozen skips in tow, into which all the Queen’s fru­gal two-bar fires, china cor­gis, tup­per­ware con­tain­ers and twee thistleprint cur­tains will be heaved.

to be re­placed with or­ganic oak log fires, giant sil­ver urns brim­ming with caviar, rich bro­cades, six-star lux­ury and tas­selled tas­sels on the silk tas­sels.

But I di­gress. the sig­nif­i­cance of the procla­ma­tion is clear.

hM the Queen is now 91 years old and de­spite her tweedy for­ti­tude and in­vi­o­late sense of duty, she is sim­ply no longer phys­i­cally ca­pa­ble of en­act­ing all the cer­e­mo­nial rigours that are part of a monarch’s life. We can all see that, with our own eyes. She can’t go on for ever.

Remembrance Day in­volves stand­ing out­side on a cold novem­ber morn­ing and the tricky lay­ing of the wreath, which must be per­fect. then those lit­tle buck­led Queen shoes must edge back­wards down the Ceno­taph steps, for­ever on the precipice of calamity. Over the past few years, I’ve barely been able to watch.

HOW

much longer be­fore a trip or a stum­ble? Yet there have been crit­i­cisms of her de­ci­sion to watch from a bal­cony this year, along­side 96-year- old Prince Philip.

One royal com­men­ta­tor claimed: ‘She should walk or crawl there to hon­our our war dead.’ An­other for­mer royal aide took to so­cial me­dia to air his grievance. ‘Walk­ing back­wards? there will be peo­ple older than her that have had to go on the Un­der­ground to get there,’ he fumed.

Which seems — to put it mildly — un­fair and un­war­ranted. es­pe­cially to­wards some­one who has never shirked her duty. Off with their dis­loyal heads!

In­stead of com­plain­ing that the Queen has per­haps laid a wreath at the Ceno­taph for the last time, per­haps we should say a gra­cious thankyou for all the times that she did. (And un­der­stand her touch­ing wish to stand next to now-re­tired Philip, the hus­band who has been at her side for all these years.)

For in royal life, as in or­di­nary life, the last time we do any­thing has a habit of creep­ing up un­awares, the un­ac­knowl­edged anniversary of the re­lent­less march of time.

So much fuss is made about life’s firsts — the first birth­day, the first deal, the first home. Yet surely what is much more im­por­tant, and car­ries more emo­tional res­o­nance is the last time you do some­thing.

It’s not the first kiss but the last dance that really mat­ters.

It is not the first steps but the last ones you take that are so crit­i­cal.

So sound the Last Post for the Queen’s last stand, although it is far from the dere­lic­tion of duty that Sh­e­some sug­gest.

has al­ways done us proud, and I am not sure that is some­thing you can say of her chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, who are now be­ing in­creas­ingly asked to step for­ward in her place.

how­ever, even as all good and sen­ti­men­tal things must come to an end, her be­ing a Remembrance Day ob­server is still go­ing to seem strange; a na­tional spec­ta­cle with­out its star player.

the Queen un­der­stands there is no big­ger, nor more im­por­tant task for a monarch than to hon­our her na­tion’s war dead.

there is no way she would have re­tired from this, the most se­ri­ous and som­bre of all her cer­e­mo­nial roles, un­less there was a very good rea­son.

I think it be­hoves ev­ery­one to ac­cept that with grace. Charles will do his best, of course. how­ever, he didn’t live through the last war, like his mother and her gen­er­a­tion did. he doesn’t have that vis­ceral con­nec­tion.

no one has ever doubted the sin­cer­ity of the Queen’s bowed head, or the sen­ti­ment in her heart. Can we say the same about Charles?

On cer­e­mo­nial duty, he al­ways has the air of a man who wishes he’d worn his cash­mere long-johns after all, and can’t wait to get out of his wet bearskin and dive into a dry mar­tini.

Any­way, on the big day, all eyes will be on the cou­ple on the bal­cony. As long as they are still here, we’ve got to make the most of them. As I said, you never know when the last time is a-com­ing.

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