The Daily Telegraph

A public respectful in grief for the Queen


It was never in doubt that enormous numbers of people would want to come to London to pay their respects to the late Queen. The queue wending its way through the capital to Westminste­r Hall continues to grow, with tens of thousands willing to wait hours in the autumnal chill to see Her Majesty’s lying in state. Huge crowds attended the procession of her coffin from Buckingham Palace earlier in the week. They will be even larger on the day of the state funeral itself.

The public has, for the most part, also behaved with dignity in their grief. There has been no repeat of the scenes of mass hysteria that greeted the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, with observers commenting instead on the respectful silence of the crowds as they contemplat­e the events of the past week. A spirit of camaraderi­e is also evident, particular­ly in the queue for Westminste­r Hall. At a moment of national bereavemen­t, people quite understand­ably find comfort in being among others who are similarly affected.

They recognise, too, that this is a moment in history, the memories of which will be passed down to children and grandchild­ren much as with the late Queen’s coronation in 1953. British people do not tend to express their patriotism as loudly as Americans, and our constituti­on may appear less rational than those of less ancient European countries. But the great royal events – funerals, coronation­s, jubilees – are focal points for the expression of our national identity, as well as significan­t moments in our national story in themselves.

Ritual and ceremony play a large part in this. Some would contend that much of it is anachronis­tic, especially observers from foreign countries that have had to invent rituals this nation has been lucky enough to inherit. But such traditions hold power precisely because they are rich in the peculiarit­ies of our history – and the public implicitly understand­s that.

Given the length of her reign and the lifetime of service that she gave her subjects, it was inevitable that the announceme­nt of Queen Elizabeth’s death just over a week ago would prove unsettling. It will be a reassuranc­e, however, that in many ways this is still the same country that witnessed the late Queen take the throne in 1952. The coming days will be days of sorrow, but also a moment to reflect on the strength of our institutio­ns and our common values.

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