Last week, I tried to list the reasons why Queen Elizabeth’s death made such an impact worldwide. They included: the English language, British soft power, the primal appeal of monarchy, her sex, the Royal Family’s ups and downs – plus her age, length of service and, perhaps above all, character. Not to mention the use she herself had made of the media and the influence of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Lists have a way of exhausting themselves, but the justification for this one stands. An Ambassador told me last week that there has been no funeral like it in living memory: not that of J.F.Kennedy, nor of Nelson Mandela, nor even of Winston Churchill. “There is nothing left remarkable/ Beneath the visiting moon.”
After today we enter the King’s own mourning period, which ends seven days after the funeral. My understanding is that he won’t be available to agree Ministerial appointments, so the new Government remains half-formed, so to speak – with the new list incomplete, and Ministers appointed under Boris Johnson awaiting dismissal in some cases.
Parliament resumes on Wednesday for taking of oaths to the King, so there is less time in this political week than usual when it sits. Nonetheless, and for all the incompleteness of the Government, Liz Truss will seek to squeeze a quart’s worth of business into the pintpot of a few days.
On Wednesday, we expect an announcement from Jacob Rees-Mogg on the Government’s energy support package. On Thursday, Thérèse Coffey will make a statement on health and the NHS. And on Friday will come Kwasi Kwarteng’s “fiscal event”, a day after the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England meets to review interest rates.
The new Prime Minister is setting a frantic pace – she is off tomorrow to the UN for her first visit abroad in post – but that’s nothing new in political life. We’ve endured financial crashes before, and pandemics, and wars abroad that had knock-on effects here – whether in that order or not.
What we have not done is live long under the reign of Charles III. His mother’s was the longest in history, and we have been plunged suddenly into a new age. The fact was not unexpected but the consequences are unknowable: how could it be otherwise?
The quote earlier this piece is from Anthony and Cleopatra, and a few lines earlier the Egyptian queen says: “the crown o’ the earth doth melt”. She was speaking of Anthony, and a Roman general isn’t a British monarch, either in fact or fiction. Our monarchy isn’t vanishing and God Save the King. But the line may somehow echo and shape how we feel about Queen Elizabeth’s death, in that way which Shakespeare has with these things, and I have stuck it up as the headline above this article.