LONDON – No sooner had the long-awaited news – Queen Elizabeth II died – than Britain created Operation London Bridge, the carefully designed funeral plan that guides the country through the rituals of honor and mourning that culminate with her burial 10 days later.
But the plan, with its metronomic precision, hides something even more chaotic: a rupture in the national psyche. The The Queen passed away last week, aged 96, is a truly shocking event that leaves many in this stoic country restless and untied. When they come to terms with the loss of character they embodied Britain, they are unsure of their nation’s identity, its economic and social well-being, or even its role in the world.
For some, it is as if the London Bridge has fallen.
This shock wasn’t entirely unexpected: Elizabeth ruled for 70 years, making her the only queen most Britons have ever known. However, the anxiety is deepening, scholars and commentators say, a reflection not only of the queen’s long shadow but also of the turbulent country she left behind.
From Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic to the serial scandals that recently ousted Prime Minister Boris Johnson from office, the end of the Elizabeth II era has been a period of endless turmoil in Britain.
In just two months since Mr Johnson announced he was stepping down, inflation has soared, a recession looms and household energy bills have nearly doubled. Almost lost in the global flow after the death of the queen is that The new Prime Minister, Liz TrussAfter three days of work, he rolled out a contingency plan to curb energy prices at a potential cost of more than $100 billion.
“All of this is fueling the sense of uncertainty and insecurity, which was already there because of Brexit and then Covid, and now a very inexperienced new prime minister,” said Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European studies at the University of Oxford. The queen, he said, was the rock “and then the rock is removed.”
Not just rock, but the rhythm of British everyday life: her portrait is imprinted on pound notes and postage stamps, and her royal letter — ER for Elizabeth Regina — is engraved on flags and red mailboxes across the floor.
In the official proclamation of her son Charles as king on Saturday, the void left by the Queen was evident. Her empty throne, bearing the initials ER, looms before the new king’s council; Heir to Prince William. Archbishop of Canterbury; The Prime Minister and her six living ancestors.
For older Britons in particular, the loss is “profound, personal and almost familial,” Johnson said, praising the Queen in Parliament on Friday, four days after she accepted his resignation in one of her last acts.
“Perhaps it is partly because she has always been there, a constant human reference point in British life,” he said. “The one who, all surveys say, often appears in our dreams. So it is so unchanged in its astral radiance that we might have been lulled into believing that it might somehow be eternal.”
What lies behind the Queen’s fortitude, Johnson and others have said, is her immense global standing. She was a living link to World War II, after which Winston Churchill helped map the postwar world, sitting around the Yalta conference table with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin.
Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Truss have returned to this role with their strong support for Ukraine. But Britain these days is not so much a major power at the center of global decision-making as a middle power cheering from the sidelines. It is fitting that Churchill was the last Briton to receive a state funeral – until the Queen’s funeral on September 19 at Westminster Abbey – Churchill was in 1965.
Professor Garton Ash of Oxford said: “My personal thinking is that perhaps there will never be an occasion when another British person will be globally sad.” “It’s in a way the last minute of British greatness.”
For all manifestations of power, the queen did not sign her influence through political or military power, but through a binding duty to the state. Her wartime service, and her gracious administration, contrasted with the often fragmented British policies, not to mention the powerful foreign men who sometimes had to entertain her.
Some said she was a pioneer in the exercise of what later became known as “soft power”.
The Queen said in 1957: “I can’t lead you into battle. I don’t give you laws or do justice, but I can do something else. I can give you my heart and my devotion to these ancient islands, and to all our brothers of nations.”
In the gardens and squares around Buckingham Palace, where crowds gathered on Saturday, people spoke of her loss both politically and personally. It meant reliability and stability,” said Kate Natras, 59, a health recruiter from Christchurch, New Zealand, a member of the Commonwealth.
But the Queen did so at the cost of great personal sacrifices. “In many ways, she was a woman who was robbed of her ability to be herself,” said Mrs. Natras. “She probably missed a lot of her family members because of that.”
Callum Taylor, 27, an actor from Preston, northwest England, traveled to London to leave yellow roses at the palace gates. He said he had heard that yellow was one of Elizabeth’s favorite colours. Mr Taylor admitted he wasn’t sure of his information, but added: “I think we all felt like we knew it.”
While the Queen has long been respected – the swollen crowds at her platinum jubilee celebrations in June attest to her continued popularity – her role is arguably more important after Brexit.
With Britain no longer part of the European Union, the pro-Brexit government backed away from the symbols of its imperial past, ordering Union Jack to regularly move out of public buildings and push projects like a new royal yacht (neither King Charles III nor King Charles III, nor does Mrs. Truss is particularly interested in this.)
I respect the Queen for the cracks that have widened within the UK since Brexit. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland now have large populations who would prefer to secede from the kingdom, and it is not clear if King Charles would give them a more compelling reason to stay.
In Scotland, where the Queen died in her beloved Balmoral Castle, the independence referendum in 2014 was defeated by 55 per cent to 44 per cent. The Scottish National Party, which controls the country’s parliament, is determined to hold another vote.
Many in Ireland still remember the Queen’s historic visit in 2011, when she enthralled the public and spoke candidly about Britain’s strained relationship with its neighbour. “With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things we wish had been done differently, or not done at all,” she said.
In Northern Ireland, however, the Irish National Party, Sinn Fein has become the largest party After the elections in May. Sinn Fein is within walking distance of being the largest party in the Republic of Ireland, too, and it’s a landmark that could accelerate his drive toward Irish unity.
The administration of the troubled unionist parties in the north, which preferred to remain part of the kingdom, became a nuisance to the British government. Ms Truss, like Mr Johnson, is threatening to scrap post-Brexit trade arrangements in Northern Ireland that are part of the withdrawal agreement with the EU.
Centrifugal forces are greatest in Britain’s most remote areas of control, such as Jamaica, the Bahamas and Saint Lucia, where predominantly black populations are demanding a deal with the racist legacy of British colonialism. Barbados expulsion of the queen As head of state in 2021, Jamaica may soon follow suit.
On a troubled tour of the Caribbean last March, Prince William and his wife Catherine faced calls for reparations for slavery and demanded recognition that Britain’s economy was “built on the shoulders of our ancestors”.
Vernon Bogdanor, who is in charge of the constitutional monarchy at Kings College London, said Charles was a departure from other royals in that he tries to appeal to those on the fringes of society. He cited Charles’ visits to Tottenham, north London, after riots broke out in 2011 after she was shot by police.
That is why, among other things, Professor Bogdanor said that the new king may surprise those who doubt his ability to replace his mother. However, he did admit to a surprisingly deep sense of loss upon the Queen’s death.
“I feel more affected than I could have imagined,” he said. “It is not unexpected that a 96-year-old would die. The only explanation I can think of is that people instinctively felt how much she cared about the country.”
Saskia Suleiman Contribute to the preparation of reports.
September 10, 2022
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the Federation of Sovereign States of which New Zealand is a member. It is now the Commonwealth, not the British Commonwealth.
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