As it is Tuesday, Meg and I fell into our ‘normal’ Tuesday routine but of course the media coverage of the departure of the Queen’s coffin from Scotland is anything but normal. Meg and I collected our newspaper and then joined our happy band who meet in Waitrose each Tuesday for a weekly get-together. After we had had our normal chats and gossiped about the developing news of the Queen’s death, we returned home and I started preparing for my Pilates class later in the day. The new King was meeting with representatives of all of the political parties in Hillsborough this morning. In the afternoon, the TV was covering a Service of Reflection and Remembrance from St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. From what I could tell, the service seemed pretty ecumenical which is surely fitting for the occasion. A hymn was sung to the tune of the ‘Londonderry air’ which is a tune which is used whenever Northern Ireland is represented at sporting events and I suppose is relatively ‘neutral’ given the schisms that have characterised Ulster’s politics in the past. Incidentally, it is quite an interesting fact that no doubt due to the smallness of the relevant populations, sport in the ‘island of Ireland’ has always been reatively united. Meg and I were once on a flight to Spain and found ourselves in the middle of a group of Irish deep sea fisherman who were partaking in an international competition of some sort and they seemed genuinely surprised when we asked the question whether they represented just Eire or the whole of the island of Ireland, when the lattern was in fact the case.
This afternoon, we were watching the departure of the Queen’s body from Scotland which involved evidently the progress of the hearse from Holdroodhouse to the airport in Edinburgh. I must admit that I found the actual takeoff of the flight from Edinburgh representing the absolutely last occasion when the Queen would depart from Scotland quite an emotional and poignant occasion. Meanwhile, attention is now shifting towards London where both the King has arrived back and where the Queen’s coffin is due to land shortly. I imagine, as I write, that the progress of the Queen’s coffin from RAF Northolt towards Buckingham palace might be quite slow and painstaking as the crowds gather to line the route. As many commentators are now saying, it is one thing for a person to die but the absolute fact of this is thrust to the front of one’s consciousness when you actually see a coffin for the first time. The police and security services are steeling themselves for what is to happen next Monday when the Queen’s body is to be taken in procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. Around 500 dignitaries from around the world will attend the Queen’s funeral. For most countries, the invitation extends to the head of state plus a guest. Apparently, President Biden is going to be allowed to bring ‘The Beast’ heavily armoured car to transport him around London but it has been let known that many other Heads of state will not necessarily be allowed to bring their own transport for the funeral but will need to be escorted from place in buses. Some of them may never have been in a bus in their lives so I can imagine that this may prove to be a massive psychological shock for many.
Now for the political talking point of the day. Some protesters have held up a sheet of paper bearing the words ‘Not my king’ The police seem to have taken the view that this constitutes offensive behaviour so some more streetwise protesters of a republican disposition have taken to holding up blank sheets of paper. The police have often taken the view that is within the rights of individuals to protest and have generally not intervened – which I personally think is the right cause of action. But the BBC have noted that a young barrister was arrested by the police when he was holding up a blank sheet of paper because what he might write upon it. This really is police action that crosses the line in the wrong direction. The young barrister when interviewed said that even if he did write words like ‘Not my King’, he would have been within his rights and the case law is quite clear on this point. However, he conceded that he would not hold up a piece of paper upon which words had been written if it was actually at a funeral itself – in other words, he conceded that there is a place for legitimate protest. The Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire argued that the police might intervene for the safety of the protesters themselves if the reaction of the bystanders was such that they turned a highly emotional state into a physical attack upon the protester. In this case, are the police right to intervene to protect an individual or is this itself an attack upon our democratic rights? A court may well be called upon to decide the case of the young barrister quoted above but courts are not infallible, particularly when emotions are running high.