By Alan Bickley
Because I avoid television and other news, I heard about an hour later than everyone else about the Queen’s death. When her father died, people burst spontaneously into tears. Others appear to have done this now. I cannot say the news took me so badly. Even so, I was shocked, and I spent the evening feeling empty.
I should hardly have surprised me. The woman had been growing visibly frail. As said, I avoid the television news, but I was aware of how small and thin she had grown. And she was 96. But I was shocked and felt empty. She was less of a monarch than I desired. When she came to the throne, this was a vastly powerful and relatively wealthy country. Its institutions were battered from the storms of the early and middle twentieth century, but all seemed intact. There appeared to be no fundamental reason why a policy of internal reform should not continue England’s run of greatness into the indefinite future, even if no longer as the supreme power in the world. By the end of her reign, all that had gone. When I was a boy, I could feel so proud and so happy to be English. I could fill my mind with the details of our glorious and fortunate history. I could look down on lesser nations. But look where we are today. That would require a litany of facts and complaints, so I will leave this point as stated. I doubt she could have stopped the slide, but she could have made the attempt. She could have been a little more flinty when her Prime Ministers came to her with their ludicrous ideas of improvement. Instead, she did nothing. She sat comfortable in the back of the national carriage, careless of whether the driver was drunk or insane, sure that she would survive any crash unscathed. I can be suspicious of the outpouring of official grief. The BBC and all the solid enemies of England are visibly putting on black arm bands and talking about “the sad passing of her Majesty the Queen.” This may be because they feel they have a duty to put on a show. It may be that they still have some residual patriotism. More likely, they realise that they have lost what became, after 1997, the essential fig leaf behind which they could work on their project of national destruction.
But she was the Queen, and that means a lot. More than this, she was the Queen for a very long time. The earliest memory I can date is when I was two, and sitting on the floor in my grandmother’s living room. There was an item on the television news about the tenth anniversary of the Queen’s accession. All through my life, she was there. I may not have approved of what she did or did not do while she was there. But she was there. In the howling storm that has torn England apart since the 1980s, she was always there. Now she is gone. All I see now is the wreckage over which she presided, but that she managed partly to conceal by her presence.