by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There is no doubt that the death of Queen Elizabeth II is a historic event, and the first thing I must say is that the death of any individual is a tragic and emotional event for anyone who knew them closely. We have all lost loved ones, and it often takes a long time to get over such loss. From a personal perspective, therefore, I have sympathy with the members of the royal family at this sad time.

It must also be said that Queen Elizabeth II carried out her public role with an extraordinary degree of duty, diligence, commitment, grace and dignity. From anecdotes of people who met her, she does seem to have had a sense of humour and a level of empathy with individuals she encountered at close quarters.

Having said all that, though, I think it is important to differentiate between the person and the position of monarch. While I can fully understand that the Queen’s death will have had a significant impact on those who knew her well, I am struggling to empathise with those members of the general public who never met her and yet who seem afflicted by grief. Yes, it is sad, but the reaction, undoubtedly encouraged by the UK’s sycophantic media, is out of all proportion to the actual impact the Queen had on these people.

I am not going to dwell on some of the more sordid revelations about the royal family as readers can find those elsewhere, but I want to consider why the UK’s response to this event is so extreme.

I don’t wish to sound too callous, but I must say that the Queen’s passing has had no emotional impact on me at all. I feel neither joy nor sorrow, only the same level of sympathy I would feel about the death of anyone I did not know personally. I never met the Queen, and her only influence on my life in a personal way was when my entire Primary School class was bussed out to stand at a roadside waving small Union flags while the Queen was driven past us at high speed. It was a bizarre event, and even back in those tender years of my childhood, I struggled to appreciate what all the fuss was about. Personally, I’d have preferred to be out playing football with my pals.

I think the main thing which irritates or even annoys those of a republican persuasion in the UK is the over-the-top reaction of our media, particularly the BBC where presenter Clive Myrie went so far as to tell his viewers that the new Prime Minister’s speech about the cost of living crisis was insignificant compared to the news coming from Balmoral. I do hope Mr Myrie will take some time to reflect on that, because the current crisis is going to result in the deaths of many more elderly people, and a lot of those deaths are avoidable. When millions of people don’t have enough money to heat their homes or cook hot food, that is not insignificant.

This adulation of the monarchy actually goes back a long way. It really began in England in the 11th Century when William the Bastard, having defeated Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, found that his position as King of England was not as secure as he would have liked. He therefore began calling meetings of his nobles where he would make a point of parading around in expensive robes, wearing a crown and insisting on being title, "Your Majesty". This was the beginning of the move by the ruling family to instil an aura of mystique around their position.

Of course, this has not always worked too well. Under Richard II, the people revolted until they were mercilessly slaughtered. King John famously had to make concessions to his Barons, while Edward II and Charles I met violent ends. Over the centuries, though, and especially since the restoration of Charles II, the process of elevating the monarch to a status far above that of mere mortals has continued. The English (now the UK) national anthem is, I believe, unique in the world in that it does not celebrate the nation, but instead celebrates the person of the monarch, with the singers revelling in their inferior status. This was an important tool in reinforcing the social order during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the advent of television has greatly helped convince the British public of the value of the royal family in general and the monarch in particular. The Divine Right of Kings may have been abolished by Cromwell, but the royals are still regarded by many as being somehow inherently superior, and so are worthy of reverence. It is a testament to the power of this indoctrination that many people I would regard as sensible are going out of their way to express grief over the death of the Queen. This unthinking adulation of a Head of State is the sort of thing we would expect from North Korea and I find the obsession rather unhealthy. It seems to me that a large part of the official promotion of national grief is designed to remind people of their place in UK society.

My gripes about the institution of monarchy are many, although it must be said that other European nations do seem able to handle it in a far less extreme way. The UK, though, turns all royal events into enormous, expensive pageants, and the media do their best to shame people into joining in the show. This has led to the ludicrous cancellation of some, but not all, sporting events which means that people are still expected to work during the long mourning period yet are denied opportunities to find some enjoyment. And, having cancelled all senior football this weekend, it seems likely that the same will happen next weekend because the official mourning period will still be in progress, and having set a precedent, the sporting authorities will find it difficult to justify restarting their competitions. But cricket and rugby, sports generally not associated with the working class, are going ahead, and I will be interested to discover what happens in horse racing.

As for the oft-repeated claim that the royal family generate tourism, this is largely nonsense. I’m sure retailers of royal memorabilia can make some money from it, but it is worth noting that the UK’s largest visitor attraction is the Tower of London, where no royals have lived for centuries.

My greatest feelings, however, come from the vast accumulation of wealth acquired by the monarch. When her subjects are struggling to afford to live, the Queen did nothing to help, and we know from recent media exposures that her lawyers went out of their way to ensure that she was not affected by laws which everyone else needs to comply with. I’m afraid that the whole institution of monarchy in the UK is an affront to a modern state. Yes, it is sad that the Queen has died, but I find it even sadder that so many people who never came closer to her than handling a bank note with her picture on it, are now going out of their way to show how upset they are. Whether this is genuine grief or mere virtue signalling, it shows how ingrained the idea of adulation of the monarchy has become. People are conditioned to view themselves as inferior thanks to a simple accident of birth. For me, that just doesn’t sit right.

Will things change with the accession of Charles III? Some people think it presages the break-up of the union, but I have my doubts that it will have that much impact. It may be a small factor if the political process goes the way I hope it does, but I don’t believe that having a new monarch essentially alters the proposition for Scottish independence. Charles himself has clearly indicated that he intends that things should carry on by proclaiming his elder son as Prince of Wales without apparently giving any thought to how the people of Wales might feel about this.

I think things will carry on as before because it remains in the interests of the ruling Establishment in Westminster, along with their corporate and media allies, to maintain the status quo. We can therefore expect the media to continue to churn out eulogies for a long time yet. Continuity will, I believe, become a strong theme in the coming weeks and months.

In the short term, we will no doubt see a continuation of the barrage of programmes designed to maintain a feeling of loss and mourning. Whether even the BBC will be able to keep it up for ten days remains to be seen, but I’m sure they will have a damned good try. After all, their role is to persuade people how special the monarchy is, and it’s a message they will hammer home because they know that a great many people will believe it.

But it is not only ordinary citizens (sorry, subjects) who are subjected to this conditioning. The royals, too, are products of their environment. They have been brought up to regard themselves as special, and they will inevitably expect deference and obedience from their subjects. They are, after all, only human, and they, too, have been conditioned to believe that the UK’s monarchical system is, like most things British, the best in the world.

For me, all I can say is thank goodness for Podcasts and Netflix.