How long should a Nation mourn?

September 9, 2022

On the death of her beloved Husband Albert, Queen Victoria began a period of mourning that lasted forty years to her death. It is considered today a somewhat extreme action by a person who never overcame the grief after her bereavement.

When Diana, Prince of Wales died in a gruesome car crash in 1997, there was an outpouring of grief for the princess which has scarcely subsided for those most affected. 

When the Queen died on Thursday 8 of September, the period of mourning began. Television channels grappled with the dilemma. BT Sports decided to show a football match, but to drop the pre-match and halftime punditry and adverts. 

‘Every COVID death is a tragedy’ we heard during the pandemic. For the deceased and for their loved ones. We know know of the widespread anger against politicians who uttered words of solace which were later found out to be false. 

At present there seems to be a country which has been long preparing for the death of a paradoxical figure, much loved, remote as a long-lost relative but closer than members of the household. Remote and close. Whose imagined life to the last detail is recounted in the minutest detail. 

The royal drama has already been played out in lucrative films. Popular debates continue over which actress plays the Queen best. This morning less than 24 hours after her death, an article appeared comparing the merits of Clare Foy, Olivia Coleman and Helen Mirren in the role.

By Friday decisions are now being reached to postpone sporting events. The BBC which has been preparing for several years for this sad event has virtually abandoned other news stories.

It summarises the current situation

 The Queen’s death will have a major impact on daily life in the UK. While a timetable of official events has been carefully planned, most details are yet to be confirmed. The funeral is expected to take place at Westminster Abbey in about 10 days’ time. The date, to be announced by Buckingham Palace, is likely to be declared a bank holiday. It’s unclear whether schools will close before then, with the Department for Education and devolved administrations expected to issue advice. Sporting and cultural events to have been cancelled or postponed include Friday’s football and racing fixtures, the BBC Proms – including Saturday’s Last Night of the Proms – and the Mercury Music Prize ceremony. Meanwhile, rail and postal workers’ unions have called off planned strikes.

The Diana death industry is still very much alive. The mourning for a fairy tale figure, especially one of a much-loved monarch can go on as long as those profiting from it can continue to exploit it.

The Queen, The Pope, and the Fidel Castro Conundrum

April 26, 2016


The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations help explain the nature of charisma

The concept of charisma continues to fascinate students of leadership.  This morning [21 April, 2016], Reginaphilia raged and reached unparalleled levels across the realm.

Somehow I had missed the truth that should have been staring me in the face.  I have been compiling lists of charismatic individuals in business, politics, sport, show-business.  but I had completely overlooked the claims of Queen Elizabeth II. Even when she was (charismatically) portrayed by that charismatic actress Helen Mirren, I still didn’t get it.

My moment of truth

I nearly missed the moment when truth was revealed to me this morning.  The BBC had retained its customary tone of all things monarchic, that is to say deep respect, with the occasional few moments airtime for someone to make the republican case, in the interested of ‘balance’

“Over then to Windsor town where the people had been queuing for a glimpse of HRH.”

How long had they been waiting? Four days and nights, I learned. Roughly the time tennis fans queue for a handful of tickets at Wimbledon. Loyalists is too mild a word for those at the front of the queue. These were utterly loyal and compliant subjects.

“What’s it like to see the Queen?” asks the BBC reporter

“When I see her”, said one young-sounding man, “I have goose-pimples.”

“It’s her aura”, a lady of middle England explained. “I can’t move. If she spoke to me, I couldn’t speak a word.”

And then I understood.  In our modern world the old mysteries remain.  The followers sustain the belief in the divine right of the Monarch to rule over us, and afterwards granted to the offspring (male for the moment, but that’s another story). And if I had ignored The Queen, I had likewise ignored the claims of The Pope.

The Charismatic Pope

As someone outside its fold of the Catholic church, I have felt ill-equipped to follow the charismatic nature of Pope Francis. So as well as missing the Queen’s charismatic impact, I also failed to have noticed that another super-charismatic figure had emerged on the global stage.

I will let a supporter speak the case:

A year on from his inauguration, Pope Francis is showing signs of being the most charismatic Pope we’ve seen yet. What impact is he having on the UK’s Catholic charismatic movement?

It’s not the first time Pope Francis has surprised us since his inauguration just over a year ago. He’s opted to live in a simple apartment with almost no personal staff, swapped a limousine for a bus and chosen a papal name that links him to a saint known for his dedication to poverty, reform and a love of the natural world. He’s been photographed kissing a man with a rare skin disorder and embracing another with a severely disfigured face. He’s blessed a rally of 35,000 Harley-Davidson riders, hired an intern with Down’s syndrome for Vatican Radio and regularly tweets his 3.8 million followers with thoughtful, encouraging words (@pontifex)

Pope Francis has been named Time magazine’s 2013 person of the year, featured on the covers of Rolling Stone magazine and The New Yorker and was described by Sir Elton John as ‘a miracle of humility’. After just a year, his influence is undisputedly running broad and deep

But would Pope Francis go a step further – and describe himself as a ‘charismatic’? The article then outlines the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church which Francis has treated with respect while avoiding the battlefield over the place charismatic Catholicism in the church.

Time for revision

It is time for revision. I mean my own revision in finding no place for The Queen or Pope Francis in my tables of charismatic leaders. Trouble is, unlike Time, Rolling Stone, or Fortune, I just can’t decide where to place them, and whether they should displace the long-standing number one Fidel Castro.