.. for it shall be forever known as just that.
There is something soothing and yet very sad in watching the live feed of Her Majesty the Queen lying in state. ("Lying-in-state" ? I'm not entirely convinced about that one.) Several journalists facing the "we've run out of things to write" problem have touched upon it. Here are a few thoughts from me. I've had the feed running since it started and I've been watching it on and off while crocheting, knitting etc. I need the big screen to see the pattern now and the office is the warmest place in the house when no-one dares put the heating on.
The most striking thing is the looks on the mourners' faces as they reach the top of the steps and look down into the hall. The coffin seems small, as do all coffins, and for those who have lost a parent it brings back memories of that coffin in a horribly sudden way. Just looking at a crowd of faces I could tell you exactly who has attended a parent's funeral. You're chatting to friends and family you haven't seen for a while, you're trying to be cheerful as your Dad - in my case - would have wanted and then you see the coffin and the sense of loss is unbearable.
Once down the stairs "all life is here". No-one is told what to do. You can just walk by, bow your head, curtsey, blow kisses, clasp hands in prayer, make the sign of the cross, do whatever you feel moved to do and those behind you will wait respectfully while you do it. Try as they might to move the queue along in a gentle manner the stewards will let you pay your respects as you choose.
As I watched there were children who had practised bowing for hours and were either determined to get it right or were too shy to try, families who all lined up together for a group bow, (mostly) young men who actually got down on one knee, groups of lads there for a laugh who weren't going to bow until one broke away and decided to do it.
Many arrived in national dress and other uniforms and costumes. There were off-duty police, firefighters, paramedics, Brownies, Guides, Scouts, druids and several "I wonder what those people do every Wednesday" outfits I hadn't seen before. There were priests and leaders of all faiths. Then there was the moving sight of members of the royal family performing their vigil. How hard it must be to grieve while the world is watching.
All this punctuated every twenty minutes with the tap, tap tap of the officer's sword to usher in the new guard.
A few people will stick in my mind for a long time
- the old soldiers in berets and regimental blazers sporting many, many medals who gave their best ever salute, bowed their head and walked away in tears, cruel camera operator staying with them as they left the hall.
- the Native American chief in full headdress, an elderly and very dignified gentleman.
- the lady who, from her deportment, was obviously a dancer and gave the most graceful, elegant curtsey ever then walked away as if her feet weren't touching the floor.
Speaking of curtseys - and believe me I will every time I get the chance - ladies, please learn to do it and teach your daughters. You never know when you might need the skill, as teachers at my school told me. They were right. The bodyguard said he was impressed with mine when I met Prince Charles, as he then was. It's not difficult but if you get it wrong it looks downright weird and you might fall over. You don't want that! Learn about centre of gravity first then practise a bit. I learned at such an early age from my grandmother, reinforced by learning it at school and in drama classes, that even being an old lady I can do it without thinking about it. It's the thinking about it that messes it up.
I feel sad that I couldn't join in The Queue but dodgy knees would not allow me to stand for hours and walk six miles - and if I'd made it I would be faced with steps I couldn't get down because there are no railings. You would have thought some kind of railing could be set up. There are plenty of people not needing the accessible route who would still have trouble negotiating a long run of stairs. I saw a couple stumble and fall while I was watching. Stewards and others rushed to their aid, of course, but those were unnecessary falls.
Queuing is a great British skill and we did it well (there's an interesting article here about the science of queuing).
We have lost a wonderful Queen. God bless you, Your Majesty.
"Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life." [Revelation 2:10]
God save the King.