Britain cancels all news out of respect for the queen

In case you managed not to notice, the queen died, but that’s not today’s topic. Let’s talk about Britain’s response, which–depending on your point of view–has been either moving and full of pageantry or expensive and over the top. 

Let’s go straight to the over-the-top stuff. 

News outlets more or less abandoned real news, giving us day after day after day of queen-is-dead coverage, and journalists were driven to such extremes in their efforts to find new angles that on the day of the funeral I found a headline that read, “Viewers left shocked after spider crawls across queen’s coffin during funeral.”

Yes, whatever else you can say, the country’s papers know breaking news when they see it.

Irrelevant photo: Nicotiana–and if it looks like I photoshopped a frowny face into the center, I didn’t. The flower grew that all by its glorious self.

The award for worst managed respectful gesture

Centre Parcs–a chain of holiday villages–first announced that they’d have to kick everyone out on the night of the queen’s funeral because they were closing down. When that got bad publicity, they changed their minds (“We recognise leaving the village for one night is an inconvenience”) but told guests they’d have to stay in their lodges, because the place was still closed. 

That led some denizens of social media to call it a hostage situation, which should also get an over-the-top award but we’ve run out. Sorry. Still, it was thoughtful of them to join Centre Parcs in that over-the-top space so they wouldn’t be lonesome.

The company later re-clarified the situation: Guests could walk around but the facilities would be closed. They offered a 17% discount. 

Your guess about how they came up with that figure is as good as mine. Given that people go there for the facilities, I’d have thought a 100% refund would be more fitting, but after that the story dropped out of the news. 

 

Gestures that didn’t win awards

From there, the stories get more mundane, but British Cycling–the national body for a sport that I never knew had a national body, or needed one–recommended that no one use their bikes on the day of the funeral.   

Cue bikers threatening to cancel their memberships. Then cue the organization backing down. And apologizing. And clarifying that  “no domestic events should take place on the day of the State Funeral,” whatever that means.

“Any clubs planning rides on the day of the State Funeral may want to consider adjusting their route or ride timings so they do not clash with those of the funeral service and associated processions.

“However, they are under no obligation to do so.”

In other words, please ignore this letter. 

Not to be outdone, the Norwich City Council closed two bike racks from September 9 to September 23, “during the Royal period of Mourning.” 

The British are big on capital Letters.

After a flap, the original sign was taken down and replaced with one explaining that the area would be used for “floral tributes.” But the bike racks are still closed.

In London, the overwhelmed Royal Parks Whatever asked people to please stop leaving Paddington Bears and marmalade sandwiches as tributes. Ditto balloons and candles. Flowers were okay, but without the wrappings, please.

The bears and sandwiches come out of a filmed sketch involving the queen, played by herself, having tea with Paddington Bear, who rumor has it was played by an actor.

The supermarket chain Morrisons showed its respect by turning the beeps on their self-service checkout scanners so low that customers couldn’t hear them and couldn’t tell if their purchases had been scanned or not.

On the day of the funeral, most of the big shops shut for at least part of the day. Most movie theaters also closed,  although a few screened the funeral for free but as a sign of respect weren’t selling popcorn. Or candy, although it’d be funnier to stop at popcorn. 

Cafes and restaurants were mostly closed, but pubs were mostly open. Draw your own conclusions. And Heathrow Airport adjusted its flight patterns and schedule to ensure quiet skies for the funeral. 

 

What happens next? 

Most significantly, Heinz ketchup will have to change its label, and so will hundreds of other food and drink brands. Why? Because they’ve carried the queen’s coat of arms on their packaging, which they can only do if they have a royal warrant, but royal warrants die when a monarch does.

A royal warrant? That doesn’t mean anyone’s getting arrested. Companies who supply “goods and services to the royals” can apply for them. So now they all have to apply to the new monarch and prove that the royal household uses their products regularly. 

Anytime you feel the need to remember the queen was human, just think of her pouring ketchup on her fries. 

Or maybe she had someone to do that for her.

Bank notes will also have to be changed, since they carry an image of the reigning whoever. That’ll take a couple of years. And coins will have to change, along with postage stamps and some flags–the ones outside police stations and in a few other places–since they have the queen’s initials on them. 

The royal arms, which are on many a government building as well as on government stationery, may change, but that’s up to the new king. And since MPs and members of the House of Lords swore an oath to the queen in order to take their seats, they’ll have to swear a new one, to the king this time.

How much will all this (plus the pageantry and its attendant security) cost? You know the old saying, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it?” I’m asking, as are a fair number of other people. The country’s in a cost-of-living crisis–11 million people are behind on their bills and 5 million have gone without food in an effort to keep up with them–and the government’s made it  plain that it would cost too much to offer any serious level of support. Besides, it doesn’t believe in that sort of thing.

It’s funny that the things governments don’t want to do are always too expensive but they find a way to manage the things they consider important.

 

But not everyone’s a monarchist

Mostly, small-R republicans seem to have kept their heads down and waited out the storm. But a handful of people were arrested for publicly protesting the monarchy, some by shouting and some  by holding up signs. One was threatened with arrest for holding up a blank piece of cardboard.

In fairness, one protester was later dearrested.

No, I never heard of it either. And at a protest where a number of people held up blank signs, no one was arrested.

But the arrests that were made, what law was that uncer? A recent one that allows the police to limit protests that they think are, or will be, noisy or disruptive, even if they’re peaceful. You could fit a lot of dissent under that leaky umbrella.

The good news is that, although calling for the abolition of the monarchy is technically still treason and carries a life sentence, the law hasn’t been used since 1879.

50 thoughts on “Britain cancels all news out of respect for the queen

  1. Good grief, the Center Parcs thing is absurd. Nothing about it makes sense. I felt very sorry for all the (low-paid) bar staff etc. whose work was cancelled during the mourning period. It’s just not fair for normal people to be out of pocket like that. Most heartbreakingly of all, one of my students was going to take her dog to a Dog Olympics event, and that was cancelled too! I reckon the corgis would have been ok with it still doing ahead.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I haven’t seen anything about whether Centre Parcs offered their employees paid time off, but I’d bet heavily against it. But I have seen that Charles’s staff at wherever the hell he lived when he was a mere prince and the queen’s are both likely to be laid off. The overflow of caring and compassion is touching, don’t you think?

      I do, in the midst of this national storm of being seen to do the right thing, try to be respectful of friends who take it seriously, but I’ve been suffering from long moments of disbelief lately–and I’m sure you’re right, the corgis would approve of the dog olympics. As long as no one expected them to take part. (They do have their dignity, after all.)

      Liked by 3 people

    • Reality? No, it’s not world-beating just now, is it?

      I could name other things the country does well. Bake. Merge in heavy traffic. (That sounds trivial but it’s not–it’s a tribute to a lingering spirit of cooperation.) Sing–especially when drunk. If the village I live in is anything to judge by (and I suspect it’s not) organize from the bottom up, as needed. Laugh at yourselves. Maintain absurd traditions. (I can see two sides to that, and we’ve seen a lot of its dark side lately.)

      I’m out of time, but I’m sure I could go on. Most of them don’t boost the economy or save us from dangerous governments (I’m thinking about our own, not other countries’), but they matter all the same.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Heathrow Airport was instructed to alter flight patterns and schedules. I don’t think they had any choice! Think about hijacked airliners and you realise what the folks in charge of Funeral security were worrying about.

    Enfroced mass hysteria is an excellent descritption of all that went on in the last week or so. As for the BBC — state lackeys the lot of them.

    Oh God, why was I born British……what a dump we now live in, and full of idiots.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think you nailed the highs/lows there, Ellen. I also enjoyed the one where the Australian news commentators, clearly flagging after such a marathon of non-stop verbiage, didn’t recognise our new PM, and described her and her husband entering St Pauls as “probably just a couple of minor royals.”

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I managed to avoid coverage of the funeral because of the time zone difference but I did follow stories about The Queue. I personally know someone who queued for over 14 hours. It’s confounding to me but I am not a monarchist. I had seen the cycling kerfuffle but not the Center Parcs debacle. Had they taken leave of their senses? How could they have imagined that was going to play out as anything other than negative publicity.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As an American I got caught up in much of the coverage. I think using the term “over the top” might be mild in describing what I saw. I know many would disagree but the cost of this process has to be astronomical for a country that can hardly afford it. I am seriously not sure I even really know what the royals actually do or why the concept still exists but clearly there is a choke hold on keeping the monarchy alive.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Someone once told me, in all seriousness, that having a monarch kept the UK from the danger of having a president like, say, Nixon. (This was pre-Trump, so that was as bad an example as she could come up with.) My partner and I were too stunned to say much more by way of response than “What???” I’ve never heard anyone else make that argument, but my sense is that different people come up with many different reasons not to begin the wrenching task of untangling something that goes back that far and is that deeply rooted in the nation’s sense of itself.

      Having said that, keeping a monarchy in this day and age is deeply insane.

      Liked by 2 people

          • I wonder if there are any legal routes to abolition. I mean, I had this odd little fantasy before Queenie died that Charles might make a Royal decree that it was all just too mad in the modern world, so he’s closing the brand down and retraining as a homoeopath. But he could only abdicate, I assume, to be replaced by Whomever. I can’t imagine there’s any parliamentary power to do so, like deciding to have a referendum, and the Lords is there as a backstop anyway. So what is there? Violent revolution? Mass strikes? And actually, if Charlie found some ancient law by which he could declare himself dictator, undo the wholesale sacking of the country by rich oligarchs and enforce a full-scale greening of the economy, I’d prefer that over our sham democracy.

            Liked by 2 people

  6. Fortunately, we’ve paid such scant attention to it all that we missed the spider crawling over the Queen’s coffin – both the event and its reporting. I was decidedly appalled by the whole blank protest sign arresting threat, but then remembered that we’re in that special world beating country created by dear Boris and now taken on by his special friend. Your little village sounds like it’s got the drop on much of the rest of the country quite frankly. Portugal looks attractive…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Over here products are “the official catsup of the NFL” or MLB or MISL (football/baseball/soccer leagues) so they never have to reapply when anyone dies. If you’re a food item,or a bank or a car saying you are used by The Royal Family makes a lot more sense than saying you’re used by a whole professionsl sports league, but nobody asked me.
    I was surprised a few years ago to see that Mercedes-Benz made SUV’s , but what really knocked my socks off was Her Majesty’s Jaguar hearse. Wonder what it could do 0-60.
    Thank God sitting presidents are not on our bank notes, or we would still have tRump on ours and depending on your politics they would or would not be legal tender.
    Back when Putin invaded Ukraine a woman in Moscow was arrested for holding up a blank placard. No word on if she was de-arrested but the odds aren’t good. And, while it’s not a national problem, the governor of Florida is using taxpayers’ $$$ to fly legal immigrants from Texas to Florida to Martha’s Vineyard. Some of my friends who pay taxes in Florida would prefer their money go for a state funeral for certain state officials.

    Liked by 2 people

    • For better or worse, we don’t get to decide who’s eligible for a funeral–state or otherwise. We just have to wait for eligibility to come to people.

      I had no idea the hearse was a Jaguar. I wonder how often it gets used or if it’s gets one use and is then retired.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I stayed at a Centre Parc once; and jolly nice it was too, until we decided to leave it to go out for the day. It was like trying to escape from Stalag Luft Whatever. As to the rest: yes, it was over the top for some, but it’s not happened for 70 years and is/was A Big Event. She was a respected, much-loved, figure. Monarchy has evolved. If you want a head of state – and I suspect it might be useful – you need to decide what sort you want. Personally, the idea of a party-political figure fills me with horror. A debate to be had – no doubt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’d love to hear the tale of escaping from Centre Parc. It sounds like a good one. As to designing a sensible political system, I’m better at seeing the problems in existing ones than coming up with ideas for replacements.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. 12 days was a bit over the top, but obviously not for the hundreds of thousands of people gladly queuing for hours just for the chance to to say goodbye. As for today’s journalists living in a 24 hour news cycle, it must have been a relief to have a break from trawling for stories online or making them up when necessary. If the country is a wreck, blame it on the woke folk.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It was interesting to follow the story in the age of the Internet. I live slightly less than an hour from the Canadian border at Detroit/Windsor. I saw no Canadian stories about the Queen’s death, but the newsfeed on my phone was full of stories from Australia.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Given the oddities of internet algorithms, it’s hard to know how representative that is. If your phone decides you have a fascination with Australia, it’ll do what it can to expand it. A blogger I cross paths with now and then wrote that her phone had developed an obsession with otters. She may or may not have given it an initial shove in that direction–I can’t say–but she did write some (very funny) predictive text poetry using it, and it was heavily otter themed.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I can assure you, there was no lack of coverage in the Canadian news. Though they often tried to balance it with some nationalist telling us that we’re a child people who won’t deserve any self-respect until we abolish the monarchy in favour of either a presidential system, or something else that the writer just invented.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve never understood the people who think they’d need to come up with an alternative if the monarchy were to be abolished. The king or queen doesn’t rule, so what do we need, someone else who can cut ribbons and appear at ceremonial occasions? Where politically speaking there’s a blank, leave a blank. We seem to be functioning without anything in that space.

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  11. Here in British Columbia (and a couple of other Canadian provinces), the government declared a holiday, which meant schools were closed, so people had to scramble to find child care if they had to work. I don’t think that resulted in the correct solemn attitude for the occasion.

    Liked by 2 people

    • They’re not really called her initials (although I can’t remember what they would be called–or else I never knew. It’s ER–Elizabeth Regina. She didn’t have the foresight to name her first son something that began with an E.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ok so not Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor (plus obligatory R)? I got interested last week about how the Royals dont seem to have middle or last names, but then thought well something must be written on their birth certificates.. so when you said her initials would need to be changed, I wondered how many letters that would entail.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’m not at all a royalwatcher, so I’m on shaky ground here, but I think they end up with amazingly long strings of names but as kings or queens choose just one to be known by.

          And I don’t believe they have a last name. Harry, when he went out into the world, had to choose one.

          Liked by 2 people

  12. I loved seeing all the pomp and ceremony while staying home from work and trying to rid myself of a fever. Then again, I wasn’t a victim of some of the ridiculousness brought on by the occasion (Centre Parks). For all the people who decry the cost of the monarchy, aren’t there other arguments pointing to how much the monarchy brings in tourism dollars?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’m living under a rock in a bog in America and even I couldn’t escape the news of the Queen’s death! I sent the spider to lay a tiny bouquet of flowers because the Queen seemed like a genuinely nice person, but apparently Mister Leggy’s intentions were misunderstood. I had nothing to do with the bloke that dropped the paper.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s incredibly thoughtful, sending the spider a bouquet. How many of us would’ve thought to do that?

      I tried to find a joke or two in that dropped paper, but honestly they really were desperate for news when that becomes an international story.

      Liked by 2 people

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