The British have lost their pre-eminence in just about everything except for their self-effacing humour and, of course, pageantry. Both of these featured in Queen Elizabeth’s life. Who can forget her Jubilee sketch with Paddington Bear or temporarily becoming a Bond girl for the opening of the 2012 Olympics. Now her funeral is probably set to eclipse everything with, at least, the possible exception of Diana’s funeral in terms of the tears. Maybe even that other queen, Elton John, will be moved by the lure of lucre to rejig one of his songs for her as well. I suggest Funeral for a Friend suitably modified. Of course, during the Prince Andrew scandal, he could have re-released an old hit as Don’t Let Your Son Go Down On Me and the royalties could have paid for the legal settlement.
Enough of that. Back to the Progress. In the days of yore, most people never travelled more than a kilometre or two from where they were born and if they didn’t WFH, they WFNH (Work From Near Home). They didn’t have TV, Instagram or Tickle Tockle and so it was important that the Regent routinely do a Grand Tour to remind the common folk of their splendour, power, strength and divinity. These were called Progresses. They were large affairs as the Royal party still had to be kept in sumptuous luxury and there were tournaments, hunting and entertainment organised along the way. It was also a good excuse to get out of the pestilential London which stank in summer with its open sewers. But the grandest was Henry VIII’s Grand Progress all the way to York in 1541 with a retinue upwards of 4000. Henry wished to dazzle the rebellious northerners with his royal bejeweled codpiece and his latest acquisition, the comely 19-year-old Catherine Howard amongst other things. But all good things come to an end as she was too comely and was beheaded within months of their return for infidelity.
Fast forward nearly 500 years. ERII’s majestic 70-year reign has finally come to an end and after 96 years she‘s kicked the bucket, she’s shuffled off ‘er mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible*. Only two things remain. She will lie in state at Westminster where an estimated 1 million people will try to pay their final respects. Afterwards she will start her final earthly Royal Progress, starting at Westminster Abbey and ending at Windsor Castle, 35km away, in a lead casket for posterity.
There will be much lamentation. I just hope there won’t be some crazy Muslim or Irish terrorist to rain on her final progress.
*From Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch.