By Daily Mail Comment
It was an extraordinary and deeply moving spectacle. The new King, resplendent in military regalia, walked solemnly with his siblings behind the Queen‘s coffin, on its journey along Edinburgh‘s Royal Mile to a thanksgiving service for her remarkable life.
Ahead of the cortege, a piper from Balmoral played a haunting lament. Soldiers flanking the hearse wore flashes of tartan. Cannons boomed out a sorrowful salute to our departed but much-loved sovereign.
Nobody does pageantry better than the British Royal Family, and it was fitting that this display of pomp and ceremony was rich with Scottish symbolism.
Elizabeth II adored this proud country, and its people adored her. Thousands lined the cobbled streets to pay their respects, in both appreciation of her selfless service and a profound sense of loss at her passing.
This outpouring of shared grief and gratitude has been echoed across Britain. As Dominic Sandbrook wrote in yesterday’s Daily Mail, ‘from the peaks of the Highlands to the coast of Cornwall, we’ve been reminded of all the things we have in common’.
The new King, resplendent in military regalia, walked solemnly with his siblings behind the Queen’s coffin, on its journey along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to a thanksgiving service for her remarkable life
But with our longest-serving monarch gone, this is a moment of peril. Those who want, for coarse political reasons, to splinter this country will be re-energised.
Separatists in Scotland and Wales will seek to exploit the fact there is a relative novice on the throne to pile on the pressure for independence. Nationalists in Northern Ireland will clamour more loudly for Irish reunification.
So on this week’s tour of the four nations, King Charles must use his considerable diplomatic skills to build on the huge goodwill towards the monarchy that his mother generated over her lifetime, and reassure the public the Union will not only be safe, but positively thrive in his hands.
Of course, the Queen’s own immaculately judged intervention in the Scottish independence debate in 2014 – that people should ‘think very carefully’ before voting – is credited with persuading the electorate to preserve the UK. Charles – now the very embodiment of the Union – must work hard to avoid the destruction of history’s most successful partnership.
There are, however, heartening signs that it – and the monarchy’s place at its helm – has been strengthened by the succession.
By passing at Balmoral, the Queen lies at rest in Edinburgh, which means her people north of the border can celebrate and grieve her properly, rather than feeling shunned at having to peer 500 miles south to events in London.
Even the SNP has acknowledged over these sad few days that Scotland is ‘absolutely central’ to the UK’s constitution – a far cry from its usual grumbling that it is a downtrodden nation with no influence.
Earlier yesterday, Charles addressed MPs and Peers in 1,000-year-old Westminster Hall. Didn’t it show the unifying power of the monarchy that politicians, normally at their opponents’ throats, were enjoying each other’s company?
And the ceremony reminded us that we live in a parliamentary democracy. The sovereign is head of state but sovereignty remains with Parliament – an arrangement that has served the Union well for more than 300 years.
The vast numbers of mourners who stood respectfully by Scotland’s roadsides to see the Queen begin her final poignant journey starkly illustrated two things.
First, the huge affection in which this most beloved monarch was held. And second, the missteps of the authorities in deciding to fly her body back to London.
Carrying it by Royal Train would have allowed many more people to line the route and say farewell directly to a sovereign who touched all our lives. Is it really too late for the funeral planners to change their minds?
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group