In his essay on plans for the Queen’s death (Ten days that will shake Britain: Life after Queen Elizabeth II, the long read, 16 March) Sam Knight argues that “when people think of a contemporary royal death in Britain, they think, inescapably, of Diana”.
Perhaps, but some of us reflect upon the role of contingency in ordering history. I well recall that, in the weeks up to her death, Diana, Princess of Wales had been the subject of scathing tabloid coverage of her supposed moral failings; there was talk of her taking the kids to the US and starting her own TV network (a de facto alt-monarchy in all but name); and there was even speculation surrounding the future of the whole Windsor business – would Elizabeth be the last chairman of that particular board?
Then fate intervenes, the media execute a mass reverse ferret and the rest, as they say, is history: the Windsor business, after a few public relations stumbles, annexes the tragic but photogenic kids and the brand is detoxified.
• Sam Knight has done us a great service by giving us early warning of the ghastly and unnecessary 19th-century God-(C of E only, of course)-and-Empire pomp that we must expect when the Queen dies. It is totally inappropriate for our current mid-size European status, reducing in influence as we leave Europe, with Scotland and Northern Ireland breaking from the UK, and where the only things we excel at are royal spectaculars.
Some may cry “Roll on a republic” but this point in history could provide the opportunity for a more modest monarchy on the Scandinavian model.
House of Lords
• I so enjoyed the long read about what will happen when Her Majesty sadly passes away, and it was timely, as my friend Betty (90) and I (92) were talking recently about our own arrangements, things the monarch need never worry about. Such decisions to be made. My biggest problem is the music, whether a bit of Elgar might be uplifting, or to settle for Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam. Betty knows exactly. Dancing Queen is top of her list. We would rather like the attention of the Household Cavalry though.
• As a Christian I have never accepted that an unelected monarch is the proper person to be head of state. Consequently the events with which the article deals will elicit no sympathy or support from me, particularly the accession to the throne of someone who has not been distinguished by a high moral character or a sincere Christian faith.
In the interests of maturity and balance, which have always characterised your excellent newspaper, I urge you to produce an equally well-researched and written article providing sound advice as to how readers with similar views to myself can survive the tsunami of sentiment that will inevitably ensue when it becomes known that “London Bridge is down”.
Oldham, Greater Manchester
• What a beautifully constructed long read was Sam Knight’s sympathetic and generous – for the Guardian – piece, only to be briefly marred by “train stations will cease announcements”. In the context of tradition that will ebb through the fulfilment of the funeral surely on this occasion you could have ascended to “railway stations”?
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
• Her Majesty is, first and foremost, a human being, a person. To treat her like a train on some timetable of life is crude and without the least semblance of respect or consideration.
The Guardian has let itself down.
• Sam Knight says BBC newsrooms will be notified of the Queen’s death by Rats (the radio alert transmission system). Good luck with that; in my newsroom the thing was always going off accidentally so we got used to ignoring it.
• If, as you suggest, in 1936 King George V’s doctor, Lord Dawson, knowingly administered a lethal dose of morphine and cocaine “in order to ease the monarch’s suffering, and to have him expire in time for the printing presses of the Times, which rolled at midnight”, why was he not charged with regicide? Or, by any chance, is there one law for the rich and another for the poor?
Dr Simon Gibbs
Hutton Rudby, North Yorkshire
• The last time something was printed in the Guardian letters’ page speculating about the Queen Mother’s possible demise (Letters, 30 March 2002) it happened that day. Just saying.