Voices: The utterly bizarre parts of the Queen’s funeral

·5-min read

People called it the “statty funes”. The taxpayer-funded funeral was predicted to be the most expensive single-day event in British history, surpassing costs for the 2012 Olympics. Online, debates about the money raged. One pro-royalist tweeted, in defense of it, “So you’re saying she had Platty Jubes but Statty Funes should be at royal expense?”

Pretty much every TV channel in Britain — and many across the pond in the US — broadcast the funeral live, except for Channel Five, which broadcast The Emoji Movie instead. A mother said on camera that seeing the Queen’s coffin was a better moment than the birth of her children.

Almost every country was invited to the funeral, bar six: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Russia, Belarus, and Myanmar. Putin, ever the class act, sent his personal regards to now-King Charles, calling the Queen’s loss an “irreparable loss” — then, after his invitation didn’t arrive in the mail, Russian state television released a video clip purporting (wrongly) to be the young Queen throwing food at African children. Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, had an audience with Kate Middleton.

Joe Biden and his wife Jill arrived in ‘The Beast’ rather than taking the bus. Someone tweeted that it’s probably because the US president is “one of the few who could afford the Congestion Charge and a tank of fuel at the same time”. Boris Johnson kept his head down and appeared to have actually brushed his hair. New prime minister Liz Truss talked about God.

At the morning ceremony in Westminster Abbey, people sang “God Save the King” but a lot of attendees accidentally said “Queen”. Charles stood stiffly, his lips not moving. Camilla, now the Queen Consort, looked a bit awkward too when it came to asking her “happy and glorious” husband “long to reign over us”. She didn’t quite stick the landing. After the procession, there was meta-commentary about the amount of horse poop on the road.

Piers Morgan (“Pronouns: hot/hotter/hottest” according to his profile) dutifully changed his Twitter picture to an image of himself meeting the Queen and teared up over the national anthem on Fox News. “Will be a long, emotional and historic day,” he tweeted, to a mixed response. “Piers, America will value your understated and measured tones. Your modest and humble approach will respectfully inform our American friends of the magnitude of today’s ceremony. Good luck my friend,” wrote one admirer. “Judge a man by the company he keeps,” tweeted a detractor on the other side of the spectrum, along with a series of images that included Morgan with Ghislaine Maxwell and Morgan with Harvey Weinstein.

French president Emmanuel Macron was pictured grinning and waving at photographers, and for a while everyone believed he’d been spotted grabbing a sausage roll at Greggs before the Photoshopped image was roundly debunked. Meghan Markle promised to personally deliver some flowers for the Queen from a well-wisher to the palace gates rather than handing them over to an aide, and video of the moment was predictably recast as a “tense moment” and an “awkward spat”.

Kate, now the Princess of Wales, wore a mourning veil. Prince Harry, like his uncle Andrew, wore a suit decorated with medals. Neither were allowed to wear full military garb — Harry, because he resigned from royal duties to protect his wife from vicious attacks; Andrew, because he was stripped of his titles for his association with an infamous American pedophile.

That’s the same Andrew for whom the police arrested a protester shouting, “Andrew, you’re a sick old man!” in Edinburgh a few days ago, of course. The arrests of people protesting against the monarchy were reported on across the world, by outlets as diverse as the Washington Post, Al-Jazeera and The Indian Express. A popular tweet suggested that republicans need an icon, “a counter-Paddington, a figure that cannot be absorbed into twee faux-solemnity,” with a picture of Mr Blobby.

Seven-year-old Charlotte, the daughter of Prince William and Kate Middleton, trended on Twitter. Vogue wrote a whole article about her jewelry (a small horseshoe pendant.) Vanity Fair said it might be “a nod to her grandmother’s love of horses”. BBC News cameras followed the family as they walked into Westminster Abbey, zooming in on Charlotte’s hat. In pictures, she looked about as comfortable with the cameras as North West, the famously paparazzi-hating child of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. “Princess Charlotte — already iconic,” tweeted one person, referring to an image of the child’s confused side-eye.

And so the royal engine will grind on, feeding off the children who comprise its most potent fuel. Like Queen Elizabeth II, they will be expected to “do their duty to the nation”. It was said at Westminster Abbey today that the royal family is “grieving like so many people round the world… but this family is doing it under the brightest spotlight”. It’s true that this isn’t the greatest hardship, especially when compared with the many thousands of people who buried their Covid dead under harsh lockdowns in tiny rooms and weren’t even able to hug family members as they did so. But the spotlight will follow Charlotte, George and their youngest sibling Louis, who was not in attendance at the funeral due to his age (neither were his young cousins Archie and Lilibet, children of Meghan and Harry.) It will never go away.

The protests about the funeral were varied. Of course, there were discussions of colonial atrocities and stolen jewels. There were also outcries against guards’ hats made from the fur of black bears by animal rights groups. People spoke of how the hours-long Queue proved Britain had rallied around one thing, about how divisive wounds were being healed. Meanwhile, others wondered whether the millions spent on the day-long ceremony might have been better spent on the struggling NHS.