Friday, September 23, 2022

A sad, sad day.


I wasn’t one of the 4.2 billion people who watched the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II as it happened as I was either on a ferry or at 36 000 feet.

I caught up with it all in the wee hours of the morning at Keflavik Airport, which was dark, cold and largely deserted. It all seemed rather fitting.

On coming home, and being back at work, everybody coming in had an opinion, too much, too little, too long, too short… and who was the very tall guy at the front?

Overall, I’d gauge the mood as very respectful, with a little touch of humour.  Which is also rather fitting.

Now, all the footage has been analysed, the lip readers have had a good watch, re who said what to who and why has all been reported.

Here’s my ten things of note.

The naval ratings pulling the 2.6 ton weight of the gun carriage and coffin. There was 98 of them, lads and lassies. For every monarch’s funeral up to Queen Victoria’s funeral the carriage was pulled by horses. That day, the horses misbehaved – it was a bitterly cold day, and they got a bit ratty – and the navy took over, starting a new tradition.

A spider hitched a ride on the top of the coffin, emerging from the flowers and crawling across a white message card. Being rather tired I misread the headline, thinking it said Stornoway spider rather than Stowaway spider. I thought it was a flower. If it isn’t, it should be.

Apollo the drum house was trumpet horse for the day. He’s rather famous as he was bought from a farm in Wales while the TV programme The Queen’s Horses was being filmed. He was a big hairy youngster back then and has filled out to be rather fabulous. Riding a drum / trumpet horse involves steering, accelerating and braking using your feet – the reins attach to the stirrups.

The tall guy walking in front of the car – the one who looked a bit like Richard Osman was Paul Whybrew, leading part of the procession after the funeral. He’s six feet four inches tall. He was a long-standing member of the royal household and, seemingly used to sit and watch sport with her. She called him Tall Paul. I have no information if there was also a short one.

The slow walk by the procession. Metronomic and rather hypnotic.  A cannon shot heard every minute, and the mournful music, ended on The Long Walk at Windsor Castle. It was quite difficult to look away. I checked with my military friend ‘Wee John’, no friend of Tall Paul, and it’s a slow march except when used at a funeral. Then it is a funeral march. One leg pauses as it passes the other, and the foot should hardly lift off the ground. When standing still, the feet lift alternately creating a slight side to side movement, the muscle clenching helps to prevent fainting.

The initial proceedings, the pipes (Scots and Irish) started the day at a fair skelp of a march before they reached the Abbey.  My colleague, a staunch anti monarchist said she only cried four times, the first was when the massed pipes came down past the barracks, lifted their pipes and began to play. The arms (guns not limbs…) on that day were carried backwards as a sign of mourning. You may have seen the soldiers march with one arm across their back holding the front of the gun behind them. Alan used to play that tune in the pipe band (he was a drummer, he’d be marking the time of the march) and said they were going slightly faster than normal – part of the timing of the day no doubt.

 The lone piper walking out the church after the coffin had been interned was playing Sleep Dearie Sleep. That caused a few tears as well.

And of course, the two corgis at the end. Muick and Sandy. One was paying attention. The other lay down and looked like he was going for a nap.

And then there was Emma, the Queen’s Fell pony, 23 years old, standing, riderless as the coffin was driven past.  Emma did pick up her front hoof and stamp it twice as if she was doing a curtesy. But was probably bored and wanting a treat.

When I was at uni in London, in Suffolk Street just off Trafalgar Square. I lived in Pimlico. Every day for five years I walked along Birdcage walk across the front of the palace, down the Mall or through Green Park to get onto Trafalgar Square, so it was all very familiar to me.

On the downside? That previous weekend, most sporting events, if they went ahead at all, had two minutes silence.  Some Celtic supporters took the chance to chant, “if you hate the Queen clap your hands”. And much, much worse. The other side, Rangers responded with some chants about the Pope.  That’s why Glaswegians can’t really get their heads round rival  American football fans being nice to each other. It’s shameful, terrible, but the hostility, and the bigotry, goes back to the Battle of The Boyne. (1690).

And every piece of history on top of the coffin, is part of our, British, history.  A history maybe that we should not be totally proud of.  The stones on the crown and the sceptre that lay on top of the coffin signified that very clearly and drew criticism which is fair enough. 

But as a nation, there was true mourning. In many cases it was the transference of grief but still grief.  

And the nation did mourn.


  1. Thank you,Caro. This is as close as I’ve gotten to seeing any of it. I am not a monarchist, but I do have great respect for anyone who can be so long in the public eye and still retain her dignity. AA

  2. She was respected world wide I feel. Our new King will be very different, but I think, and hope, he will do well. And, for the first time, there's rescue dogs in the palace, just as there are in the Whitehouse!

  3. I too have hopes for King Charles. He has a good record on environmental issues. And sensitivity, years ago, toward striking miners. He may veryvell use his influence for the good. 🤞🤞🤞🤞AA