‘Ritual is important’ – why and how we are mourning Elizabeth II (2022)

  • Death of the Queen and King Charles’s accession – latest updates

The press box for the Queen’s lying-in-state is an unobtrusive wooden construction, painted to blend seamlessly with Westminster Hall’s ancient walls. But though it stands at a discreet distance from the catafalque on which her coffin rests – unless you’re in possession of a long lens, it’s difficult to pick out the imperial state crown, the orb and the sceptre – it also affords a unique vantage point, one akin to being backstage at a theatre.

Here, we can watch both the audience, by which I mean the public, filing quietly past and the performers, in the form of the guard that keeps vigil around the clock. Look to the right, and we can also see the door through which this guard comes and goes when it changes, something that happens every 20 minutes.

At the moment it’s open, and in the room beyond, a grey-haired Yeoman guard – a beefeater – is hopping about, clad in only a pair of red britches, his braces and a T–shirt. Something about the way he moves suggests to me that his feet are stockinged, which makes me feel tenderly for him.

Journalists don’t have to queue for the Queen’s lying-in-state, but the slots available are hard to come by, which is why I am here at 11 o’clock at night. I thought I might mind this, but I find that I don’t. Somehow the late hour only adds to the atmosphere, at once electrifying and ineffably peaceful. How to explain it? How to put it into words?

(Video) ‘I Don’t Matter’: the Queen Jokes on Platinum Jubilee

At home, it’s easy to be cynical: the crowds, the queue, the queasy sense of performance. But here in the hush, all that fades. The shocking thing, to me at least, isn’t the fact that the sovereign is lying here in a box, awaiting burial. It is that it has taken her death to stop people – or at any rate, these people – from staring at their screens. Mobile phones are forbidden. Visitors must look with their eyes rather than with their raised forearms, and looking with the eyes encourages thought. Feelings rush in, emotions to which I’m no more immune than anyone else.

What are they all thinking about? They are of every possible colour and creed, age and class. Some struggle to walk, leaning heavily on sticks and crutches; others look, for all that they’ve waited hours to get to this point, as if they’re just breezing by on their way home from the office. Some carry Louis Vuitton, and some plastic M&S. Some wear dark suits and heels, and some tracksuits and trainers.

It’s hard to predict who will appear moved (few people look up at us; in their preoccupation, we’re invisible to them). Of the man in a black overcoat, bowler hat and medals, and the one in a Sex Pistols T–shirt, it’s the Johnny Rotten fan who looks as if he’s about to cry, his face puckered like a boy’s. No one talks. They don’t even whisper. A stray cough, in the vast space below the largest medieval timber roof in northern Europe, is as loud as gunfire.

After half an hour, we file back out. Again, that backstage feeling: bottles of water on ledges, half-drunk by parched Palace of Westminster doorkeepers; a policeman carefully pulling on white gloves. Activity is intense in this ceremonial beehive, the responsibility borne by dozens of volunteers as well as officials. Billy, the young man who guided me here at the appointed hour, works in communications for select committees. But holding my hand tonight has nothing to do with his job. “It’s great to be part of it,” he tells me. What time will he get to bed? “I’ll finish at 7am,” he says with perfect enthusiasm.

‘Ritual is important’ – why and how we are mourning Elizabeth II (1)

I feel as I did earlier in the week watching the various ceremonies and parades. The ruthless organisation, the exquisite precision, the numinous beauty. How are these things possible in a country where no train seems ever to be on time? Where there is so much that is broken and ugly and neglected?

(Video) Woman Gives Honest Reaction to Queen Elizabeth II's Death

The roads close to the Palace of Westminster are closed to traffic and, back outside, I wander for a while. It’s approaching midnight. Without cars, there is a festival spirit, people milling, strangers talking. I find the queue. It’s moving at surprising speed, those in it waving their wristbands at the stewards like they’re showing off a new bit of bling: a shake of the hand by now so practised it’s almost queenly. The mood is smiling and gracious. It marches on beef-flavoured crisps.

Walking over Westminster Bridge, I fall into conversation with a strolling policeman, his forearms bare in the unseasonable warmth of this September night. He’s from Humberside. When did he arrive? “Sunday. We had two hours’ notice. I’m in a hotel in Hammersmith.” Is he enjoying his historic secondment? He smiles. “I am, yes.” He looks up at Big Ben, its tower magnificent against the navy sky and clouds whose silky fluffiness makes me think, appropriately in the circumstances, of Traveller’s Joy (the weed more commonly known as Old Man’s Beard). “I mean, you don’t get that in Hull, do you?”

The mood of the nation. People talk of taking it, as though it is just a matter of pulling out a thermometer. But it’s not that easy, of course. We’re a country of 67 million souls. We’re right to be suspicious of those corners of the media that insist on a universality of feeling, to mistrust the admonishing commentators who talk authoritatively of “the people”. History teaches us that there is always a gap between what is said, and what it is done and seen. Our ancestors were no easier to read than us, and less homogenous than we might imagine when it came to the matter of public grief.

“This morning I saw what I could, over the heads of the funeral procession of the Queen,” wrote Arnold Bennett in his diary on 2 February 1901 (Victoria died on 22 January). “The people were not, on the whole, deeply moved, whatever journalists say, but rather serene and cheerful.” It may be that we are even divided ourselves. I see the window of my local Marie Curie shop, the mannequins all now wearing black dresses and pearls, and it brings a lump to my throat. I read the email from Ryman’s, which robotically outlines the stationer’s respect for the late monarch, and feel intensely irritated.

(Video) Queen Elizabeth II Funeral: royal family say final goodbye

But ritual is important, and there is no discounting (some) people’s need for it now. The snaking queue, all five miles of it, speaks of our most inchoate impulses, almost-instincts that in the faithless 21st century have fewer and fewer outlets. Past generations knew how to mourn: widows wore weeds, and jewellery made of jet, and locks of the dead one’s hair; men wore black hats and armbands.

They understood that these things were not only a question of form but helpful, too: a sign, for the non-bereaved, of a person’s agonising status, and a purgative for the suffering. Long before I knew the word catharsis, I had an idea of its meaning. When I was very small, my Sunderland grandparents would follow tradition and keep their curtains drawn on the morning of a neighbour’s funeral.

“Think how nice it will be when we open them later,” Granny said to me when I expressed frustration over this. On Monday afternoon, when the Queen’s funeral is finally over, many people in Britain will experience something similar: a release, a feeling of sunlight after darkness.

‘Ritual is important’ – why and how we are mourning Elizabeth II (3)

When I look at the queue, it brings to mind another line. In 1954, when archaeologists began excavating the Roman Temple of Mithras in the City of London, some 400,000 men, women and children rolled up over a two-week period to see what was going on; the crowd was so swollen, the police were required to control it. Why? It seems obvious now that however great their interest in mosaics, these people were unconsciously coming to terms with the horrifying disembowelment of their cities. They had endured the Blitz; they were living in cratered streets.

The Queen’s death follows the pandemic. There cannot be a single person standing in line for her lying-in-state who did not lose, or know someone who lost, a friend, a colleague or a family member to Covid and who may also have had to forego, because of the restrictions, a proper funeral, the comfort of choirs and wakes.

(Video) World leaders respond to death of Queen Elizabeth II

How striking – and how little commented on so far – that the queue’s route passes the national Covid memorial wall, a site born of spontaneous feeling, which is maintained by volunteers and which (so far) has no official status. One day volumes will be written about this: the unspoken relationship between the losses caused by the pandemic and the urge to make a pilgrimage to Westminster Hall.

‘Ritual is important’ – why and how we are mourning Elizabeth II (4)

It’s human nature to try to make sense of the things that make least sense, and death is the greatest of these: the “distinguished thing”, as Henry James had it, and the unfathomable thing. When some talk of their bewildered distaste for the flower-bearing masses outside our royal palaces – all this, for a woman you didn’t know? – their tone, to my ears, is similar to the way those who voted for Brexit are sometimes spoken of. I think this is unwise, but I also think they want for empathy. It’s natural to look at a grieving family and to think of your own losses. It’s natural to worry about what a death like this means (for my part, I’m anxious it draws a firm and final line below the postwar consensus). Above all, it’s natural to be moved by history, music and poetry. By architecture that lifts the eyes to the heavens, and words that scorch and soothe the soul.

Here is art, and what’s wrong with that? Aren’t our galleries cathedrals now? Outside the Palace of Westminster last week, I approached a man whose Mondrian-blue jacket and architectural glasses strongly suggested that he couldn’t possibly be among those who had just emerged from the lying-in-state. But when I asked him, I found out that I was wrong.

A Scottish-born designer called David Jenkins, he had waited – he looked at his watch – precisely seven hours and 55 minutes for his turn. “I did really respect the Queen,” he told me. “But I also thought this would just be the most incredible bit of art. I thought: ‘We queue up to see Damien Hirsts and Monets and Picassos, so why not for this?’”

And had it lived up to his expectations? He looked at me as though I might be in need of a new pair of eyes. “My God, it was beautiful,” he said. “The ancient and the modern. It’s… everything.”

(Video) Queen Elizabeth II's coffin moved to Westminster Hall to lie in state | full video

Everything. An imprecise word, and perhaps an erroneous one. But still, I knew exactly what he meant.


What did Queen Elizabeth say about grief? ›

The Queen famously said: "Grief is the price we pay for love."She was addressing the bereaved families of September 11 attack victims more than two decades ago.

Why is the Queen in mourning for 8 days? ›

King Charles III is grieving the death of his mother

In a statement, the Palace said: "It is His Majesty The King's wish that a period of Royal Mourning be observed from now until seven days after the Queen's funeral."

How does Britain mourn the Queen? ›

Britain has entered a mourning of Queen Elizabeth II that incorporates a pomp that few people alive have seen, given the length of her reign. Churches tolled their bells, and dozens of gun salutes were fired. The top English soccer league postponed its weekend matches, and most programming on television was about her.

How many days do they mourn the Queen? ›

How long is the mourning period for the queen? Tradition calls for a 12-day period of national mourning after the death of a monarch.

Why should we mourn for the Queen? ›

The Queen's death as a societal loss

To those people, the impact of her death will be deeply felt. But for others who did not know the Queen personally, more than the death of an individual, they are perhaps mourning the loss of what she represented.

Why do we mourn? ›

Grieving such losses is important because it allows us to 'free-up' energy that is bound to the lost person, object, or experience—so that we might re-invest that energy elsewhere. Until we grieve effectively we are likely to find reinvesting difficult; a part of us remains tied to the past. Grieving is not forgetting.

Do we have to mourn when the Queen dies? ›

Traditionally, the Queen's death would have triggered a 12-day mourning period, but on the 9 September 2022, Buckingham Palace released a statement detailing that King Charles III has requested an extension, with the mourning period lasting until 7 days after Queen Elizabeth's funeral on 19 September 2022.

How long do the Royal Family mourn for? ›

In April 2021, Her Majesty stated her wish that Prince Philip's death be marked by a two-week period of Royal Mourning. When King George VI died in 1952, the royals observed mourning for just over 16 weeks – shorter than the Court Mourning of six months when George V died in 1939.

What does royal mourning mean? ›

Royal Mourning

The date of the Funeral will be confirmed in due course. Royal Mourning will be observed by Members of the Royal Family, Royal Household staff and Representatives of the Royal Household on official duties, together with troops committed to Ceremonial Duties.

What happens during the royal mourning? ›

Royal Mourning will be observed by Members of the Royal Family and their Households, together with troops committed to Ceremonial Duties. During this period, Members of the Royal Family will continue undertaking engagements appropriate to the circumstances. Mourning bands will be worn where appropriate.

How long is full mourning? ›

Widows were expected to wear full mourning for two years. Everyone else presumably suffered less – for children mourning parents or vice versa the period of time was one year, for grandparents and siblings six months, for aunts and uncles two months, for great uncles and aunts six weeks, for first cousins four weeks.

Will school close if the Queen dies? ›

When the Queen passes the country will have a time of National Mourning of 10 days. Schools will not be compelled to close during this time but it's possible some will choose to. At the end of the National Mourning the Queen's funeral will be held on a Bank Holiday when schools will close.

What is the meaning of mourning period? ›

the period or interval during which a person grieves or formally expresses grief, as by wearing black garments.

Are the royal family still in mourning? ›

The monarchy are returning to official duties as the period of royal mourning ends.

What did the Virgin Queen look like? ›

Elizabethan beauty

Elizabeth was tall and striking, with pale skin and light red-gold hair. She exaggerated these features, particularly as she aged, and other women sought to emulate them.

Why is the royal family in mourning? ›

The United Kingdom began its national 10-day mourning period following Queen Elizabeth's death on September 8 at age 96 in the lead up to her state funeral held last Monday on an official bank holiday. The day after the funeral, flags on British government buildings around the world went back to flying at full mast.

Why is the Queen so important? ›

The monarch remains the head of British state, the highest representative of the United Kingdom on the national and international stage. The head of the British government, however, is the Prime Minister. One serves as a symbol of the country and the other serves as the chief executive of the government.

How many mourners does the Queen have? ›

The United Kingdom observed a national mourning period of 10 days. The Queen lay in state in Westminster Hall from 14 to 19 September, during which time an estimated 250,000 people queued to pay their respects.

Why is it important to mourn with others? ›

Losing someone is hard for your brain to process and mourning empowers you to accept and emotionally process the death and loss of your loved one.

What happens when we mourn? ›

You may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight.

What are the two types of mourning? ›

Types of grief people may experience
  • Normal grief. The American Psychology Association defines normal grief as grief that lasts 6 months to 2 years following the significant loss. ...
  • Absent grief. ...
  • Anticipatory grief. ...
  • Delayed grief. ...
  • Complicated grief. ...
  • Cumulative grief. ...
  • Disenfranchised grief. ...
  • Distorted grief.
28 Jan 2022

What happens when the Queen dies to everyone? ›

King Charles III

As soon as Queen Elizabeth dies, Prince Charles will become king. He is permitted to choose his own name, and is expected to become King Charles III. At this stage, a meeting of the Accession Council will take place at St James' Palace and all formalities will take place.

Do we get a day of mourning for Queen? ›

The government has announced that this day will be a bank holiday. Across the country, events including concerts, sporting fixtures and strikes have been cancelled. We'd like to know how you feel about this ten-day period of national mourning.

What happens when you queen dies? ›

Officially, King Charles became King on the day that the Queen passed away, with an announcement that he is the new monarch by the Ascension Council on Saturday 10 September at 10 am in the State Apartments of St James's Palace.

What is the traditional color of mourning? ›

Black – Western World

Wearing dark colours for mourning has long been a tradition in many parts of the western world, in particular large parts of Europe and North America. The association of the colour black with death and loss is centuries old and is believed to have originated during Roman times.

Can the royal family wear black? ›

And did so every day for the next 40 years, until her own death. Since then, black has been a strict part of the Royal mourning dress code. On Monday, members of the royal family will wear black, as they have since the queen's death was announced.

What are the rules for royal mourning? ›

Women are expected to wear black dresses and formal hats, while men will wear black morning coats. Even in times of grief, close attention is paid to how royal family members interpret dress codes, which date back hundreds of years and have shifted over time.

What to do during national mourning? ›

"As a mark of respect, and in keeping with the tone of National Mourning, organisers may wish to hold a period of silence and/or play the National Anthem at the start of events or sporting fixtures, and players may wish to wear black armbands."

What is 7 day royal mourning? ›

The Queen's Funeral: What the seven days of extra mourning for the senior members of the Royal Family actually involve. The period of private mourning for the Royal Family plus some troops and household staff lasts longer than the rest of the nation's.

Do we wear black to mourn the Queen? ›

Members of the royal family traditionally wear black for the entire period of mourning, which King Charles III announced will extend to a week after the Queen's funeral.

What are the 7 stages of mourning? ›

The 7 stages of grief
  • Shock. Feelings of shock are unavoidable in nearly every situation, even if we feel we have had time to prepare for the loss of a loved one. ...
  • Denial. ...
  • Anger. ...
  • Bargaining. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Acceptance and hope. ...
  • Processing grief.

Are you mourning meaning? ›

Mourning is a time of sadness because of a loss. When you're in mourning after a loved one dies, it is good to lean on your friends who understand why you are so sad. Mourning is an expression of grief or a time of grieving that follows a loved one's death or other serious loss.

What are the three stages of mourning? ›

Grief is typically conceptualized as a reaction to death, though it can occur anytime reality is not what we wanted, hoped for, or expected. Persistent, traumatic grief can cause us to cycle (sometimes quickly) through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Will we get 12 days off if the Queen dies? ›

How many days do we get off when the Queen dies? While the UK will partake in a 10-day mourning period, only the day of the Queen's funeral will be considered a national holiday. So, for anyone Googling '12 day mourning period off work', you won't get a full fortnight to mourn the Queen.

Who will be the next queen? ›

Charles was named the new King of the United Kingdom and the 14 Commonwealth realms on September 8, 2022, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. He is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. His wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, took on the title of Queen Consort after he became king.

Will schools shut for funeral? ›

Schools and colleges will remain open during this period. In an email to schools, the Department for Education (DfE) said: “We have now entered a period of national mourning that will continue until the end of the state funeral.

What is an example of mourning? ›

While grief refers to the internal experiences of loss, mourning is best defined as acts or outward expressions of grief. Some common examples of mourning can include preparing for a funeral, wearing black or sharing memories or stories about a loved one.

Why is it called mourning? ›

The word mourning comes from the Old English word murnung, which means grief or complaint.

Can you touch a queen? ›

Do not attempt to touch the queen. Wait for the queen to extend her hand. "You shouldn't touch a member of the royal family. You should always wait for them to extend their hand to you and with that handshake, just be nice and gentle," he said.

How does a virgin queen mate? ›

A virgin queen bee will never mate inside of her own hive as she needs to take flight to mate. By mating during flight, a queen bee is able to increase the odds that she will mate with drones that did not originate from her own colony, and thereby minimize the chances of inbreeding appearing in the next generation.

What is Queen Elizabeth's most famous quote? ›

“I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”

Who said the king died and then the Queen died because of grief? ›

Forster Quotes. The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then queen died of grief is a plot.

What did the Queen say after Philip died? ›

The Queen said that "in the months since the death of my beloved Philip I have drawn great comfort from the warmth and affection of the many tributes to his life and work".

Who said grief is the price of love? ›

The Queen. “Grief is the price we pay for love.” The Queen delivered these words as part of a condolence message she sent to the families of the 250 British victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack. The words themselves are adapted from a passage written by Dr Colin Murray Parkes, a psychiatrist at St.

What is the main idea of Queen Elizabeth's speech? ›

The apparent reason for the queen's speech is to motivate her troops in the face of the imminent conflict with the Spaniards. The queen aims to convince the troops that their fight is for a worthy cause and that their noble action of defending their country will not go unnoticed by the queen and the people of England.

What was Queen Elizabeth's last words? ›

According to RMG, Queen Elizabeth I's last words were, “All my possessions for one moment of time.”

How is story and plot related? ›

A plot is the sequence of events within a story: a description of what happens and why it happens. A story is a comprehensive narrative. Plot is a part of the story, but a story also includes settings, characters, themes, and other factors that influence how the events (or plot) are told.

How did the King become responsible for his own death? ›

Finally, the king and his minister get themselves killed by the stake in place of the Guru and his disciple. The people of the kingdom beg the guru and his disciple to become their new king and minister.

What color eyes do the Queen have? ›

Queen Elizabeth II has blue eyes, as does Claire Foy. Olivia Colman, however, has brown eyes and she won't be opting for contact lenses to change their hue. Why? The former Peep Show actress told US Vogue that she can't because she has 'very strong eyelids'.

Do we go into mourning when the Queen dies? ›

LONDON — With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled for more than 70 years, the United Kingdom has been plunged into mourning and at least 10 days of solemn ceremony.

What did Queen Elizabeth suffer from? ›

Queen Elizabeth II experienced back pain over the years and had knee surgery in the 2000s, reported Time. According to the news outlet, the queen was also admitted to hospital for an overnight stay in October of last year for what Buckingham Palace called “preliminary investigations.”

How can we show mourning for the Queen? ›

As a mark of respect, and in keeping with the tone of National Mourning, organisers may wish to hold a period of silence and/or play the National Anthem at the start of events or sporting fixtures, and players may wish to wear black armbands.

What is death by love? ›

"Death by Love" is ostensibly a collection of letters from Pastor Mark Driscoll to members of his church or people he's come into contact with. All are broken, sinful humans (as we all are), and many are unsaved.

Does grief mean love? ›

Perhaps the most painful kind of love is called grief, which happens when the object of a person's love is taken away with no hope for return. Grief is love and the confusion caused by not knowing how to love someone who is gone. Grief is love's frustration, bitterness, anger, and resentment at death's destruction.


1. Procession of Queen Elizabeth II's coffin to Westminster to lie in state | Special Report
(CBS News)
2. Queen's Funeral: Highlights and Unseen Moments
(Entertainment Tonight)
3. The Life & Death of Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) | Vanity Fair
(Vanity Fair)
4. Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral: Watch Key Moments | WSJ
(Wall Street Journal)
5. 'It's complicated.' Black Britons react to Queen Elizabeth II death
6. Changes to British Royal Titles Since the Death of Queen Elizabeth II

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