I heard the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) as I was concluding a feast Mass of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Hayes, London. The elements before a festive blessing foresaw a beginning of the mourning for the much-loved monarch of almost a century.
The world mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch, remembered for her grace, humour and longevity amidst conflicting opinions about the colonial past and family debacles.
The Queen navigated tectonic shifts in socio-economic changes and family scandals, weathering challenges to evolve into the modern era.
How do I know the news has become viral?
The phone starts beeping or vibrating with notifications in rapid succession. That’s exactly what happened. I was at Mass, moving to offer the final blessing. I could feel my phone buzzing.
And then, friends start forwarding the news to you. All the more to me, as I am presently based in London. And the social media frenzy continues. People shared their immediate responses or memories with the Queen.
Christian social media groups shared a quote from Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message in 2014: “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.”
Another highlight was the Queen’s meeting with five popes in her lifetime – Pope Francis (2014), Pope Benedict XVI (2010), Pope John Paul II (1980, 1982, 2000), Pope John XXIII (1961) and Pope Pius XII (1951).
An English Catholic lady told me that the Queen believed in God, the words of the oath she took during the coronation and her wedding vows. She displayed a commitment to God and her faith.
The relevance of the monarchy
The question always exists – do we need a monarch? The arguments may not wipe away history but could create a dent in the present decision-making processes. Some people consider the monarchy a heritage, offering respect and reverence to the institution, while others say it is a burden on taxpayers.
The monarchy as an institution has provided long-term stability in the backdrop of ever-changing political agendas. Ruling political parties primarily think about how to be re-elected for the next term, appease the voters and pass public policies in the interest of big donors and sponsors.
These big donors, sponsors and multinational companies are the new monarchs of our time. It is yet to dawn on detractors that these too are taking away your money and opportunities, and making your life worse.
A century ago, you could not criticise the monarchy. Today, the new monarchs abhor criticism, crush opinions favouring public interest and promote fake news. The one who does good and seeks justice is enemy number one.
A new face on stamps, currency notes and coins?
Eventually, the King’s portrait will replace all currency featuring the Queen’s portrait in the UK.
I was surprised to know about the forthcoming changes in stamps, banknotes and coins.
The Royal Mail confirmed that stamps with the images of the late Queen remain valid. A new royal image on the stamps will be introduced after the funeral. The Bank of England announced that similar changes would occur on banknotes and coins. But as of now, the currency notes and coins will remain valid. The new stamps, banknotes and coins will have the insignia of King Charles III, as the old ones will gradually be withdrawn from circulation.
People residing outside the UK holding even a few pounds are beginning to panic that their notes may not be accepted when they intend to visit the nation. Watch out!
The announcement of the new King – Charles III
I am new to the UK, and a new monarch took over – something that has not happened for almost a century. I am still processioning the contemporary context of the British world.
The solemn announcement of the ascension to the throne saw different expressions.
At that very moment, noon on September 10, I stood around an old Gothic church, pealing the bells to celebrate the announcement. It was not an ordinary site but a centre for Christian workshops for the past 800 years, today known as the Mitcham Parish Church.
The same bells must have been tolled for the previous monarch in the nation’s history. Three of the eight bells in the church belonged to the 15th century. I have a link to a video to listen to the melodious sound of the church bells pealed by a team of 5-6 people.
I missed the lovely singing after the bell ceremony, as I joined a guided tour of the belfry. I hope to go to witness the bell-ringing practice session held every Monday in the church.
Will I have an opportunity to meet the King?
I learnt from a priest that the town hall will enact the old ceremony. After the announcement, messengers will run to every village proclaiming the new king. Only this time, the actors may run out of the organising area in a demonstrative way.
Should I watch the Crown again?
On a lighter note, I am fascinated with the Netflix series, The Crown. It includes the story of Queen Elizabeth II, among other royals. Rumours have it that the Queen has watched it but never publicly commented on it.
I enjoyed the subtlety of the dialogue, the grace of the Queen’s dealings and her charm to be able to navigate volatile situations. I watched the series while I was in the US in 2018. Will it be different now as I am in the UK? I may see the palaces first, read a bit more and talk to people before I embark on another 100-plus hours of adventure.
(The writer is a Pilar priest based in London)