Like most of the country, perhaps most of the world, I watched much of the coverage of Elizabeth II’s obsequies. It has to be said that we do this kind of pageantry, pomp and ceremony awfully well in this country. The music was well chosen and magnificent. Pipes and drums by the hundred. I have to confess a weakness for the skirl of the bagpipes, despite having not one drop of Scottish blood in my make up.
One can talk, and Hugh Edwards the BBC anchorman, did at some length of the symbolism of every last detail of the ceremony, down to the very flowerbeds from which the flowers for the wreath were chosen – three palaces no less! Nothing of the quick trip to the local garden centre here.
Over the last few decades the Union Jack has, to my mind, taken on along with the cross of St George, a darker edge, being so often misappropriated by right-wing groups and by sporting hooligans. Perhaps I’m oversensitive but these co-opted uses and associations of the Union Jack have made me uncomfortable. The flag was seen often as an aggressive image, inviting confrontation. Over the last few decades, this has been a gradual erosion of the more noble associations of the flag.
I think that changed yesterday. I think the Union Jack once more became a symbol of unification. The images of skinheads, hooligans and the worst kind of football tribalism were, with one great arc of pageantry, swept aside. The Union Jack became once more a proud symbol of the unification of kingdoms. Nothing could demonstrate better to the thug element how unwelcome they were. The Union Jack, once again, is a symbol of the best of us, the better angels of our nature. It is, once more flag I would feel comfortable flying.
The Queen has been perhaps our country’s best export, our best ambassador. With simple manners and a notion of service that few brought up in post-millennial Britain would understand, she has put forward the best face possible of the UK.
Reading the above you would probably conclude that I was an out and out royalist, prepared to throw down my life for my country. You would be wrong. If anything, my views are marginally in the direction of republican inasmuch as I reflect on these matters at all. But symbols are important as yesterday showed in abundance. In the space of nine hours, the union Jack once more became the symbol of the best of our country and not the worst. We have taken the flag away from the hooligans and thugs. It represents us once more, not them. Thank you your Majesty, thank you.