Weekly Column

Refreshed and Strengthened

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Was it THE Queue; the silence in Westminster Hall; the immaculate drill of those on guard (including my nephew Thom, I am proud to say); was it the heroic pall bearers (what a responsibility for 19 year old boys); perhaps it was the magnificence of the ceremonial, the glory of the funeral service, the simplicity of the country flowers on the coffin; was it the Lord High Chamberlain breaking his wand of office; perhaps President Biden being asked to wait his turn as the VC and GC procession wound its way down Westminster Abbey? Was it the two young Royals taking it all so seriously or the bagpipe music dwindling away to silence in the distance? These and a thousand other details enthralled us over more than a week of mourning. How fitting it all was, how understated; how moving in parts, impressive in others. How superbly well planned in every detail. Perhaps above all how reminiscent of so many aspects of our dear Queen’s character.For me it was the bringing together of the Nation, and of the peoples of the Commonwealth and wider World. People in the Queue put aside their selfish interests; people across the world marvelled at what they saw on their televisions; we were given a glimpse of a greater good, of a better way of managing our human ways and concerns. In particular we were reminded in so many ways of Duty, of sincerity, honour, good manners, kindness – all of the merits so amply held by Her Late Majesty.What a lesson there is in all of that for the real world we have now re-joined with a bit of a bump. Russian nuclear sabre rattling, the bogus referendums which will allow Putin to annexe 15% of the Ukrainian landmass; the reported deportations to Russian concentration camps, and the mass graves and torture chambers uncovered in the areas so magnificently liberated by the Ukrainian Army. These things depict the most base, the most wicked of all human behaviour, and of course could not be further from the merits of our late Queen. Yet we must also remember her clarity of thought, her determination, her steadfastness throughout the so many wars and crises she lived through. She kept steady, she held true to her principles, and she truly led the Nation in good times and bad over 70 years. The crises in her own private life would have been enough to floor most of us; yet she rose above the hubbub to do what was best, whatever the circumstances. We must do the same in our reaction to the dictator and criminal, Vladimir Putin.So must the new PM and Kwasi Kwarteng in his mini-Budget on Friday. We all know of the crises engulfing the World’s economy and the consequences for all of us in our domestic and business budgets. Kwasi needs to keep a clear head; focus on the long-term targets and do what must be done to protect us from the worst. I found the PM’s readiness to “do unpopular things” in her Empire State Building interview very refreshing. She must not do what is popular. She must do what is right for the country and its people, even if it is monstrously unpopular. All she needs do is explain clearly and precisely why it is that she is doing what she is doing.It wasn’t just about flummery and pageantry; it held messages for all of us about our lives and decisions and about the great decisions of State which we now face. I think that the Country- and much of the world- emerges from two weeks of Mourning in a curious way refreshed and strengthened by all we witnessed. God Save the King in all that lies ahead.

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James Gray
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September 21, 2022