The late Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest on Monday September 19, at Windsor Castle. After ten days of official mourning following her death on September 8, she can now truly rest in peace. Those ten days must have been exhausting for her (even in death people do get tired). What with being moved across the country, from one venue to the next, to allow Britons to mourn their monarch, the only one most of them have known, and for thousands of curious tourists and millions of TV viewers around the world to experience a uniquely British spectacle. It has been a period of British tradition and pageantry on display to a worldwide audience. Few people do ceremony and ritual like the British. Sometimes one is left wondering whether for them ceremony is not the real thing and what occasions it only secondary. The burial marks the end of part one of a two-part royal event. The second, to be played out on a yet to be announced date, is the coronation of King Charles III. It will no doubt be equally colourful and dignified, less sombre, perhaps more festive, and attract huge crowds, even if the new king does not, by popular account match his mother’s star attraction. For non-Brits or those without royal traditions, the lengthy mourning period and long farewell, the constant moving of the body of the departed queen, the unusual mix of an atmosphere of a sorrowful wake and a joyful fair, is baffling, even insensitive if not outright cruel, but also amusing. Some cannot understand why she could not be allowed to rest after such a long life and dutiful service. It’s the way the Brits show affection, they will say, still uncomprehending. Others, with a little more understanding of British ways and a touch of cynicism will say she was performing her royal duties one more time to her subjects, and also give her successors time and opportunity to get up close and personal with them while she is still around. Supervising the transition from the other side as it were. Even her son, now King Charles III, cannot be allowed to grieve for his mother in private but must go to every capital of the countries that make up the United Kingdom to be proclaimed king. He has to balance duty and grief, a difficult act, but one which the British monarchy seems to be designed to cope with. In some way, British royals cease to be individual private beings and become objects of their subjects’ fascination. In a way the subjects own them. They are fascinated by royal lives and keep them under relentless scrutiny– their foibles and serious breaches, their marriages and break-ups, and other scandals (which to be fair are no worse than for ordinary people). When they keep out of most of these, they are boring and almost forgotten because they are just like the fellow next door. They even expect their royals to behave differently, break the rules even, give them a little fun and also a stick with which to whip them. At the same time, they want them to be decent, but have no mind of their own or keep it private and never let it be known. You must pity British queens and kings. Royal events provide them the occasion for gossip and bragging about having been there, seen it and been part of it. They feed the need for the unusual story and spectacle that will be told and retold many times after. Of course, every society loves or reviles its stars for the same reason that they are not like us. They will be loved or scorned for being dumb, and hated for the slightest indication of being smart. They will be admired for conforming to the public expectation of them, and loathed for any signs of breaking free from the public-allotted image to be themselves. I suppose that is the price of royalty or stardom, and the joy of being ordinary and thinking that you have the power to determine how the other is viewed. Beyond mere spectacle, the pomp and pageantry and prolonged public mourning seem to serve a purpose for everyone. For the royals, it flatters them that they still have power and are much loved and adored by their subjects. And all the people who throng the different venues to mourn play at being loyal subjects. But all of them are united in grief and their Britishness. All said, however, the death and funeral of the queen, and the accession of Charles and the attendant ceremonies is a deeply human story. Beneath the composure and dignified regal bearing of the royal family, there is sorrow at a very personal level, of the loss of a mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Behind the appearance of family and community outing, there is genuine sadness at the passing of a person that has been a constant presence in the lives of Brits for so long, the face and image of the monarchy, almost an institution herself, and the symbol of the nation. There is the passing of an era, of the familiar and the onset of another, less certain. The queen has been the link to a glorious past, which tended to dull the feeling of the idea of a diminished global clout. Will King Charles be the bridge to a future where the United Kingdom’s place in the world is secure and relevant? Maybe. For now, he has to reassure the nation, and the world, that all will go on as before and perhaps even better. That, I am sure, is every Briton’s wish and when they sing “God save the King” it is more than mouthing the words of the national anthem but a fervent prayer. The views expressed in this article are of the writer.