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I suppose for the rest of my life I will be able to say I was in London at the time of the Queen’s funeral. I’m sure it will make quite a talking point!

Actually I was there for my work with drug and alcohol dependent people. Also to continue developing my special school for needy kids in the London burrough of Tower Hamlets. I am doing this in the memory of my own father, who with his single mum struggled during the Great Depression. However none of this  will be anywhere near as intriguing as talking about “Her Majesty’s funeral”.

Central London was crawling with people for the Queen’s funeral. Hundreds of thousands of them converged on it. The crowds of people in Trafalgar Square blew me away. The barricades were out, fixing where people could and could not walk. I really felt like an ant in an ant’s nest. Everyone scurrying around thither and yon, but everyone kept calm and carried on.

Me, a monastery and a funeral

I watched the funeral in a monastery where I stay whenever I visit London. There we where, all the monks and I, glued to the television.

What to make of it? Well, my family came from Britain and my grandmother regarded the Royal Family as an extension of our own, or maybe the other way round! I’m sure my sister, brother and I, along with Prince Charles and Princess Anne were all seen with a similarly jaundiced eye.

It was particularly moving for me to see Prince Charles mourning his mother. Why did the funeral affect me so much? In Australia I’m a Republican and proud of it, but in Britain I felt the ties that oddly bind mine and that family.

On the other hand, I also feel for our indigenous brothers and sisters who suffered so much because of colonisation. If truth be told they still suffer from the evils of that epoch. Their  suffering is all our suffering and until we come to terms with that we will never get anywhere.

Mourning lost dreams

Yet there I was, a long way from home mourning lost dreams. I felt the ghost of Diana too.

In an era of social media and insecurity, with an emphasis on the cult of individuality, I think we long for a sense of stability and connection. The Queen has been there for most of our lives. She opened and closed things and smiled while doing it. With a smile she also put up with problems in her own family, like we all do. She was always there. Now though, she isn’t.

The world and we will go on, but for a little while we are faced with our impermanence and we don’t like it.

So, in our insecurity we all came together to share the Queen’s funeral with the Royal Family, and convince ourselves all is okay. God may save the King, but perhaps some kind of saving is what we’re all seeking in this crazy world.

(Image: BBC)

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  1. Stephen 23 September 2022 at 07:54 - Reply

    I think it touches many of us on the level of belonging. Belonging to a narrative bigger than our own. Sadly I think we want to be lost in the narrative. It’s not really a narrative to find ourselves.

  2. Elizabeth Schmitz 23 September 2022 at 11:41 - Reply

    Well written Bill, I happy you got to be part of this history and in such a safe place.

    I couldn’t help thinking about all the people in Commonwealth Countries who perhaps hadn’t had enough food, shelter, clothing or just the day to day necessities in the last few weeks or years.

  3. Pam T 23 September 2022 at 11:49 - Reply

    Very well said very thoughtful

  4. Julijana 23 September 2022 at 11:57 - Reply

    “The world and we will go on, but for a little while we are faced with our impermanence and we don’t like it.” And that’s the reality. So many of our leaders of the world think they will live forever and have no insight to understand that 80 years of life is actually a very short time so can they just help their fellow man, share the love, live in peace, enjoy life, and be kind to their neighbours.

  5. Kelly Stone 23 September 2022 at 12:11 - Reply

    Thankyou you for sharing your experience of your beginnings Bill; your stay wow! How significant being there at this time – your reflections are warm and welcomed. And the note of Diana is significant too, as we all know what we were doing at the time we heard of her tragic death.

  6. Jenny P 23 September 2022 at 12:38 - Reply

    “Their suffering is all our suffering and until we come to terms with that we will never get anywhere.” Beautifully put Bill. Your words remind me of the Pink Floyd song On The Turning Away, which expresses the same philosophy musically. Definitely worth a listen.

  7. Joseph Bajada 23 September 2022 at 13:16 - Reply

    Hi Bill
    I too watched the funeral not as a supporter of the “Royal Family “ but for the pageantry.
    However I do feel sorry for them as people, losing your parent is always a sad time for anyone and we all can relate to that at some point in our life.
    As you said the impermanence of life is the thing that saddens us the most.
    We will leave those that we love the most.

  8. Andrew Caro 23 September 2022 at 13:31 - Reply

    Hi Bill, I suspect you allowed your emotion to cloud your reason. An heriditary monachy British syle is not only a medieval anachronism but it is also inherently deeply immoral. First it justifies special privileges for a few because of the accident of birth but more importantly Britain under the royal banner imaded (colomised) half of the third world and then having exploited their assets virtually enslaved the indigenous populations. Thefact that the royals wear Ruritanian military uniforms at every opportunity underlines the aggressive history behind the whole idea of old fashioned dynastic monarchy. I was born and educated in britain before becoming anAussie at aged 30

  9. Helen Dicker 23 September 2022 at 13:50 - Reply

    I liked your reflections. It was a special experience for you. Whether we would like a republic or not we have to acknowledge the Christian witness of the Queen.

  10. Kathy Parsons 24 September 2022 at 03:49 - Reply

    Lovely words Bill
    I was on Blackpool Pier when we heard the news. I watched the funeral from Ireland and I felt very sorry for the family having to grieve in public

  11. David Kerr 24 September 2022 at 11:36 - Reply

    Thanks for your reflections, Bill. A time you’ll never forget.

  12. Bryanne 24 September 2022 at 12:12 - Reply

    A very thoughtful reflection, Bill; thank you.
    Some of the (many) things that crossed my mind while watching the proceedings included:
    What does the Monarchy/Empire etc have to offer now and for the future?
    King Charles must be totally exhausted as well as grief-stricken.
    If the Queen had died during the pandemic would all that money have been spent on the poor and needy?
    How I dislike the negative emphasis on (Harry and) Meghan.
    Where to now, for Australia and for the UK?
    Let’s get a move on with adequate acknowledgement of and reparation for our indigenous population. That Statement was definitely from the heart.

    Finally, we need to hear more about the Tower Hamlets.
    Thank you for all your wonderful, dedicated, down-to-earth, practical work.

  13. Joan M wilson 28 September 2022 at 16:07 - Reply

    Bill – most moving. I support the Royal family. They are able to say “Well Done!” without one having a feeling that they want something, as a politician often does. Here in Australia with our Governors and Governor Generals, we have a good system. They are selected on character and past service. Years ago at a little country school, we would have local politicians or Councilors opening fetes etc. I felt they just wanted their name known so we would vote for them at the next election. Then one year we had the Governor and we all realized, he meant it when he said “Well done!” with out one feeling they were only there to get you to vote for them!

  14. Valerie Moase 29 September 2022 at 10:43 - Reply

    Thank you for your reflections, Bill. Elizabeth was born into the royal family…it wasn’t her wish to inherit such a role. Elizabeth could have abdicated as did her uncle, but she didn’t and she trod her path so very well.
    I honour her for her caring, her diligence and her obvious love for her family even through the dark times. I couldn’t help wondering how many of those soldiers would suffer extreme cramps after slow marching those many, many miles.

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