We really shouldn’t mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
We should celebrate her.
But we can pause for a while, to think about who she was, and be grateful for her. A woman of great wealth, who nevertheless chose a simple life, a life of faith and service. Warm and human.
And we will celebrate her in the weeks and months to come, of course we will, but first, today, we are sad. We’ve lost someone who’s been at the heart of the United Kingdom for nearly a hundred years. Nearly a hundred years! Someone whose face became dear to us, a face we watched grow old and wrinkled alongside our own, whose hair turned grey as ours did, who smiled through thick and thin, through war and too much loss, through family turmoil and nonsense. Someone who seemed to be a friend, even for those of us who never met her, even for those of us who are not Royalists.
I met her just once. Briefly. And we laughed together. She was tiny. Tiny. Lively eyes, sparkling. And her laughter was a lovely warm peal of delight.
On Tuesday evening I read this to two friends, and it seems to sum up the mood this evening, the reflections, the loss;
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
But, of course the last line is all wrong. Sorry, Auden. The rest is good, but the last line is wrong. There is a deal of good still to come.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.