Britain’s psyche dealt hammer blow

Recessions come and go. So too do strikes and political and energy crises. But a second push for Scottish independence, shifting attitudes in Northern Ireland and a reconsideration of the monarchy throughout the other 14 countries where she remained head of state threaten to upend everything she held so dear.

An economic dividend from Brexit has not been forthcoming and while it has delivered sovereignty over lawmaking, the Europe debate remains so toxic that any positives that have been forthcoming are hardly recognised.

In many parts of the Commonwealth, demands are mounting for a re-evaluation of Britain’s colonial past, for apology and atonement, as then-Prince Charles and Prince William experienced in difficult trips to the Caribbean during the past year.

King Charles must now begin to grapple with these issues well into his eighth decade, and with nowhere near the same level of public fondness as his mother inspired.

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The sincere tribute the Queen received from Irish Catholic US President Joe Biden belies the frosty relationship the two administrations have right now.

As strange as it was to see a leader from Sinn Féin, the Irish republican and democratic socialist political party, express genuine sympathies for those mourning the Queen’s passing, it is hard to imagine such a tone would be replicated in dealings with the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, or indeed the new monarch.

Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign encompassed the decolonisation of much of the British empire in Africa and Asia, and the consolidation in its wake of the Commonwealth. It also saw the emergence of the modern monarchy, open to intense media scrutiny.

But her personal popularity was seen as a key factor in maintaining support for the royal family in recent years. She shied away from political interventions and is known chiefly to her subjects by her presence at public events and her televised Christmas messages, which often emphasised the old-fashioned virtues of service, dignity and integrity. They came to be all the more appreciated the longer she survived.

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She was the country’s abiding figurehead through its parallel transformations: from imperial power to European Union member and then post-Brexit standalone, and from a socially conservative, white- and male-dominated society into a more liberal and multicultural state.

Her succession to the throne while still in her 20s, introduced a new-found optimism for post-war Britain, still rebuilding its economy and cities after they were levelled by the Luftwaffe during the blitz.

With war raging in Ukraine, the challenge of climate change and the rise of autocratic regimes, Britain appears weak on all fronts.

She leaves behind a kingdom deeply grieving and badly shaken by her loss. For many, the monarch and monarchy had become indivisible. It is a hammer blow to the British psyche.

The nation in its present condition will struggle mightily to weather her loss.

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