By Jamie Bryson
Last Thursday, just after 6pm, we lost our Queen. It was a moment of collective grief for our country. I am unashamed to say that I shed a tear as I watched, along with my son, as the national anthem was played on the BBC to a background image of our Queen in all her glory.
My son knew, just like me, that this was a big moment in both our lives. A momentary void had opened. A constant presence had gone. And even for those of us old enough to know what comes next as the Crown passes to the next in line, there was still a little subconscious anxiety.
However, in our great British tradition, almost instantly a sense of collective pride was infused into our peoples with the words God Save The King, as Charles III became the new King of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and his other realms and territories.
The anxiety which collectively gripped us as the enormity of our Queen’s death sank in was soothed by the immediate transition as the Crown passed to our new monarch, and that momentary feeling of constitutional vacuum gave way to grief which we experienced personally, and shared communally.
All around the world tributes poured in for Queen Elizabeth II: our Queen, our leader, our protector and defender of the faith. It is likely to be the last Queen we ever seen in our lifetime as the Crown passes to Charles and then William and then to George.
It was truly the end of an era, as the reign of our longest serving monarch came to an end. Perhaps that made the grief even more intense.
In the words of Queen Elizabeth II “grief is the price you pay for love”.
The following day, those comforting words adorned the front page of the Daily Telegraph and other publications. And so it was that even in death, Her Majesty had words to comfort her people.
The vast majority of us- nine out of ten people in the world, I was told at the proclamation on Sunday- have known only an existence whereby Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II sat on the throne.
Her comforting and reassuring presence was all around us. Her Majesty was on our money, we asked for God’s protection over her in our national anthem and the flying of the Union flag acted as a constant and happy reminder that we live in a free and democratic society, armed and guarded by Her Majesty’s armed forces.
On Sunday past I attended the proclamation of accession with my seven-year-old son. It struck me that it was one of the unique life events that we both experienced together, for the first time. I could not say to him ‘I remember this when I was a wee boy’, for the experience was as new to me as it was to him.
It is a remarkable tribute to the magnificent majesty of our constitutional monarch that she was known and loved by all, from our little children to our elderly citizens.
And so it was that me and my son stood together to watch the ceremony, along with my parents (his grandparents) and my grandmother (his great grandmother), who was the only one of us who was alive (albeit as a child) during the reign of a previous monarch.
As a child, my grandmother would tell me tales of how her mother (who I remember fondly from my early years) adored the Queen. There is something special about our elder generation and the deep respect and unique affection they had for Her Majesty.
I wonder whether it was her accession to the throne in their lived memory and subsequent constancy in their lives which instilled such deep affection for Elizabeth II, an affection that all of those who were born into her reign, the faith and British tradition came to share.
It reminded me of the importance of our constitutional monarchy, of why we as the United Kingdom and Great Britain and Northern Ireland benefit immeasurably from the maintenance of a core national tradition and focal point- the Crown.
In times when there is a great rush to change almost everything in the name of ‘progression’ and to create a society built upon the quick-sand of ever shifting whims, impulsive desires and the constant necessity to accede to the latest social fad, the importance of our national identity being rooted in the solid foundation of the Crown can not be overstated.
Our loyalty to the constitutional monarch provides us with a shared national identity, from which is derived our faith, culture and many of our social standards. This has a stabilising effect on us collectively as a society. It is the one thing which binds us.
It may be said, and has been said by opponents of our constitutional monarchy, that this is a political issue; that the Crown is simply a symbol of one political affiliation.
That is demonstrably untrue. The untruth is evidenced by the outpouring of affection and loyalty to our constitutional monarch by all major political parties in the United Kingdom. All parties who sit in Parliament, and who represent the vast majority of our peoples, have sworn allegiance to our constitutional monarch.
At the accession council, Conservative and Labour- the two largest political blocs in the United Kingdom- stood together in solidarity as our new monarch came to the throne. They were even joined by the leader of the Scottish National Party, and there too were the representatives of the majority unionist tradition in Northern Ireland.
This tells its own story. The constitutional monarchy is not political, rather it sits above politics. It is a shared loyalty which is espoused by the vast majority of peoples across the United Kingdom, and in His Majesty’s other realms and territories.
The political system is the means by which we sort out our differences, but we do so under the Crown. In present times, the constitutional arrangements for that are found in the Act of Union 1707 and laterally the Acts of Union 1800, which in Article 3 creates our sovereign Parliament.
These arrangements should be the constant and immovable constitutional foundation. As we renew the constitutional monarchy with the accession of a new monarch, His Majesty King Charles III, we must equally ensure the maintenance and defence of our solid constitutional foundations.
The Union flag is lowered, heads are bowed and our hearts our heavy as we mourn the demise of our sovereign. This is our period of national mourning.
After we have collectively mourned, in honour of the traditions she gave her life to our service to protect and defend, our heads will lift- looking forwards to the time ahead as we continue to sail the open seas of freedom- and our hearts will give allegiance to our new King.
Thank you for giving your life in service of us Queen Elizabeth II. Forever in our hearts.
God Save The King.