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Opinion Post Elizabeth: Why the queen fascinated

Tributes left in Green Park, near Buckingham Palace in London, on Sept. 17. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

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LONDON — To understand the scale of events involved in laying to rest Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, consider some of the preparations both visible and invisible here: Hundreds of foreign leaders have arrived from capitals elsewhere — and agreed to be transported not in their typical luxurious vehicles but crowded shuttle buses. Representatives from 23 royal families will be seated ahead of government dignitaries at Westminster Abbey, per royal protocol, which differs from diplomatic protocol, which is just one of the many elements of logistics planning being hashed out in an area of the U.K. foreign office dubbed “the Hangar.” Before troops began rehearsing at 2 a.m. last week, royal gardeners started prepping the streets four hours earlier — among other things, pouring thousands of pounds of sand to ease the passage of the gun carriage ferrying the queen’s coffin.

My Post colleagues William Booth, Anthony Faiola and Karla Adam dive here into the question of why the world is fascinated by Queen Elizabeth. There are lots of other royal families, they note. Yet people aren’t similarly enthralled by the king of Belgium, the sultan of Brunei “or the ‘bicycling royals’ of northern Europe — interesting and colorful as they may be.”

My take? The queen’s funeral is a reminder to millions of the relentless passage of time and how one mortal spent it: Her parents were the last emperor and empress of India. She was on the cover of Time magazine at age 3. She was raised not to show emotion, certainly not in public. She was born in an era when women did not wash their own hair, in a class where a nanny was a more regular presence than a parent. She was also taught to be humble; when as a child she remarked about crowds waiting outside for a glimpse of their royal presence, her grandmother Queen Mary ordered young Elizabeth to be taken home by a back door.

She was an upper-class Englishwoman — happiest in the countryside with her dogs and horses — who made a straightforward commitment to her role. The extraordinary thing is how long and how consistently she kept it.

Royal record: The British military jet that carried Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin from Edinburgh, Scotland, to London last week is the most tracked flight in history, Guinness World Records has announced. Some 6 million people tried to click on Flightradar24 within the first minute of the plane’s transponder activating — an “unprecedented strain” on the flight monitoring site, The Post reports. Ultimately, 4.79 million people viewed the queen’s final flight, and 296,000 followed along on a YouTube livestream, Guinness said.

See it all: More details here on the queen’s funeral service and how to watch it. The Post will stream the funeral here, with coverage from our teams in London and D.C. starting at 5:30 a.m. Eastern (that’s 10:30 a.m. in London).

ICYMI: The queen made corgis famous, writes Maura Judkis, but to their owners these fluffy-butt canines will always be royalty.

On Sunday, the queen’s second son, Prince Andrew (yes, he of scandal notoriety) released a statement to his “Dear Mummy, Mother, Your Majesty, three in one.” His daughters shared their tribute to “grannie” (“Thank you for making us laugh, for including us, for picking heather and raspberries, for marching soldiers, for our teas, for comfort, for joy.”) in an Instagram post Saturday. These come many days after the queen’s death because royal seniority dictates who goes before whom.

Regal reading: The Post has reviewed many books on the Windsors over the years. (Full disclosure: I’ve written a bunch of those reviews.) Some recent good ones include Tina Brown’s “The Palace Papers,” a dishy yet substantial look at the monarchy’s evolution since Princess Diana. (Pro tip: Try the audio version, which Brown reads herself; her voice — and occasional scorn — is even more pronounced than on the print page.) For those wanting to know more about the queen’s iconic rainbow wardrobe, there’s “The Queen: 70 Years of Majestic Style,” by Bethan Holt, fashion news and features director at Britain’s Telegraph newspaper. For sartorial scoops and some behind-the-scenes anecdotes, pick up “The Other Side of the Coin,” by Angela Kelly, the official keeper of the queen’s clothes. An updated edition out this spring touches on pandemic life in “HMS Bubble,” the palace operation to minimize covid-19 risk to the queen. This is Kelly’s second book on the queen’s fashion. What to notice: Kelly got permission from the queen, but royal approval for a staffer’s book is exceedingly rare; after Elizabeth’s childhood governess, Marion Crawford, published “The Little Princesses” in the early 1950s, the palace revoked the courtesy home she had been allotted and cut off contact. (Crawford’s book, a far cry from hard-hitting, provides a lot of the publicly known details of Elizabeth’s early life.)

Handy 411: Get up to speed on the new king.

Watch for it: BBC will air a video tribute to the late queen from Camilla, the new queen consort, at 3 p.m. Eastern (8 p.m. in London). The message will come as part of an hour-long documentary broadcast Sunday evening, timed to coincide with a national minute of silence at 8 p.m. in Britain.

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The story behind that viral sketch: Kerri Cunningham, an artist from Lancashire, England, was putting one of her three children to bed last week when her Instagram post caught fire, reporter Jennifer Hassan writes. Cunningham was inspired by a photo she had seen of the royal family sharing a picnic in 1960. She’s now selling copies and says all proceeds will go to a children’s charity.


All eight grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip stood in somber vigil in Westminster Hall on Sept. 17. (Video: The Royal Family)

Watch scenes from the queen’s eight grandchildren standing vigil around her coffin Saturday evening. Princes William and Harry wore the dress uniforms of the Blues and Royals, a cavalry regiment of the British army in which both served. The youngest of the cousins, James, Viscount Severn (son of Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex) is 14; social media was quick to note James’s resemblance to William from around the time of his mother’s death.


The meaning of 142 sailors, the sovereign’s scepter and other symbolism. This explainer by Bonnie Berkowitz, Shelly Tan and Júlia Ledur touches on the significance of items on display and some of those taking part in Monday’s events.


Queen queue decorum: Get a wristband. Do not push or shove. Do not cut. London correspondent Karla Adam writes about her 7½-hour journey to see the queen lying in state. “Americans like to call it a ‘line,’ but that word doesn’t quite encompass the almost holy rule-bound nature the British have developed of waiting patiently behind someone to achieve a goal.”


Can you name who’s third in line to the throne? The Post has charted the line of succession, with some details about those in the first 10 spots. (And the answer was Princess Charlotte.)


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