Late last night Twitter lit up. Buckingham Palace was suddenly trending world-wide. Reports circulated that all the royal staff from around the country had been summoned to the Palace for an emergency meeting at 3:00 am, London time.
As an avid and lifelong Anglophile, I scoured the internet for news of what might be happening. Had the Queen died? She had just turned 91 years old recently. Some were saying that French media were reporting the death of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. He was even older. The Murdoch-owned newspaper The Sun ran with headline news of Prince Philip’s death.
The Union Jack was being flown at half mast. No, it wasn’t. Arguments broke out on Twitter over the protocol for flying the Union Jack at half mast in the event of a royal death. While most of the messages being sent were those of prayers and support, some disgusting people took the opportunity to make some truly disgusting comments.
Elizabeth II has reigned as queen of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth for as long as most people on earth could remember. She is well and truly loved by most of the British peoples. The popularity of the Royal Family took a hit following the death of Princess Diana, when the Queen made the rare mistake of misreading the feelings of her people. But she has now surpassed Queen Victoria as Britain’s longest reigning monarch and her popularity has never been higher.
The passing of a monarch is always a momentous occasion in British life. Sometimes, the public is given a warning, as in the death of Elizabeth’s grandfather, George V. In the days before television and the internet, a notice written by the king’s physician posted outside Buckingham Palace simply read “The King’s life is moving peacefully toward its close.”
The circumstances were quite different when King George VI, the queen’s father, died in his sleep on February 6, 1952. His death was so unexpected that then Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip had left the country only a few days before for a royal tour in Africa. It was left to Philip to break the news to his young wife in a tree house in Kenya that her beloved father was gone and that she was now the Queen.
The British newspaper The Guardian recently ran a story on the preparations in place for the eventual death of the monarch. The Palace would notify the government by using the phrase “London Bridge has fallen” so that any eavesdropping switchboard operators would not get wind of the story. No doubt, that phrase has now been changed.
Royal protocol also dictates that no announcements regarding royal deaths would be made before 8:00 am, London time. For those sticklers out there, before you comment that it should be GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) I know that already. I tried to stay awake until that time, but the sleeping pill I had taken got the better of me. However, when I awoke at 4:30 am (EDT) I quickly went to the internet to discover what had happened. It had to have been momentous for an emergency 3:00 am meeting of all the royal staff from Balmoral to London.
The news reports were: Prince Philip to step down from royal duties beginning this autumn.
Say WHAAAAT? I and the rest of the monarchy lovers in the world are stressing out for hours, waiting on pins and needles, to find out that a 95-year-old man is retiring? In the fall?
Okay, there was one newspaper from New Zealand that reported the palace press office said that neither the Queen nor Prince Philip had died. But they had called the press office to get that news. And just how reliable is news from New Zealand anyway? They’re like halfway around the world.
Please Buckingham Palace, don’t do something like this to me again. I don’t know if I can handle the stress. The royal family has an internet site. Good grief, the Queen even has a Twitter account. You can continue to observe all the protocol you want, but next time just give us a hint that nobody has died. Is that too much to ask?
In the meantime, God save the Queen!