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‘Don’t just cancel things’: readers on Britain’s period of national mourning | Queen Elizabeth II

The UK is in the middle of a period of national mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The day of the Queen’s state funeral, Monday 19 September, has been declared a bank holiday and schools and offices will close.

Mourners in London have queued for more than four miles to see the Queen lying in state in Westminster Hall. Across the country, events including concerts, sporting fixtures and strikes have been cancelled and rolling news coverage and programmes about the Queen have dominated radio and television schedules.

Civil liberties groups have criticised the response of the police, following the arrests of anti-monarchy protesters.

Here, Guardian readers share their views on the period of national mourning and reveal how they have been personally affected.

‘We can’t force the country to a standstill’

Shekinah Opara smiles at the camera. She is wearing an orange and red pattern dress
Shekinah Opara, is ‘just not interested’ in rolling coverage of the Queen’s death and lying in state.

Shekinah Opara, 23, works in legal services and finds it “understandable” that the Queen’s death should receive “such a significant national response steeped in tradition”.

“However, we can’t force the country to a standstill. The notion that the country is united in gratitude, admiration and grief is simply false. For me, the Queen’s death provided a glimmer of hope that Britain’s delusions about its national identity – which is linked to antiquated institutions like empire and monarchy – can finally be wrestled with and put to rest.”

Opara says she has been engaging with the news less, and was sorry to see football matches cancelled.

“I did appreciate Afua Hirsch’s article on the Queen’s death, which is the first thing I’ve seen that reflects how I have always felt about the monarchy.

“I’m concerned about how dissenting voices will be treated, although the arrests we are seeing are really not surprising.”

‘Cancelling events doesn’t honour the Queen’s memory’

Andrew Grieve smiles at the camera. He is wearing a blue jacket.
Andrew Grieve wants the cancelling of events to stop. ‘It you want to honour the Queen’s memory, fine, then do something. Don’t just cancel things.’

Andrew Grieve, a London-based father of two, wants the cancelling of events to stop. “It you want to honour the Queen’s memory, fine, then do something. Don’t just cancel things.”

He disagrees with the decision of the FA to cancel all football matches last weekend – even children’s grassroots games. “How is stopping kids running around on a Saturday morning respecting the memory of the Queen? It’s not. It’s pointless.”

He is worried about small businesses being affected by event cancellations. “Businesses have had a hard enough time during the pandemic,” he said.

‘I’m furious MPs aren’t returning to work’

Frances, 69, was surprised by some of the feelings the Queen’s death threw up for her. “I’m anti-monarchist but felt a sense of loss.”

Still, she thinks a 10-day period of national mourning is too long. “I don’t think that the TV channels should be constantly about the Queen.”

She is “absolutely furious” that politicians are not returning to work until after the funeral, especially because parliament will be adjourned two days later for the party conference season. “They’re going to be in recess for all but one day, at a time when the country is in a desperate crisis. I think it’s unspeakable. And I think that the Conservative party is milking the national period of mourning for all they can get from it.”

‘The arrest of protesters is disturbing’

Rosie Weir looks at the camera. She is wearing a green top with flower print
Rosie Weir, from Belfast, feels mourning traditions should be respected, but that arrests of republican protesters are unwarranted.

Rosie Weir, 28, from Belfast, is a lifelong republican who works for a royal charity. “I was very surprised by how upset I was last Thursday. I believe my sadness was due to my personal experience of seeing the good the royal family has inspired every day.”

She thinks those who want to mourn should be allowed to and finds the mood of national grief “entirely understandable”.

“However, the news of people being arrested for holding up signs protesting the monarchy is extremely disturbing. We have a history and culture of peaceful protest in this country and that is something a democratic nation should be proud of.”

‘We need a bit of fairytale gloss and pageant’

Diana Luther Powell smiles at the camera, wearing a cap, standing in a field
Diana Luther Powell thinks the mourning period is a welcome opportunity for the nation to have some respite from the country’s prevailing ‘bleak’ atmosphere.

Diana Luther Powell, a 75-year-old Quaker prison chaplain from Barnsley, thinks a 10-day mourning period is necessary.

“The national mourning period is to be expected, although it must seem a mystery to those from places without a monarchy – a throwback to former deferential times when men touched their caps and children were well behaved.”

This is illusory, she said, adding that perhaps “a bit of fairytale gloss and pageant” was needed right now. “Life will feel very bleak afterwards. It felt like she was always going to be there, like the queens in storybooks. Even though we knew she wouldn’t be.”

‘It’s over the top’

Iain is upset about the collective public assertions that the entire nation is mourning the Queen’s loss
Iain is upset about the collective public assertions that the entire nation is mourning the Queen’s loss.

Iain, a 38-year-old IT professional from London, is finding the period of national mourning “really over the top”.

Most irritating, he said, are all the public statements asserting that everyone is in mourning. “This is not true. I understand that many people are, and that the Queen was popular with many. But the fact that divergence or even indifference isn’t tolerated, let alone acknowledged, I find disrespectful.”

On the news, he was surprised to hear the Queen described as a person who went about her business “with no fuss”, pointing out that she wore “a literal crown” and travelled in a gold carriage, with footmen and trumpets playing.

‘The largesse is hard to stomach at a time when the country is reeling’

Maithreyi smiles at the camera. She is wearing striped clothes and sitting under a parasol
Maithreyi, whose father would have ‘loved’ the grandeur of the Queen’s mourning period she says, has mixed feelings.

Maithreyi, a writer and interpreter from Bristol, felt “very saddened” at the passing of the Queen.

“It lasted about a day and a bit. Now, I’m quite tired of this fetishising of the medieval pageantry and this over-the-top approach.”

The past few days, she says, have “clarified that I am not a royalist”, though she thinks her late father, “a devoted royalist”, would have loved “this grand funeral”.

“I held the Queen in high regard – her dedication to her duty at her age was admirable. The monarchy, to me, represents very little and I am quite surprised to see how eager people seem to be to see it continue in all its pomp and anachronistic practices.

“I’d love to see a paring down of the royal family and a redistribution of their land and wealth – it is hard to hear the King dole out largesse to his own son when the entire country is reeling under so much financial strain.”

‘Protesters and republicans are showing a lack of decency’

Colin Wood, a retired teacher from New Zealand, believes it is “absolutely right and proper to show respect for a wonderful monarch who served our country and the Commonwealth for so long and so well”.

He thinks the Queen’s death has revealed the “mean-spirited side” of many people.

“I am appalled at the lack of humanity and common decency shown by protesters and republicans raising their issues, before the Queen is even laid to rest.”

‘My children will miss yet another day of school’

David Watkins looks at the camera. He is outside in the hills
David Watkins is ‘bored’ by the coverage of the Queen’s death.

David Watkins, a 54-year-old from Porthcawl, is “bored senseless” by the coverage and annoyed that his children – who, he says, have missed enough school due to the pandemic – will miss yet another day due to the bank holiday. His partner will also lose a day’s wages, he said.

“The views of people who do not support the monarchy are being completely ignored. Indeed, many people in positions of authority are probably pretending to support the whole charade for fear of the damage to their standing in society if they dare to object.

“My children aren’t the slightest bit interested in the Queen, and are if anything upset that the associated bank holiday didn’t coincide with a day with double maths.”

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