Mrs Robinson Juergen ghebrezgiabiher


This is the BBC from London
It is with the greatest sorrow
that we make
the following announcement:

London Bridge is down

The first plans for London Bridge date back to the 1960s, before being refined in detail at the turn of the century. Since then, there have been meetings two or three times a year for the various actors involved (around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks) in Church House, Westminster, the Palace, or elsewhere in Whitehall. Participants described them to me as deeply civil and methodical. “Everyone around the world is looking to us to do this again perfectly,” said one, “and we will.” Plans are updated and old versions are destroyed. Arcane and highly specific knowledge is shared. It takes 28 minutes at a slow march from the doors of St James’s to the entrance of Westminster Hall. The coffin must have a false lid, to hold the crown jewels, with a rim at least three inches high.

She is venerated around the world
She has outlasted 12 US presidents
She stands for stability and order
She is the only monarch
that most of us have ever known
Her eyes will be closed
with 750 mg of morphine
and a gram of cocaine

and Charles will be king
His siblings will kiss his hands

The bond between
sovereign and subjects
is a strange and mostly
unknowable thing

Cupboards will be opened
in search of black armbands
three-and-a-quarter inches
wide, to be worn
on the left arm

A footman in mourning clothes
will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace
cross the dull pink gravel
pin a black-edged notice to the gates

While he does this the palace
website will be transformed
into a sombre, single
page, showing the same text
on a dark background

Screens will glow
There will be tweets
‘Rats’ will be activated –
a cold war-era alarm designed
to withstand an attack
on the nation’s infrastructure

All news organisations
have prepared stories pinned
to walls, days of coverage
ready to go

Radio stations have
a network of blue obit lights
supposed to light up
in the event of a national catastrophe
and music lists prepared
made up of ‘Mood 2’ (sad)
or ‘Mood 1’ (saddest) songs
to reach for
in times of sudden mourning

Category one : royals

eligible for
the full obituary procedure but
Don’t go overboard
She’s a very old woman
who had to go
some time

Category one was made for
Mr Robinson
Programmes will stop
Networks will merge
and have words
that are roughly
approximate
to
the
moment

When she dies
nine D-days will follow
in London Bridge planning documents
full of ritual proclamations
a four-nation tour by the new king
bowdlerised television programming
and diplomatic assembling in London
not seen since the death of
W C in 1965

When Britain’s last living link
with its former greatness
the nation’s id
its problematic self-regard
which is still defined by
its victory in the second world war
coincides with our farewell for

this country’s longest-serving monarch

the funeral of Churchill
was the requiem for Britain
as a great power
But actually it will really be over
when she goes

We have declined
with her, so to speak
unrecognisable from the
grandeur and innocence
at this Empire’s beginning

Footage will be played
again and again
from her 21st birthday
in 1947 on holiday
in Cape Town
I declare before you
all that my whole life
whether it be long
or short, shall be devoted
to your service, and the service
of our great imperial family
to which we all belong
she says
enunciating vowels

I pinned the poppy to my blazer. It bled like a vowel
says Derek Walcott

Astonished grief
swept the country
royal mortality
in the minds of her subjects
when the last British monarch
of the House of Hanover
passed away and parallels
the unease that we will
feel at the death of Mr Robinson:

The wild waters
are upon us now

We have
to have narratives
for royal events
In the Victorian reign
everything got better
and better, and bigger
and bigger. We certainly
can’t tell that story
today

Avoiding the subject
seems like good manners
but it is also fear:
This meeting
never happened

And yet this taboo, like much to do with the monarchy, is not entirely rational, and masks a parallel reality. The next great rupture in Britain’s national life has, in fact, been planned to the minute. It involves matters of major public importance, will be paid for by us, and is definitely going to happen.

The House of Wind sore
the last European royal family
to practise coronations
and to persist
with the complicity of a willing public
in the magic
of the whole enterprise
The Queen Mother’s
funeral was rehearsed
for 22 years
London Bridge is Mr Robinson’s exit plan

It’s history
before history
It will be 10 D-days of sorrow and spectacle in which, rather like the dazzling mirror of the monarchy itself, we will revel in who we were and avoid the question of what we have become.

The royal undertakers
Leverton & Sons keep
what they call a
first call coffin
of Sandringham oak
ready in case of royal
emergencies

The Royal Company
of Archers wear eagle
feathers in their bonnets
Crowds are expected
to throw flowers
on the passing train ….
another locomotive
will follow behind
to clear debris
from the tracks …
It’s actually very complicated
one transport official said

In every scenario
the body returns
to the throne
room in Buckingham Palace
the altar
the pall
the royal standard
and four Grenadier Guards
their bearskin hats inclined
their rifles pointing
to the floor
standing watch

There will be
no time for sadness
or to worry about
what happens next
Bear in mind
everybody who
works in the palace
is actually on
borrowed time

Everything in there
is planned
Everyone knows
what to do

Across the country
flags will come down
bells will toll
Great Tom
at St Paul’s every minute
for two hours
the Sebastopol bell
was tolled only once before
56 times at Windsor
for each year of George VI’s life
from 1.27pm until 2.22pm

Norfolks have overseen
royal funerals
Someone will have the job
of printing around 10,000 tickets
for invited guests
the first of which
will be required
for the proclamation of King Charles
in about 24 hours time

Thirty-one people
gathered for the first meeting
to plan Churchill’s funeral
Operation Hope Not
in June 1959
six years before his death

Those working
on London Bridge
will have corresponded
for years in a language
of bureaucratic euphemism
about
a possible future ceremony
a future problem
some inevitable occasion
the timing of which, however
is quite uncertain

In theory
everything is settled

The Prince of Wales
has waited longer
to assume the British
throne than any heir
and
For a little while
I had the uneasy
sensation of being
left alone
on a vast stage

There are really two things happening
There is the demise of a sovereign
And then there is the making of a king
(Charles is scheduled
to make his first address
as head of state on the evening
of his mother’s death)

It is such
a long time since
the death of a monarch
that many national organisations
won’t know what to do

The official advice
as it was last time
will be
that business
should continue as usual

This won’t necessarily happen:
If Mr Robinson dies during Royal Ascot, the meet will be scrapped.
The Marylebone Cricket Club is said to hold insurance for a similar outcome if she passes away during a home test match at Lord’s.
The National Theatre will close if the news breaks before 4pm, and stay open if not.
All games, including golf, will be banned in the Royal Parks.

In 2014
the National Association of Civic Officers
circulated protocols for local authorities
to follow in case of
the death of a senior national figure
and advised stockpiling books
of condolence – loose leaf
so inappropriate messages can be removed
– to be placed in town halls
libraries and museums
the day after

Mayors will mask
their decorations
(maces will be shrouded
with black bags)

In provincial cities
big screens will be erected
so crowds can follow
events taking place
in London

In the House of Lords
the two thrones
will be replaced
by a chair and a cushion
bearing the golden outline
of a crown
Parliament will gather
if possible, both houses when
Mama belong big family
as she is known in Papua New Guinea
has gone

We cannot
at this moment
do more than
record a spontaneous expression
of our grief
Churchill would say while
messages rain in from parliaments
and presidents

On D+1, the day after the Queen’s death, the flags will go back up, and at 11am, Charles will be proclaimed king.

The meeting
of the Lords Spiritual
and Temporal of this Realm
derives from the Witan
the Anglo-Saxon feudal assembly
of more than
a thousand years ago

In theory, all 670 current members of the Privy Council, from Jeremy Corbyn to Ezekiel Alebua, the former prime minister of the Solomon Islands, are invited – but there is space for only 150 or so.

Whereas it has
pleased Almighty God
to call to His Mercy
our late Sovereign Mr Robinson
Charles will carry out
the first official duties of his reign
swearing to protect the Church
in Scotland
and speaking
of the heavy burden
that is now his

A roof
covered in red felt
and trumpeters from
the Life Guards
wearing red plumes on their helmets
will step outside
give three blasts
and the Garter King of Arms
a genealogist named
Thomas Woodcock
whose official salary
of £49.07 has not been
raised since the 1830s
will stand on the balcony
and begin the ritual proclamations
of King Charles III:

I will make the first one

In 1952
four newsreel cameras
recorded the moment
This time
there will be an audience
of billions
extras from
an expensive Shakespeare production
will go by carriage
to the statue of Charles I
at the base of Trafalgar Square
which marks London’s
official midpoint
and read out the news again
while a 41-gun salute
almost seven minutes of artillery
will be fired from Hyde Park

There is no concession to
modernity
in this
Cocked hats and horses everywhere
YET
the whole world is going
to be bloody recording this

A former police detective chief superintendent
will be waiting on a horse
on the old boundary
of the City of London
outside the Royal Courts of Justice
a red cord will hang across the road
and will formally admit
a new king
to the City
and the Royal Exchange
and then
in a chain reaction across the country

From day one
it is about the
people rather than just the
leaders being part
of this new monarchy
Lots of not
being in a car
but actually walking around
the pageantry of royal death
and accession will be
archaic and bewildering
but from another city
each day
images of the new king
mourning
alongside his subjects
assuming his almighty
lonely role in the public imagination:
It is see
and be seen

We never saw so motley
so rude
so ill-managed a body of persons
clergy got lost in the words
the singing was awful
the royal jewellers made
the coronation ring
for the wrong finger
Some nations have a gift for ceremonial
In England the case is exactly the reverse

If the crown
was going to give up
its executive authority
it would have
to inspire loyalty and awe
by other means –
and theatre was
part of the answer
The more democratic we get
wrote Bagehot in 1867
the more we shall
get to like state and show

Obsessed by death
Victoria planned her own
funeral with some style
But it was her son
Edward VII
who is largely responsible
for reviving royal display
into curious power
of visualising a pageant he
turned the state opening of parliament
and military drills
like the Trooping of the Colour
into full fancy-dress occasions

Now we all know
that no one else
quite
does it like the British

Mrs Robinson by all accounts a practical and unsentimental person, understands the theatrical power of the crown. “I have to be seen to be believed,” is said to be one of her catchphrases.

It will be all about her
and it will really be about us
and intensify the feeling
that there is nothing
to learn from foreigners

Under common law
Camilla Parker Bowles
will become queen
the title always given to the wives of kings
There is no alternative
She is queen whatever she is called

The Commonwealth is the other (k)not
In 1952
at the last accession
there were only eight members
of the new entity taking
shape in the outline
of the British Empire
Mrs Robinson was
the head of state in seven of them
and was proclaimed Head
of the Commonwealth to accommodate
India’s lone status as a republic
Sixty-five years later
there are 36 republics in the organisation
which the Queen has attended assiduously
throughout her reign
and now comprises a third
of the world’s population
The problem is that the role is
not hereditary
and there is no procedure
for choosing the next one:

Common wealth is
a complete grey area

London fills up
with diplomats and presidents
in the days after
We are not talking about entertaining
BUT
Such feasting and commingling
with my mum still unburied
seemed to me unfitting and heartless
Edward VIII would have enunciated

in his memoirs

The show must go on. Business will mix with grief.

Final preparations
in the nine days
before the funeral
Soldiers will walk
the processional routes
Prayers will be rehearsed

On D+1
Westminster Hall will be locked
cleaned and its stone floor
covered with 1,500 metres of carpet
Candles
their wicks already burnt in
will be brought over
from the Abbey
The streets around
will be converted
into ceremonial spaces
bollards on the Mall
will be removed
and rails put up
to protect the hedges
The population will
slide between sadness
and irritability

In 2002
130 people complained
to the BBC about
its insensitive coverage
of the Queen Mother’s death
Comedy won’t be taken off
the BBC completely
but most satire will

A Mass Observation
survey showed that people
objected to the endless
maudlin music
the forelock-tugging coverage
Don’t they think of old folk
sick people, invalids?
It’s been terrible for them
all this gloom
In a bar in
Notting Hill, one drinker said
He’s only shit and soil now like anyone else,
which started a fight

Social media will be a tinderbox
In 1972, the writer Brian Masters estimated that around a third of us have dreamed about Mr Robinson – she stands for authority and our mothers. People who are not expecting to cry will cry.

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