A powerful unifying force has gone, leaving constitutional questions that will resonate for years to come
The death of a monarch is an entirely foreseeable event, the solemn formalities hardwired into the rituals of dynastic succession. But it is also an event that is difficult, partly for the simple reason of good manners, to anticipate with any accuracy at any particular time.
With the death at Balmoral of Queen Elizabeth II, a prepared but nevertheless shocked nation finds itself at such a moment, and it is important that our troubled politics and our wounded civil society face up to it as calmly and sensibly as possible, because this event will resonate politically and constitutionally for years to come.
Elizabeth was on the throne for so many years that, through no fault of her own, she made this process difficult. She reigned longer than any other monarch in British history, and by a considerable margin. She is the only one to have reigned for more than 70 years, a span that is unlikely to be repeated in the foreseeable future. Until yesterday, she was the only monarch that the vast majority of us had ever known – you have to be at least 75 to have had any memory of George VI’s reign. This is a big, big event for Britain.