In Ireland, we take our funerals like we take our tea: lively, talkative and with minimal fuss. So there is a certain culture shock to watching Britain mourn its queen.
That’s especially true of funeral coverage, which on BBC One and Sky News unfolds with such hushed solemnity that every now and then you wonder if you’ve muted the sound by accident. But no, it’s just the UK muting itself as it bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth.
That silence is what strikes you during coverage of the ceremony at Westminster Abbey and the long procession through London.
BBC presenters adopted a funeral whisper. The commentary on the Westminster column through the UK capital is by Huw Edwards, his voice so low it’s hard to understand what he’s saying
BBC presenters adopted a funeral whisper. The commentary on the Westminster Column through the UK capital is by Huw Edwards, his voice so low it’s hard to understand what he’s saying.
Usually, it’s the presenter’s job to bring dynamism to whatever is on screen. Today, Edwards must realize the opposite, and he intervenes with appropriate soothing bromides. “The wreath itself, containing flowers and foliage from the Queen’s garden,” he intones, breaking down the details of one of the funeral flower arrangements.
They’re a little more audible on Sky, where Anna Botting and Dermot Murnaghan strive for a high-end style reminiscent of the Elves’ bombastic speech in The Lord of the Rings. “The clouds now broken, the heat on their backs,” Botting says as the sun clears. “There have been many milestones on this journey for Her Majesty The Queen. That’s another.
RTÉ covers the funeral ceremony in Westminster, which includes a homily from the Archbishop of Canterbury. “We are praying today for his whole family – grieving like so many families at a funeral.” Delete the on-screen images and it could be any priest at any Irish funeral.
The national broadcaster apologizes shortly after and returns to daytime soap operas. There’s none of that on the BBC, where the funeral procession – 2km long – is covered from start to finish.
In the midst of pomp and grief, every once in a while a detail catches the eye. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police leading the procession. Prince Andrew surrounded by people in uniform, so he appears to be under house arrest. In fact, they are his brothers and sisters, in their military outfits
The funeral of Britain’s longest-serving monarch is a historic event, but it’s not the kind of story to stir blood or keep us on the edge of our seats. It’s meditative and austere – hyper-sober slow television.
In the midst of pomp and grief, every once in a while a detail catches the eye. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police leading the procession. Prince Andrew surrounded by people in uniform, so he appears to be under house arrest. (In fact, they are his siblings, in their military regalia.) And, through it all, a sense of genuine sadness pulsates through the screen.
After the coffin procession through London on the State Carriage, the final leg of the Queen’s journey to Windsor Castle is by hearse. As the pace picks up, the coverage also increases. The BBC isn’t quite letting go, but Kirsty Young is allowed to break the solemnity and sound a note of vague chatter.
David Dimbleby, for his part, explains the significance of Windsor’s Sevastopol Bell, seized during the Crimean War and ringing only at times of national significance.
For the Irish viewer, the Crimean War anecdote perhaps confirms that, although there is sadness here at the Queen’s death, and although Ireland and the UK still have a certain point in common, on days like this, the gap between countries seems wider. and deeper than usual.