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Editorial: Philip personified the nonsensical conceits of an ersatz patriotism

WE CAN gauge the extent to which the BBC can escape the appellation “state-affiliated broadcast organisation” by the character of its coverage of the death, at the age of 99, of the Queen’s consort, Philip.

For this newspaper the principal issues of interest lie in what impact this matter has on politics in general and constitutional matters in particular.

The diktat from the Labour leadership that the party’s election campaign be immediately suspended until further notice will doubtless be obeyed.

Sir Keir Starmer’s odd suggestion that Britain had lost “an extraordinary public servant” will elicit, at best, a mixed reaction from actual public servants, including NHS staff, whose devotion to duty has attracted no actual material recognition.

MPs will return from lunch next Monday for the conventional pro forma tributes.

The Commons is always at it worst when the increasingly rare intervention of working-class politics is buried under the avalanche of hypocrisy that invariably accompanies every event in the mannered existence of this most dysfunctional of families.

Nicholas Witchell, the BBC’s royal correspondent, who brings to his craft a rare and unswerving devotion to his subject matter, described the Duke of Edinburgh as “utterly loyal in his belief in the importance of the role that the Queen was fulfilling.”

For once, Witchell has said something of interest beyond the trivia which routinely occupies his labours.

We can expect that, over the next days, weeks and months that the management of such narratives that our monopoly media sanctions will centre on the role that Elizabeth — or, to give her her full title, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith — plays in the management of her fissiparous realm.

There are powerful centrifugal forces at work that are putting a real strain on the current dispensation. This is not simply a question of generation.

Overall more than one in five people favour a republic with less than two-thirds still loyal to a monarchy, but among the 18 to 24-year-olds more than a third favour an elected head of state while just 42 per cent are royalists.

But the threats come yet not so much from an explicitly British republican quarter but from the unravelling of support for a unitary British state.

We can set aside Northern Ireland where those adhering to a perverse loyalty to the crown have perhaps less popular support among the British people than do the Irish as a whole. 

A putative nationalist majority in Scotland is caught in a double bind desiring an illusory national independence that comes with a currency bearing the image of an Anglican queen of Anglo-German heritage who magically transforms herself into a Presbyterian when she crosses into the nominal domain of her now deceased spouse.

Philip himself — second cousin to his betrothed and the princely son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg — personified the nonsensical conceits of an ersatz patriotism in which the closely related royal families of European nation states and Russia shared class interests and family links while the peoples over whom they ruled were dragooned into war and inter-imperialist conflict.

This Queen gets intelligence reports before the government and has had a briefing from the Prime Minister every week for the last seven decades. 

The monarchy personifies the power of the state and hitherto the British state has always existed as the expression the class power of a bourgeoisie of which the present Queen is but the 372nd most wealthy member. Her allotted task is to keep this particular show on the road.

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