Queen Elizabeth death: The end of our Elizabethan era

This is the end of the Elizabethan era, our Elizabethan era. It is a turning point of enormous significance for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, (to give the Queen’s realm its full title), for 54 countries of the British Commonwealth and the 14 Commonwealth countries of which our Queen was also their Queen and head of state.

Some of those countries - Barbados for example - have already decided that the future British monarch will not be their head of state. Others - Jamaica and Australia most notably - may follow suit. It is a reminder that as the British nation mourns and a well-rehearsed Buckingham Palace schedule of events comes into place, we will go from national mourning to the coronation of a new monarch but then into a period of difficult reflection about the future. …

But as the UK now enters a period of great and genuine mourning, there will also have to be a period of deep introspection. Things are not going well in the Britain of the 2020s. Great Britain was formed at the end of the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth. When she died, the Scottish King James VI also became King of England. In 1604 (now called James I) he declared: “We have thought good to discontinue the divided names of England and Scotland … and resolve to take … the name and style of Kings Great Britain.”

But if Great Britain began ending divisions at the close of our first Elizabethan era, at the end of our own 21st century Elizabethan era we are fraught with new divisions. In Scotland there is agitation for independence and therefore the end to the union. There is renewed discontent in Northern Ireland. The pound is at its lowest level against the dollar for almost four decades. Since the Brexit vote in 2016 the United Kingdom has been rocked by a series of upheavals which have left us with our fourth prime minister in six years. Liz Truss met the Queen at Balmoral in one of the Queen’s last formal constitutional duties. As Prime Minister Ms Truss is now in her first days in office trying to come to terms with a multiplicity of problems and witnessing the end of one of the great enduring symbols of Britishness.

There will be challenges in other ways, too. The new monarch, Charles, has served the longest apprenticeship of any of his predecessors in British history. There will undoubtedly be a time of coming together under the new king, but the scandals and rows which have attached themselves to some members of the Royal family will endure. Prince Andrew remains sidelined. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have chosen a kind of exile.