Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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It’s good that George and Charlotte are part of the Queen’s funeral

There were doubts that Prince George and Princess Charlotte would attend the state funeral of their great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

When they were nine and seven respectively, no one was sure whether their parents, William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales, would allow them to participate in the proceedings, given their young age. But now we see that George and Charlotte are indeed at the ceremony – and it feels totally appropriate. They’re dressed appropriately, they’ve behaved impeccably – if I were William and Kate, I’d feel both proud and relieved right now.

Prince Louis (who is the couple’s youngest child at four) wasn’t there, but that feels good too. His parents clearly felt that his age (and proven rambunctious personality) meant it was best that he stayed home to remember his great-grandmother in private. Archie and Lilibet, Prince Harry and Meghan’s children, weren’t there either, no doubt because they are only three and a year old.

You might imagine that when it came to age, Louis was considered the cut-off; he is the perfect example of any four-year-old, royal or not: instantly bored, fond of making faces, absolutely no respect for pomp and quiet silence. You only have to watch the way he (hilariously) covered his mother’s mouth and stuck out his tongue during the Queen’s platinum anniversary election in June to get an answer as to why he thought it was best that he was not one of the official mourners.

I know all too well that if I had asked my own son, when he was four, to be respectful and reserved and behave perfectly at a funeral, let alone a funeral that the whole world watched, he would would have lasted for about two minutes before slipping. off his couch and yelling at the spider he could see on the coffin.

My son is now six – a snapshot of where we might find Louis in two years – and I can tell him I have an important phone call for work or an urgent email while I’m working from home, whichever I want; he will still wholeheartedly believe that I need to hear the song he recently learned about the continents. He looks at me with his wide eyes wide and vibrates the word ‘Antarctica’ operatically – and I melt.

So no, of course Louis shouldn’t have gone to the funeral. He would have been cute or funny – never intentionally disrespectful, because kids are always just kids – but definitely not fit for the occasion (bless him).

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But when it comes to George and Charlotte, who… did join some 2,000 others at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the memory of their late great-grandmother, well – this remarkable event will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They also seem perfectly equipped to handle its austere ceremony; although as a parent of children of similar ages I wonder what comes next.

My daughter was with me hair great-grandmother’s funeral a few years ago when she was six, and she was fascinated. She asked a steady series of questions, ranging from where they took the coffin to what is involved in a cremation. She stayed remarkably dry during the ceremony and woke up, but the tears came later. And so did more questions.

For besides the rum-pum-pum drumming, the dark salutes and the mournful hymns, there is a plethora of difficult conversations about what it means to lose someone; the intricacies of death. None of this should be avoided – complaint is part of life, for all of us, and should be treated as such – but it will be very difficult for the youngest members of the royal family to cope with their loss.

Perhaps it is helpful for them to have seen firsthand how deeply the rest of the world mourns their great-grandmother.

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