Easy to Criticise …

What a strange time we are going through as a nation – The Queen is dead, Long Live the King.

I have hardly been able to tear myself away from the news ‘specials’ that have been flooding the TV – well to be fair there really is nothing else on is there?? But, even if there had of been, I know I would still have been lapping up all the programmes about the Queen, about the Royal Family and about the Monarchy a

Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the Royal Dockyard Chapel in Pembroke Dock, Wales. Photo courtesy of the Press Association.

nd what it means to us as a nation. And I know the reason why I am absorbing all of this like a sponge is because the Royal Family fascinate me. I am a big fan. Although, in more recent years, they have become much more transparent and willing to share more of the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff – they are still an enigma as a family, in my opinion.

My question is what is it that singles somebody out to be Royal. What quirk of birth means that somebody can be born into a family that lives in lavish homes and palaces, that lots of people, including me, revere and adore, and yet they are simply human, as human as you and I.

Have you ever thought about how difficult the job of the Monarch is? I cannot say that I have really because on the face of it they seem to have it all! I mean, let’s be frank, they aren’t going to worry about their fuel bills this winter are they, or have to choose between heating or food? They won’t have to worry about how much it costs to fill a car with petrol and make half a tank stretch as far as a tank used to! Their lifestyle really is the stuff of fairy tales, isn’t it?

Or is it? Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second died on Thursday and the news reports have been absolutely full of it. How are her family supposed to mourn her when everywhere around them there are people reminding them of who she was, what she was, how she was? It really is inconceivable that a family in the depths of grief should have to withstand the scrutiny of the whole world and still be able to grieve the loss of a much loved mother, grandmother and great grandmother as well as Aunty and Great Aunty. These are the people who are directly affected by this woman’s death and yet because she was ‘our queen’ people behave as if it is their right to mourn somebody they probably have never met, somebody they only know through tv news reports or ‘in-depth documentaries’ and, unlike the celebrities who bemoan their lack of privacy, the Royal Family did not choose to be in this position, no they were born into it.

Born into a life of servitude to the people, born to a life of expectation that they should be more perfect than the rest of us because they are Royal and born to a life of scrutiny that every breath they take, every move they make, every step they take – we’ll be watching them; in the words of a great song by Police. How must that feel?

I spent the last couple of days of last week sat with a family as their mother was at the end of her life and their grief and sadness was so palpable that sometimes I felt as if I was intruding on very intimate moments between a mother and her children as they said their goodbyes to each other.

I wonder why we don’t feel like that with the Royal Family. I wonder why we feel we have a God given right to witness all of their trials and tribulations, including their grief, and make comment on it? Why we feel like we can criticise them when they behave in the same way as broken humanity across the globe behaves – they make mistakes – just like us. They are not perfect and yet we expect them to be. Because they were born into a family that is set apart from the rest of us.

King Charles IIIKing Charles was heard to say: “I was dreading this day” and I don’t think he was talking solely about the death of his beloved mama. I think he was dreading the weight of responsibility that is now on his shoulders, which we all contribute to, as we expect him and his family to behave to impossible standards. The family have been praised for parading themselves in front of the public as they read the messages of condolence left for the Queen – who are we to say they should have to do that?

Of course there are an element of the population who do not agree with the monarchy, who believe it should be abolished, who believe they are a drain on our economy and the money could be better spent elsewhere – and everybody is entitled to their opinion but we are not entitled to vilify people, especially people who we do not know other than what we have read or heard in news reports.

The more I think about it, the more it brings me back to Jesus and His story. I’m sure I am not the only one who sees the similarities. He didn’t choose to be the Son of God, no he was born to it, he didn’t ask to be a celebrity but the people who listened to his teachings spread the word – you can hear them – ‘Hey you know that guy Jesus everyone is talking about? Well he’s coming to a mountain near here this week, let’s go and see what its all about, lets go and see what makes this bloke so special” And, of course, in Jesus’ case he was special, he was perfect, he was the Son of God but that didn’t stop people from vilifying him, it didn’t stop them from criticising who he ate with, who he spoke to, who he ministered to. No, far from it, because he was perceived to be something the rest of the population weren’t he was scrutinised as closely as the Royal Family are today and with the same agenda – that people could find fault with him because he was different and was trying to build a world of peace and reconciliation.

Hmmmm sounds familiar doesn’t it? Our Royal Family are probably our greatest ambassadors, they probably do more for this country as a whole than any other family in the land and they carry out diplomacy all around the world so well that they are revered all around the world. Jesus is our heavenly king and when we read the stories of how badly he was treated, how unfairly he was judged and the expectations people had of his we are suitably horrified and disgusted.

When Jesus told us to love our neighbour as ourselves – he meant the whole world, including the Royal Family, and he asked us to love everybody in the same way that he loves us.

I was party to a very disturbing conversation yesterday when somebody said – “the press will be nice to them for the next couple of days, maybe until the funeral, and then the knives will be out again and they won’t be able to do anything right”. I wouldn’t like to bet against that particular prophecy and when Jesus talks about taking the plank out of our own eye before denigrating the speck in our brothers – this is exactly what he is talking about. My prayer for the Royal Family at his particular time is that they are allowed to genuinely grieve without judgement, rancour or expectation as they mourn the much loved matriarch of their family. Amen.

Annie Houghton