The clearest sign yet of the concern that the queen’s recent health scare has caused her fans came courtesy of the Australian Monarchist League, which issued a circular to its members this week, urging them to brace themselves for the death of the queen.
The advice was circulated in a note sent out to members of the organization entitled “how our lives will change,” according to the website Royal Central.
In the message, the leader of the League, Philip Benwell, wished the queen a speedy recovery from her illness, but also pointed out that it was time to think about what was going to happen on the day that Her Majesty passes away, pointing out that “many Australians will need time to adjust to Prince Charles as King of the nation.”
That is an understatement; many Australians see the death of the queen as a natural moment to ditch the British Monarch as titular head of state, and become a republic.
“The Queen has been a part of the lives of all her subjects for over 60 years,” Benwell wrote. “Most were born during her reign. It will be as though a safety net has disappeared because we have always had a sort of assured faith that the Queen is there to protect us.
“That faith won’t be there when Charles becomes king because it is something that is earned and is not automatic.”
The muddled messaging surrounding the Queen’s health this Christmas is to blame for all this concern.
The Royal family’s deft handling of planned events—jubilees, coronations, birthdays—contrasts dramatically with the floundering that always seems to accompany unplanned incidents, such as illness, however predictable such happenings may be.
The fumbled way the palace dealt with Her Majesty’s illness over the Christmas period was a dramatic case in point; photographers were actually waiting to photograph the Queen boarding her train from London to Sandringham when police told them, “It’s not happening,” and started to remove barricades.
A four-hour information vacuum followed, leading many to speculate that the Queen was seriously ill.
It was the beginning of weird few weeks, and, as one celebrity death followed another over Christmas and the days following, there was nasty feeling 2016 was going to claim its biggest scalp of all.
The palace continued to insist the Queen was only suffering a ‘heavy cold’, and it was leaked that she was up and about with the family on Christmas Day, but her failure to attend church not only on Christmas Day but also on New Year’s Day, conflated with rumors that she would not be performing any public engagements until March, and would be staying at Sandringham to recuperate for several weeks longer than originally planned, did nothing to calm nerves.
In the absence of the Queen making any public appearances since she was struck down with a ‘heavy cold,’ the best evidence that the Queen is not, actually, dying is to be found in the text of the “Court Circular”.
This archaic document, published daily in The Times and the Telegraph, lists the previous day’s royal engagements.
And it is through this old-fashioned method that on Wednesday a positive smoke signal was sent to the outside world from Sandringham, the Queen’s splendid country house in Norfolk where she has been recuperating out of public sight for the past two weeks.
There was a clear subtext to the announcement in the court circular that a member of her staff was being honoured for a lifetime of faithful service--“Mr. Raymond Wheaton was received by The Queen today when Her Majesty invested him with the Insignia of a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order”--and the hidden message was: the Queen’s doing just fine, thank you very much for asking.
But there is a world of difference between a one-line report of the Queen conducting an investiture service, and a good old fashioned walkabout.
The palace continues to calmly state that the Queen is feeling better and getting stronger.
But until she makes a public appearance rumors will continue to foment, from one end of the globe to the other, that the end of the second Elizabethan age is nigh.
Elizabeth knows this better than anyone; as she herself famously remarked, when asked why she maintained such a crowded schedule of engagements, “I have to be seen to be believed.”