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Farewell, Mrs Queen
Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
In times when nothing stood
But worsened or grew strange
There was one constant good
She did not change
— Philip Larkin (written in 1977, for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee)
This morning, judgment in an Australian criminal appeal was handed down. Zirilli v The King, it read. “A judgment with a King,” said the law professor who brought it to Twitter’s attention. It may well be the first legal ruling in the UK and Commonwealth made in the name of King Charles III. And not only that: the QCs who appeared had become, by a bit of succession magic, KCs.
It will take a while to get used to the idea of a King. “KC” seems harder to say. On Thursday evening, in his grief and shock, one of the talking heads on ITV referred to “His Majesty the Queen” three times.
Well, it is the 21st century and all.
Every obituary, from the BBC’s on down, referred to the Queen’s sense of duty. Duty, it seems, is the hardest value to model, and to uphold. It doesn’t mean being a doormat, but it does mean being constant, and brave, and decent. Sometimes people come to duty late. Other people never learn to appreciate it, at least not until it’s gone.
The continuity of the English monarchy, and the way its constituent parts move so smoothly into place, is also a reminder of the extent to which the law is a living thing. That is something long-lived and effective legal systems achieve.
When I studied both Roman and English legal systems, I got the sense, as I learnt their history and grasped its effects on the present, that I was dealing with something that was alive. Something like one of those plants that propagates via roots that grow underground.
I hope that HM the Queen’s death does not cut the rest of us off from our roots.
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages