The end of the 20th century

That’s what it is, honestly.

Elizabeth II came to the throne in the aftermath of the Second World War, burn into an era where the British Empire bestrode the world like Colossus, linked by the Red Line telegraph and the undisputed master of the seas. She leaves a United Kingdom that barely rates the name, where Scotland and Northern Ireland are both edging toward the door, where Brexit has severed the links to Europe, where the 52/48 dynamic and twelve years of ossified Tory rule has combined with plague, economic distress and political upheaval to produce a sense that this really is the end of the line.

The Queen was a coelacanth of an earlier era: an age of deference, respect, tradition, where she knew from a young age that she would spend her entire life as the main employee of Monarchy LLC. Her greatness came from the fact that she faced her duty without complaint or shirking, something that is unimaginable in the modern era. It’s something her heir was unable to manage – the divorce and the death of Diana was arguably the greatest peril for the institution of the Royal Family since Oliver Cromwell, and as for Charles—

Actually, spare a thought for Charles, who finally has the job he never wanted and had to train and wait for his entire life, and has to assume it at a moment of utter grief in how he got it, and whose history – the outspoken opinions, the troubled personal life, a life in tabloids – suggests that the Crown under his rule will not enjoy the same residual respect his mother clung to from the war era. Indeed, it’s hard to see anyone bringing that sort of gravitas any longer in the 21st century.

This is a hard blow for the UK, to be certain, and it might be a diminution they don’t come back from. It’s going to be a very tough winter – real 1970s style – and the confluence of so much at once does rather shake the foundations. The 21st century has finally fully arrived for Britain. They might not be happy it has.

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