Di asks for this week’s Truthful Tuesday:
How do you feel about your own country’s traditions and customs? Do you think they still hold a place in modern times?
Here in the UK we’ve all just finished ten days of national mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, who died suddenly aged 96 on 8th September and was finally laid to rest yesterday after a formal State funeral attended by numerous dignitaries and Heads of State from across the world.
Earlier this year the Queen celebrated 70 years on the throne – her Platinum Jubilee – making her the longest reigning monarch in British history, so for many of us she was simply the one reliable constant in a crazy world of chaos. So with the Queen’s death, her eldest son Charles immediately became King, and the whole traditional process of the formal transfer of power from monarch to monarch began.
It feels odd right now to have a King instead of a Queen, and I can’t help but feel slightly anxious at what comes next for our national identity? Change is so often difficult to deal with, unsettling and fearful, but for me this is exactly where tradition helps instill a reassuring sense of continuity, a soothing stitching together of the ragged rupture to the fabric of life created by whatever the particular change may be.
For example, familiar funeral rituals help ease us all into life without our loved one – they give us something pseudo-solid to cling to at a time where our world has tilted so violently on its axis, tipping us off-balance. We can hang on to these rituals and follow them almost on autopilot, going through the motions we know so well and finding comfort in the recognition of repetition. They help us get through a tough time.
And I feel that’s exactly what the last ten days of traditional mourning for the Queen and smooth transfer of power to the new King has done for us as a nation – it has given us a formal framework to adhere to, to help hold the country together in what feels like could be a time of constitutional crisis. It may not be a structural form many of us have seen before in our lifetime or are familiar with, but seeing it already in existence from the past, ready and waiting to be called on and carried out when needed has helped enormously.
So I definitely think that some social and cultural (and ceremonial) traditions still have a pride of place in our modern world, as long as they do not exclude or cause harm to anyone else. Of course even the oldest of traditions can over time be updated and modernised, creating a balance between old and new that allows for those familiar feelings of continuity while also making space for an acceptance that sometimes change is a necessary part of keeping things going into the future.
In the same way as many modern brides still choose today to have a traditional white wedding with a long dress and veil, and be ‘given away’ by her father (or other male family member) and handed over to her new husband, no-one truly expects the bride to really be part of the general goods and chattels passed between men. Marriage today is about partnership not ownership, so the ceremony itself is a symbolic nod to tradition, not a wholesale belief in every single aspect of the ritual they are taking part in.
And so it is with our Royal family and our national identity into the future. I’m sure the coronation of King Charles III when it occurs will in some ways be a very different coronation to that of Queen Elizabeth II 70 years earlier, while still honouring and retaining enough of the traditional historical importance to keep it reverentially recognisable as the sombre and solemn occasion of state it will inevitably be.