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OLD EUROPE’S SLOW DEMISE

The day King George died they cancelled Children’s Hour,

and filled the evening with ‘solemn music’.

The day his son-in-law died Gardeners’ World

was cancelled, and the corporate ether filled

with hacks masquerading as historians,

historians as hacks, confidently

exuding contradictory gossip, viz.

his father-in-law ‘feared him’, ‘loathed him’,

‘really respected,’ ‘admired immensely’.

 

The Duke was one of the few men or women

remaining who might have thought of the Hapsburgs,

the Hohenzollerns and the Romanovs

as family, and knew intimately those

who had witnessed the eagles fall. He was born

a month after the partition of Ireland.

The nights of rioting – by the Queen’s

Loyalist subjects – preceding his death

might have been deemed, at one time, ominous.

 

His was to have been a state funeral –

the flag-draped coffin on a gun carriage pulled

from the Palace by eighty ratings,

along Pall Mall, across Horse Guards Parade,

into Whitehall down to the Abbey,

just the sound of the steel-rimmed wheels, the boots.

Covid 19, if not the great leveller

then certainly a major purveyor

of ironies, well and truly – to use

a fittingly naval phrase – scuppered all that.

 

Though none of the sycophants have mentioned it,

hopefully the Prince appreciated

irony, at, as it were, his own expense.

Having invented the Royal Family

as a media product he appears

to have been appalled by the disrespectful

exploitation of the embarrassed

celebrities he created – and, ersatz

Greek that he was, perhaps remembered

too late Prometheus’s fate. However,

whatever the final sum might be of his

long, privileged life, a very old woman

has lost her friend of more than eighty years.

 

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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3 Responses
  • Jane Barth
    May 3, 2021

    I enjoyed the atmosphere this poem created, the picture of the intended funeral which didn’t quite happen: ‘… the flag-draped coffin on a gun carriage’ and the auditory details ‘… the sound of the steel-rimmed wheels, the boots. Also the irony: the need for great respect from the masses while at the same time trying to be just one of them.

    The time I saw the Queen at her most relaxed (not that I’m a royal follower) was when she came to Chester with Meghan to open Storyhouse – there was a lot of chatting and giggling going on between them. I bet Betty misses her.

  • John Huddart
    May 7, 2021

    Son, Harry, switching on Radio 1 observed that only instrumental records were played, thus suppressing the endless stream of romantic platitudes and yearning. We have not princes enough to ensure this might be permanent.

    I succumbed to the national mood -and forgave him all his foibles, and his proto-unwokeness. Your poem, maginficently Private Eyeish, exposed the weaknesses again, and in a beautiful and decently English way, ended with a genuinely moving tribute to the couple, born to play a role they could not escape, with a sense of duty that was dying when she came to the throne.

    Ironic that Scotland seems to drift away as Edinburgh dies.

  • Mary Clark
    May 10, 2021

    Interesting read for one from the States. I’ve just finished The Rose Code in which Philip plays a role as friend of one of the Bletchley Park female codebreakers. He’s portrayed as from an old world not gone but existing in remnants, with a need for family which Elizabeth offered ready-made. Loyal, a good soldier, able to have a good time, but part of the privileged world that for a few years was replaced by the social reorganization of the war and the BP crowd (where computers were used and AI may have dawned in Turing’s head). As you note in the last line, it all comes down to the personal, two people who spent their adult lives together.

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