Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Queen at the heart of Remembrance Sunday

For over sixty years she has stood by herself in front of the Cenotaph that her grandfather asked to be built as a memorial to those who had died in conflict and led her nation in a simple act of remembrance. Today, November 9th 2014, was no different. The Queen laid a wreath on behalf of her country just after the clock had struck eleven and a two minute silence had allowed everyone to contemplate the terrible losses of war. The poppies placed, she walked backwards and bowed her head slowly then paused for a moment of reflection. Millions paused with her. The national act of mourning, led once more by the Queen.

The Queen lays her wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday

With her were the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex and the Duke of Kent who all laid wreaths and stopped and paid tribute in silence to those who had lost their lives in wars. When George V became involved in preparing a permanent memorial it was in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. But although the centenary of the start of that conflict has been remembered throughout the year, the descendants of that wartime king now remember far more lost lives. Another global conflict and wars around the world in the intervening years mean that Remembrance Sunday has gathered even more meaning in the decades since it was instigated.

And those other conflicts were uppermost in the minds of the Royal Family when, a few hours after the ceremony at Whitehall, it was announced that Prince Harry had made a surprise visit to Kandahar in Afghanistan to take part in a Remembrance Service there. The prince, who served in Afghanistan in 2007-8 and in 2013, read a passage from the Bible and then laid a wreath at the simple ceremony. British troops left the country only recently but Harry was joining the personnel still there dismantling the planes and equipment used in that long conflict.

The prince spent time talking to them on his unannounced visit. Back home, his uncle - the Duke of York - took the salute at the veterans' march past that follows the ceremony at the Cenotaph every year.This time round there were historic moments - the Normandy Veterans' marched for the last time before they disband while the parents of some of the 453 service personnel killed in Afghanistan also joined the slow walk past the memorial where they hand their wreaths to be laid at its base.

The ceremony at the Cenotaph was watched from a balcony overlooking Whitehall by the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex. The night before, the Queen and other members of the Royal Family had attended the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

But throughout all these events, the act of remembrance is led by one person alone. Harry represented her in Afghanistan today while the Duke of York took the salute for her in the chill air of a November morning on Horse Guards Parade. This year, there had been reports of a heightened terror threat in London at Remembrance Sunday. Some commentators have even suggested that the Queen's decision to stand firm despite that threat is why - in an unprecedented move - the crowd applauded her as she left the Cenotaph at the end of the ceremony. Whatever the reasons for the warm response, there is no doubt over one thing. In 2014, as every year, the Queen is at the heart of Remembrance Sunday.

No comments:

Post a Comment