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This is an audio transcript of the FT News Briefing podcast episode: Britain in mourning

Marc Filippino
Good morning from the Financial Times. Today is Friday, September 9th.

Mourners singing ‘God Save the Queen’
Happy and glorious. Long to reign over us. God save the Queen!

Marc Filippino
In London, mourners gathered in front of Buckingham Palace to pay respects to Britain’s longest reigning monarch. Queen Elizabeth II died yesterday. She was 96 years old. 70 of those years were spent on the throne. Here are some of the people we spoke to on Thursday outside the palace.

Mourner 1
I’m 26 years old and all I’ve known is Queen Elizabeth. And you spend your life thinking, oh, she’s never, you know, she’s never gonna die. She’s never gonna move on. And then it happens. It’s just quite a shock.

Mourner 2
She’s been such a, like, constant in our lives, and she was just a fantastic woman and so very sad.

Mourner 3
You know, she’s to me the epitome of public service. And I felt it was my, that it was my duty to come down here after work and pay my respects.

Mourner 4
I read somewhere someone said this is an impossible act to follow. And I thought that’s, that’s the perfect way to phrase this. This isn’t, she is an impossible act to follow.

Marc Filippino
To talk more about Queen Elizabeth II and this moment for Britain, I’m joined by the FT’s deputy opinion editor, Miranda Green. Hi, Miranda.

Miranda Green
Hi, Marc.

Marc Filippino
Are people ready for this?

Miranda Green
Well, it’s gonna be a very difficult moment for the UK because Queen Elizabeth II fulfilled the function of this very strange role of constitutional monarch. So a head of state that’s separate from politics, above politics, and designed to kind of unify the country in a way that politicians never can. She fulfilled that role just about as brilliantly as it’s possible to fulfil that role. And during a period of immense societal change, where she really has been one of the only constants holding the whole thing together as it’s evolved. And of course, we, we’ve only had a new political head of government for two days. You know, Liz Truss was appointed Queen Elizabeth II’s 15th serving prime minister only a matter of hours ago. And now the head of state has deceased and the crown passes to Charles. So it’s a major upheaval at a time of political upheaval as well. I think that’s pretty universally felt.

Marc Filippino
Yeah. And Queen Elizabeth actually stated her intention to serve the country and to be this kind of steady figure in a speech she gave even before she became queen. She was on a trip with her parents and her younger sister in South Africa. Miranda, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Miranda Green
So it was like a messa-. It was, she was required to do a kind of broadcast to the nation on turning 21, on coming of age.

Queen Elizabeth II
I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.

Miranda Green
She’d already decided that she was gonna devote her life to service in that way. And so sort of I think it’s referred back to a lot, that speech, because it showed a kind of incredible maturity at that age and also an understanding of how she wanted to fulfil her role even before it became the role of the monarch. And I think that, you know, one of the things that the country really did appreciate in the way that she carried out that role was this idea that she was a public servant.

Marc Filippino
And not only that, she’s the queen of the Commonwealth. She’s the queen of Canada and Jamaica and New Zealand. So her presence is, her presence was global.

Miranda Green
You know, that question of the Commonwealth is so interesting, isn’t it? Because her coronation was 1952 as a very young woman. So very shortly after the second world war and right in the middle of the moment when Britain was relinquishing the British empire and all of the nations of the empire were, one by one in very quick succession, becoming independent states themselves. And during her reign, she tried very hard to create the commonwealth of countries that used to be in the British empire into something that was actually meaningful. She, as you say, has remained a head of state of quite a lot of these Commonwealth countries. Not all, of course, because some didn’t want that arrangement, which is important to remember. And of course, you know, in some of the Caribbean countries, even now, the political will is actually to cast off the British monarchy as titular head of state for reasons of wanting to be culturally independent, I suppose, from those years of empire.

Marc Filippino
What’s it like in the UK right now, Miranda? There’s been a lot of political upheaval, as you mentioned. The country’s got a new prime minister. Liz Truss was appointed earlier this week. And it came not too long after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned the summer.

Miranda Green
So I’m talking to you from London. You know, in a sense, you know, I have very elderly parents who remember the coronation and obviously they’re a kind of second world war generation for whom the queen really has been this point of stability from their childhoods. And there are a lot of people, you know, still knocking about in the UK of that generation who will, I think, feel really quite a personal sense of loss as her life comes to an end. You know, I think for the rest of us, because we’ve been experiencing this turmoil politically, you know, there is a slight sense of sort of potential insecurity. But I wouldn’t necessarily overplay that because, of course, you know, it was inevitable. And I think the point of having a monarchy, you know, the point of having this constitutional arrangement, is its consistency over and above the individual. So the minute that the death of the queen was announced, it was announced by the king. It said, you know, the king announces the death of Queen Elizabeth II, because that’s how it works, right? The queen is dead. Long live the king. And then you get back consistency and that stability inbuilt. And that’s the entire point of having the arrangement.

Marc Filippino
So, King Charles III, just earlier yesterday Prince Charles, is the new monarch. Can he follow in his mother’s footsteps?

Miranda Green
So I think it’s good to acknowledge that Queen Elizabeth II has been extraordinary. She’s the longest-reigning monarch we’ve ever had. So, you know, in a sense, unless you’re expecting every monarch to be a Victoria or an Elizabeth I or an Elizabeth II, you know, no, not everybody can sort of hit those heights. You know, it is quite tricky because King Charles III, as we now need to learn to call him, which is gonna be quite an adjustment, he does have his own political opinions, which he feels he’s able to express from time to time, and that’s not really part of the deal. So that’s gonna be the trickiest thing, I think, for this next period of adjustment.

Marc Filippino
So this has been a lovely snapshot covering an immense life, just a huge and impressive life. Is there anything that really sticks out to you that Queen Elizabeth II did or said that you want to share with people listening and just how it impacted you?

Miranda Green
So you know what? I think that the last strange two, three years that we’ve all had through the pandemic was, funnily enough, a period where the Queen did show her great personal strength in the role. There was a broadcast to the nation as we were all in lockdown, really a moment of kind of trauma and horror for everyone. And she said, “We’ll see our friends again”.

Queen Elizabeth II
We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again. But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to all.

Miranda Green
And it was just perfectly judged. Comfort, message of comfort.

Marc Filippino
Thanks, Miranda.

Miranda Green
Thanks, Marc.

Marc Filippino
Miranda Green is the FT’s deputy opinion editor and columnist. If you want to know more about the Queen’s life, I recommend listening to the FT’s Payne’s Politics podcast episode from earlier this year. That commemorates the Queen’s platinum jubilee. We’ll have a link to that in the show notes.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

This has been your daily FT News Briefing. Make sure you check back next week for the latest business news. The FT News Briefing is produced by Sonja Hutson, Fiona Symon and me, Marc Filippino. Our editor is Jess Smith. We had help this week from David da Silva, Michael Lello and Gavin Kallmann. Special thanks to Josh Gabert-Doyon for interviewing people outside Buckingham Palace. Our executive producer is Topher Forhecz. Cheryl Brumley is the FT’s global head of audio. And our theme song is by Metaphor Music.

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This transcript has been automatically generated. If by any chance there is an error please send the details for a correction to: typo@ft.com. We will do our best to make the amendment as soon as possible.

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