Even in death, Queen Elizabeth proves to be a uniter
- Presidents, prime ministers and monarchs from all over attended Elizabeth’s state funeral, a reminder of what a globalised world should be all about as opposed to confrontation
If any further evidence were needed that the death of Queen Elizabeth brought the world together over the past 11 days like no other event, it was to be found at her state funeral.
It was a landmark in world affairs not seen since the pandemic began keeping people apart – a gathering of heads of state and governments among 500 dignitaries that also included kings and queens and emperors.
There has been nothing remotely like it since the funeral of South Africa’s first black leader, Nelson Mandela, nine years ago. That was a different era, barely recognisable now amid Covid-19, war in Ukraine and geopolitical tensions.
The funeral was therefore a rare opportunity for face-to-face meetings. Moreover it came ahead of the annual debate beginning this week in the United Nations General Assembly, which may seem anticlimactic.
Coming together, even if in mourning, is a reminder of what a globalised world should be all about, as opposed to confrontation.
The latter reared its head in an unconfirmed report, later disproved, that a Chinese delegation was denied admission to the queen’s lying in state, because of reciprocal Chinese sanctions on British MPs who accused Beijing of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
President Xi Jinping, among world leaders who expressed their condolences, was personally represented at the lying in state and the funeral by Vice-President Wang Qishan.
When questioned about the report, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning deftly defused the issue: “Foreign delegations participating in the event [by invitation] is a sign of respect to the queen and the importance accorded to [relations with] the UK. As the host, the UK should uphold diplomatic protocols and proper manners to guests.”
The future of the monarchy was a taboo subject while the 96-year-old Elizabeth remained on the throne. Regardless, she will be a hard act to follow. She made more than 100 visits to other countries as an effective unofficial ambassador for Britain.
As a result, testament to the sorrow at her passing is to be found in far-flung foreign places. For example, Brazil declared four days of mourning; Cuba six hours. French President Emmanuel Macron best summed it up when he told Britons: “To you, she was your queen. To us, she was the queen.”