Message from Edinburgh: I watched Scots mourn the Queen with ‘extraordinary generosity’

Our Edinburgh whiskey tasting guide sarcastically remarked: “A 96-year-old woman dies peacefully at home, surrounded by her family, and an entire country shuts down.” The twenty of us – all Americans – in the cozy room above Waverly Bar laughed. He continued to be brave. “I admit I already wondered about the timing of her death. Was she hanging on enough to make sure that Boris Johnson wouldn’t be able to speak at her funeral? Or did she meet with Liz Truss and decide ‘That’s it.'” Time to go.'”

This humble stand-up routine by a young Scotsman–undoubtedly not a king–had echoed in our American disdain for royalty. But it bumped into our reverence for celebrities. And though I laughed with everyone else, in light of what I had just gone through spending the day with tens of thousands of mourners, I found it annoying, and to my shock, inappropriately.

It was September 12th, our second day in Edinburgh on a long postponed vacation. Almost every museum we were hoping to visit to honor the Queen is closed. Every city bus we tried to take to attractions outside the old town was diverted or parked all day. We couldn’t walk anywhere without making detours that added at least half a mile to each destination. Although we vowed that we would not spend our limited time in Edinburgh standing for hours behind the hoisting parapets to catch a glimpse of the royal procession, it became clear that nothing else was available to us.

I didn’t stay frustrated for long. The busy streets were cool and full of locals and tourists who either came on purpose to be “a part of history” or, like us, just accidentally ended up there.

Black-clad snipers and photographers sat on nearly every surface, scanning the crowds below. Near St Giles’ Cathedral, where Queen Elizabeth II was lying in state, two veiled young women were separated by a bulkhead while one stopped at a window shop. Now they stood on both sides of the street, talking frantically to each other on their cell phones. They were kept separated by a metal fence and a line of police who politely but firmly refused to allow anyone to cross the street for the next several hours.

At each block, newscasters pointed in front of portable broadcasters delivering the same knockout punch of what was to happen in many languages. Journalists with Dutch, Caribbean and Polish accents earnestly asked the same questions of mourners, who were more than excited to talk about why they had come.

The answers I heard were a bewildering mix of abstraction and inversion. “Her blue eyes were sparkling,” said one of the women. “I met her once when I was working in a pub in Windsor and she showed great interest in everyone,” shares another. Many of the other responses included language such as “duty” and “honour”. Alas, I could not – and still cannot – fully comprehend what these people valued in ‘duty’ which, to the best of my knowledge, took the form of a handshake of thousands of hands, providing an articulating wave to millions of people, periodically dressed in heavy costumes and not crossing publicly about anything but a soothing, mysterious vulgarity.

Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she arrives before the opening of the Flanders Fields Memorial Park at Wellington Barracks on November 6, 2014 in London, England. (Stefan Wermuth/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

However, I can’t help but admit the sincerity of their feelings. More than seriously, what these thousands of people showed was extraordinary generosity to one another.

Despite the massive crowds, shutdowns, detours, delays, and a confusing and confusing Google Map system, everyone we met—police and citizens alike—were kind to one another. I’ve watched several people help an exhausted husband prevent his wife’s wheelchair from slipping out of hold and sliding down a cobbled hill. A young man with a half colon tattooed on his neck (“a symbol we use here to indicate to people with mental health issues that it is safe to approach us if they need someone to talk to,” he explained) shook a crying infant I had never met, while her mother You take pictures. No one swore, let alone push the person blocking their view out of the way. Indeed, those who had a good view of St Giles’ Cathedral offered to step aside so that the others could see the black limousines carrying the Queen’s coffin and the lively, exhausted corpses of the new king and royal consort slowly driving up the hill. .

When Queen Elizabeth’s heart appeared, tens of thousands of people fell silent completely. If there was a lonely little bird perched on top of the cathedral’s tall spire, you might have heard a chirp. The silence was clear, glorious, and deeply moving in the respect these strangers showed not only to the Queen, but to one another. I’ve never experienced anything like this, and I’m so grateful I did.

If the memory of Queen Elizabeth continues… it may be because of her death, if not in her lifetime, that she aroused decency.

My husband and I have been trying to imagine who might inspire such a mobilization of good behavior in the United States. Certainly no political leader since Roosevelt or perhaps John F. Kennedy has the ability to evoke civility, let alone kindness, from our diverse citizens. And as lovable as they are, it’s hard to imagine the death of Tom Hanks, Oprah, or Bruce Springsteen leading to such a great spread of good.

But it seems that even in Scotland (a country more oppressed by the British Empire and so eager to leave the “United”) that devotion to duty, and public service (however grotesque or absurd it may look), has the power to unite the people temporarily At least – royalists and anti-imperialists alike – in mutual consideration.

If Queen Elizabeth’s memory persists, it may not be because of the ubiquitous handbag, the image on plates, stamps, and pound notes, or even the absolute duration of her reign. Perhaps it was because of her death, if not in her lifetime, that it aroused decency.

In that cozy room above Waverley Bar, when the hostess queen’s jokes were over and we were finally cursing and swearing and drinking single malt scotch, it was that heirloom that she drank.

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