UK stumbles in public mourning


A period of mourning for a head of state is meant to be a time of quiet reflection and contemplation. But many Brits have been left scratching their heads at the strange rules, regulations and behavior around the United Kingdom’s 12-day mourning for Queen Elizabeth, who passed away last Thursday at age 96.

All over the country, digital advertising signs have been replaced by black-and-white images of the late monarch, reading “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022.” While it looks appropriate at famous landmarks such as Piccadilly Circus, seeing the somber image at McDonald’s and outside the raunchy stage version of “Magic Mike” just seems wrong.

Supermarkets are mainly playing mournful music but one of the biggest chains, Morrisons, has taken things further. No music is being played and even the beeping sound on self-checkouts were disabled — leaving queues of customers to assume they were broken. After complaints, the beeps were once again enabled but at a lower volume.

It’s an incongruous sight to see the solemn portrait of the Queen — broadcast on digital billboards across the UK — next to raunchy “Magic Mike” advertising.

Several real estate companies have pictures of the Queen in office windows where photographs of houses normally are, while the betting company William Hill has a big message at the front of all of its stores reading: “Her Majesty The Queen. We join with the nation in expressing our sincere condolences to The Royal Family. This shop is OPEN TODAY as usual.”

On social media, there have been mixed reactions to brands posting mournful messages. An image of the Queen as a Playmobil character had a few fans; others thought it grossly disrespectful. Domino’s and Heinz put up respectful messages on black banners, but many wondered whether these words needed to heard from pizza and beans companies.

Kent lawyer Steph Jones says she doesn’t believe the banners need to be there: “These words are clearly not sincere as only a person can give genuine condolences, not a business. It looks really cheap and is not appropriate.”

Likewise, McDonald's kiosks oddly feature the late Queen.
Likewise, McDonald’s kiosks oddly feature the late Queen.
An image of the Queen as a Playmobil character have gotten mixed feelings from mourners.
An image of the Queen as a Playmobil character have gotten mixed feelings from mourners.

But brand stylist Jessica Andrews, who works in London with many charities, said organizations felt they had to be proactive in showing they have joined the country in mourning.

The Queen “has been with almost all of us for all of our lives, and companies should be able to pay their respects without criticism as long as they do it sensitively,” Andrews told The Post. “The Royal Family itself is a brand which values symbols. This is a symbolic way for brands to join the rest of the nation in mourning The Queen.”

And it’s not just affecting the way Brits shop. Institutions and athletic teams face the question of whether to carry on or not in the wake of the Queen’s death. Some sports have continued — a national cricket match was played at The Oval in South London with the first public sports rendition of “God Save the King” — but all soccer matches have been called off, even for children playing in amateur leagues.

The Bank of England cancelled an important meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee. At one point it appeared even the national weather forecaster, the Met Office seemed to be say it was only posting once-a-day forecasts “as a sign of respect.” After public outcry, it claimed to have been misunderstood and clarified it would post throughout the day.

Brands like Domino's have been mocked for their tweeted condolences.
Brands like Domino’s have been mocked for their tweeted condolences.

Concerts, fun runs and charity events have been called off — apart from the ones which haven’t been, like the Great North Run, a half-marathon which makes around $60 million for charities, was deemed by organizers as “a fitting tribute.”

Thankfully, influencers have mainly stayed quiet, though one must think that won’t hold.

“I sent an urgent blanket email across my roster to ‘halt posting’ — not just in the UK but in the US and Europe too,” influencer manager Thea Paraskevaides told The Post. “The blackout will be over soon. We need to be respectful but sensible too.”

A chain of camping resorts, Center Parcs, has decided to close shop next Monday, the day of the queen’s funeral — leaving those with reservations without a place to stay.

The same has gone for Heinz.
The same has gone for Heinz.
In the city of Norwich, cycle racks outside public institutions — like the library above — have been shut down.
In the city of Norwich, cycle racks outside public institutions — like the library above — have been shut down.
England will close down on Monday, Sept. 19, the day of the Queen's funeral.
England will close down on Monday, Sept. 19, the day of the Queen’s funeral.

Bizarrely, the David Bowie estate’s “Bowie on the Blockchain” scheme, in which Bowie fans are invited to invest in new artists, has been postponed “out of respect for the people of the UK and Queen Elizabeth II.”

The radio here is full of mournful music while the network television channels have torn up their normal schedules; most of them are full of rolling news or documentaries about the Queen. It won’t be a surprise if streaming services such as Netflix get a mass of new subscribers over the next few days.

All over the country, in libraries and town halls, condolence books are available for people to record their memories of the Queen and will eventually be sent to the royal family. As a result, to the amusement of Twitter, one bike rack near a town hall in Norwich is off limits during the mourning period.

The entire country will come to a close on Monday, Sept. 19, the day of the Queen’s funeral, which has been deemed a bank holiday. And there is plenty of actual mourning taking place too in a country where the “stiff upper lip” has been replaced by the sentiment, “Actually I feel a bit wobbly about this.”



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