by Peter Franklin
Monday, 19
September 2022
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13:00

Honi soit qui mal y pense

Shame on those who pour scorn on the mourners
by Peter Franklin
Late-night queuers. Credit: Getty

Today’s state funeral brings an end to the official mourning period. It has also brought an end to The Queue — perhaps the most extraordinary of all the tributes paid to Elizabeth II over the last ten days. Though sensitively managed, the queue was not choreographed — and it was anything but uniform. Tens of thousands of people from across the country and around the world streamed through Westminster Hall — each to pay tribute to the Queen in their own way. 

But for a minority of bystanders the lying-in-state was more than their shrivelled souls could bear. There was crude mockery of course, with some of the more awkward bows and curtsies singled-out for ridicule. Others resorted to whataboutery — what about the poor? what about climate change? — as if we’re too stupid to think about more than one thing at a time. Various experts popped-up to analyse the ‘true’ motivations of the queuers (perhaps someone should analyse the true motivations of the experts). Most absurd of all, were the concern-trollers who tried to portray the queue as a minor humanitarian disaster — the sort of thing that a more rational nation might have avoided. 

Of course there’s nothing wrong with not being a monarchist. And if ceremony of any sort leaves some people cold, that is their business not ours. However, to go out of one’s way to belittle those who mourn the Queen, who lament the passing of an age or who are simply caught up in the moment, is a contemptible thing. 

Appropriately, it is the royal motto Honi soit qui mal y pense that is the best rebuke to the cynics. This fragment of medieval Norman French has various translations, but the simplest and best is this: “shame on him who thinks ill of it”.

Though especially associated with the Order of the Garter founded by Edward III in 1348, the precise origin of the motto and the symbolism of the garter itself is uncertain. The best known story is that the King saved the blushes of a lady of the court when an item of her under-clothing fell to her feet during a dance. By literally holding up the garter as a symbol of honour, he turned the tables on those who were laughing at his unfortunate dance partner. He shamed the shamers.

It has to be said there are no contemporary sources for this story. Some historians point out that, at the time, garters were more commonly worn by men than women — and that the symbol (and accompanying motto) alludes to the bond of loyalty between a monarch and his closest companions on the field of battle. 

But whatever the origin, it is clear that, symbolically, this is all about the elevation of virtue above baser instincts. One might object that throughout most of our history, it is the baser instincts that dominated. But nevertheless the civilising impulse — the struggle to lift ourselves out of the cruelty and chaos of the past – is literally written across our national story.

Today, millions of people will mark the passing of the kindest and gentlest of monarchs. Let’s not think ill of it. 

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
12 days ago

It was a beautiful service: so dignified. More dignified than any of these loudmouths will ever be. A Britain I thought was lost has stood once more and one was sad, but also immensely proud. And we feel safe in the knowledge that this grand, grand tradition, like the country it belongs to, has endured – and will endure. Everything will be alright.
God Save the King.

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
11 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Agreed Katherine, despite the BBC

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Endure, I am not so sure.
I think a lot of people instinctively felt at some level that what they were watching was the funeral of the British nation

R S Foster
R S Foster
11 days ago

…for “instinctively felt” substitute “fervently wish for”…

Matt M
Matt M
11 days ago
Reply to  R S Foster

…for “a lot of people” substitute “a handful of friendless lefties” …

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 days ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Not what I meant.
I think people can see the writing on the wall for the British nation ,and the Queen’s funeral served as a metaphor for the fact that the Britain we were born into and raised in will soon be going the same way as Her Majesty

Brett H
Brett H
10 days ago

So many commentators speaking for others. How do you come by this information?

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
12 days ago

It must be a tremendous disappointment to those who seek to divide the country to see how united it is, albeit in grief. The scenes from Scotland were particularly incredible.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
11 days ago
Reply to  Rob Britton

I am an American. I was sojourning in St. Andrews, Scotland recently. While visiting there, I was befriending a few Brits as we sat, drinking coffee and tea, on a sunny spring afternoon at the waterfront.
I asked these Scots, who were on a holiday from Glasgow, what they thought of Charles’ prospect for being accepted as King. I had thought that there might be some kind of problem with that transition–when and if it would ever come–and they said, while smiling: “Oh, Charles’ll do fine!” And that was that.
And so it is. Their bright assessment was correct.
God save the King!

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
12 days ago

Well said. I’ve even heard ludicrous claims such as child abuse being made against parents who bought their children to the Queen’s lying in state. There are no depths to which these soulless bores will descend to in order to justify their “superiority” over the rest of us. Well done to those who queued and God save the King.

Last edited 12 days ago by Simon
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
12 days ago

It’s the human condition for people to challenge, which is a good thing, but it seems to be attention seekers and opportunists who target their criticism of others such as mourners at times to get the most sensational impact. And of course, intellectual snobs like to look down on or mock the practices of the hoi polloi too.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
12 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

HOI POLLOI not the hoi polloi,
Hoi means the!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
11 days ago

And Jesus wept.

Brett H
Brett H
11 days ago

This is the voice of Australia. I’m not a Republican, but I’m beginning to understand their position. They’re not against the Monarchy, they’re against you.

David Owsley
David Owsley
8 days ago

presume the ‘Jesus wept’ is for your downvotes on the hoi polloi comment! I often make the same correction but never had multiple downvotes or any wayward comments. How odd.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
12 days ago

Thanks for that.

David Simpson
David Simpson
12 days ago

Hear hear

Michael James
Michael James
11 days ago

The best thing is that hardly any of the queuers will know about their critics or care about them if they do.

Last edited 11 days ago by Michael James
LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
11 days ago

This sudden wind of solemn pomp and circumstance blows mightily o’er Albion. . . and yes, o’er the wider world as well; it even wafts trans-Atlantic’ly. . . . to lend a rare breeze of sentiment and sympathy upon us contentious yanks, as a breath of fresh air. God save the King and Camilla!
God willing, even Harry and Megan will lend their conciliatory presence to the Windsor household for a season.
Blessed are the Peacemakers.
Words to live by, in this contentious Age: Think and speak of others as you would have them think and speak of you.

Andrew D
Andrew D
11 days ago

Honest sweat makes smelly pants

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
11 days ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Teacher will tell your mummy if she hears you saying that.

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
11 days ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I can hardly believe that you make such a childish comment and when I make a reply to it, I am put in the (very bad English) “awaiting for(sic) approval” waiting room.

Andrew D
Andrew D
10 days ago
Reply to  Jeanie K