21 January 2008


Edfever is now epidemic in New Zealand. There are still 24 hours to go before the state funeral, and Her Majesty’s loyal subjects are feeling snubbed. Or so the papers here tell us. This from the Dominion-Post:

(Nice layout, surely inspired by the UK Independent.)

British Royal watchers, the Sunday Star-Times claims, say the royal family’s decision not to send anyone to Sir Edmund Hillary's state funeral on Tuesday is an “astonishing” snub.

“It’s astonishing that no one is going... he [Sir Edmund] played such a significant part in the early official life of the Queen,” the UK Daily Mail’s royal correspondent Richard Kay said yesterday. Although the Queen rarely attended funerals, a member of the royal family often went in her place.

Kay is described as “a senior royal correspondent who had a close relationship with the late Princess Diana”. Funny that. He says the Prince of Wales attended last year's funeral for the late US president Gerald Ford, who had held office for only two years. Hillary had been a “towering figure” in the Commonwealth for 50 years and “meant an awful lot to Brits”.

That may be true. He means a lot to us here too, and there will be a big turnout tomorrow with big digital video screens to keep those in jandals at arm’s length, and maybe Tina Cross singing the national anthem, and even ‘God Save the Queen’ as a bonus track. But there will be picnic baskets and blankets and it will be the first of, hopefully, many “funerals in the park”.

(Of course, as the writer of 'King of the Road', Roger Miller, once said, "It doesn't matter how big you get. The size of your funeral depends on the weather.")

Most of us are still in languid post-silly season mode to really get excited about a “snub”. Nobody thinks the old girl should hop on a BA 777 and it would seem a little old-school to be sent a remittance man such as her idle eldest son. A survey of Snubtalk at the NZ Herald suggests that it is the usual talkback radio mix of 50/50 between those with an axe to grind (the republicans) and those who should grow up.

But the absence of any significant gesture from the other living person on our banknotes is itself a significant moment. (A wake held in one's own castle hardly touches the common folk and taxpayers 12,000 miles away.) If the royals can’t be arsed, then the royals have read the mood correctly: the feeling is mutual. To most people in New Zealand, the monarchy is about as relevant as religion (Sunday shopping is the new church). It will be a brave government that cuts the stick because it means saying goodbye to the nostalgic connections we enjoy, not matter what any of us think of the monarchy (the Windsors front up to a lot of functions, and the Queen has a lovely smile, but really the concept they represent is institutionalised apartheid, where blacks and whites are left out in favour of blue-bloods touched by fairy dust 1000 years ago). Say goodbye to working visas for our OE hoards, although Eurotrash has been getting the fast-lane at immigration for decades.

Beat-ups aside, the slippery slope of separatism has been given a grease and oil. But the daftest of all reports on Hillary’s death has to be the Guardian’s editorial that Tenzing Norgay was permanently left out of the Everest bash. Not on this side of the world.

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