The funeral of Elizabeth II, late Queen of the United Kingdom, is going on as I write this. It's the kind of solemn spectacle the British are particularly good at, one quite foreign to American tastes and customs, deeply moving and painstakingly choreographed. Despite the state religion, it is carefully ecumenical, with religious representation across the vast breadth of the Commonwealth.
Television coverage is exquisite and unobtrusive, the assembled personages are impressive. It is very much a performance, by and for a monarchy that has told itself for so long that it has a higher purpose and duty that, in their better moments, the core royals actually live up to it. King Charles did recently manifest considerable pique over a leaky pen -- but the man just got launched into a job he has never seemed very eager for, on a relentless schedule; give him that lapse.
The service has gone on and on, preachers of every faith and major policians having their terns at the pulpit or lectern, the choir and organ performing beautifully, a lot of uniforms and shiny metal, dull cloth and bright, medals arrayed in ruler-straight lines, color and costume overwhelming the senses--
And the video cut to a shot of the new King Charles, his uniform a memory from the 19th Century, head slightly bent, his face....
His face was a study in grief on a tight rein. It was the face of an adult child at their Mother's funeral. No more -- and no less.
We can look in wonder or question at the elaborate ceremony; we can question the utility and even morality of a country dragging around a monarchy so far into the 21st Century. But there sat a man who was soon to be burying his mother and working to hold back undignified sobs. I can't tell you what kind of a King he will be; I have no great insight into what kind of man he has been. In that moment, he was just a man who had lost his mother, bereft.