a very diplomatic “funeral of the century”?

Funerals at the heart of all concerns. Around 500 high-ranking international dignitaries will attend. Their presence goes beyond a tribute to the record-long-lived sovereign, whose reign was the longest in Europe since Louis XIV. It is also a major diplomatic and historical event, as explained by Romuald Sciora, associate researcher at IRIS and specialist in international relations.

“These funerals are also the funerals of the West”

For this US-based essayist, “Queen Elizabeth was an iconic character. It is normal for most allies to attend his funeral”. In fact, many of London’s historic allies offered their condolences to the royal family shortly after Buckingham Palace announced the Queen’s death on Thursday, September 8, 2022. The European heads of state, US President Joe Biden or the member states of the Commonwealth – have already confirmed their presence.

All attention is therefore directed to those who are absent. Russia, ostracized from the Western geopolitical scene since the start of the offensive in Ukraine, is not invited. Irritated, the Russian authorities called the British decision “blasphemous“.

Ditto for historical partners of Moscow, such as North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan or Burma. “The war in Ukraine is one of the last major rifts between the Western world and other major powers”, notes Romuald Sciora. “But that is not the only way to explain the absence of certain countries at the Queen’s funeral. For some international observers, these burials are also those of the West”.

These burials take on, for some non-Western observers, a strong symbolism: that of the end of the Western world.
Romuald Sciora, essayist and associate researcher at IRIS.

The Queen came to the throne after the Second World War, at a time when the West and Europe were still the world’s economic and political engine. His death symbolizes the end of an era”, says Romuald Sciora. For him, “there is a sulking desire in certain countries to mark what some consider to be the decline of the West”.

Will UK-Japan relations disrupt funerals?

A historical ally of the United Kingdom, Japan was one of the first nations to respond to the announcement of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida particularly lamented a “big loss” to the international community after the monarch’s disappearance.

Achieved a “deep sorrow“, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, who lived in the United Kingdom, paid tribute to the Queen by acknowledging that she “contributed greatly to strengthening relations between Japan and the United Kingdom, including a visit to Japan in 1975It was then the first visit by a British monarch to Japanese soil.

Unusually for a Japanese emperor, Naruhito will be present in London to attend a funeral abroad. This risks upsetting the protocol of the British Crown. Unlike a “simple” monarch, an emperor rules over a vast empire and not just a kingdom. According to Romuald Sciora, highly critical of the imperial regime, “Above all, Naruhito wants to restore his image. It’s a communication stunt. He is not at all popular in his country and is increasingly contested. He is an emperor in trouble“.

Growing tensions within the components of the United Kingdom

The disappearance of Queen Elizabeth II could also coincide with a continuation of the displacement of the United Kingdom, notes Romuald Sciora. “Britain is in full decay. We do know that certain parts of Britain were waiting for the Queen’s death to assert their desire for independence.

Britain is in full decay.
Romuald Sciora, associate researcher at IRIS.

Starting with Scotland, which will hold another independence referendum in 2024.”For now, Downing Street is against it“, the researcher recalls, “but to what extent in our modern democracies can we resist letting the people express themselves?”. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will attend the state funeral on 19 September. At least she is one of the expected leaders.

On the left, Queen Elizabeth II.  On the right, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon.  The two officials met at Hollywood Palace in Edinburgh on 4 July 2017. Scotland 4 July 2017.

Another file on the table: Northern Ireland. Local leaders, led by Prime Minister Michael Martin, are showing their determination to enforce the Northern Ireland protocol. Negotiated under BREXIT, it allows for the creation of an effective customs border between the island of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. A sensitive subject which could pave the way for the departure of the Northern Irish island from the British Kingdom. “It is only a matter of time before Northern Ireland joins the Republic of Ireland”, says Romuald Sciora. If these two breaks come true, only the provinces of England and Wales will remain in the United Kingdom.

Uncertainty about the future of the Commonwealth and European monarchies

On September 19, several representatives of European monarchies will be present at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. In addition to the British crown, which is now left and is considered the most popular, the old continent still has five: in Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Holland and Sweden. “With the Queen dead and Britain falling apart, this funeral could be the requiem for Western and European monarchies”, analyzes Romuald Sciora.

Internally, it is said that Charles III is probably the last king of Canada. Australia, another member of the Commonwealth, also wants to abolish the monarchy.
Romuald Sciora, associate researcher at IRIS.

This question hangs de facto on the Commonwealth, an organization made up almost entirely of former colonies of the British Empire. For Romuald Sciora, “it is obvious that the Commonwealth still has certain economic and military interests in some of these members, especially the African states”, as did Togo and Gabon, which joined the organization in June 2022. “Britain still has an interest, still an influence for these states, but not for others”, says Romuald Sciora. According to him, “internally, it is believed that Charles III is likely to be the last king of Canada. Australia, another member of the Commonwealth, also wants to abolish the monarchy”.

Based in the US for many years, this essayist is also a history buff. He draws a parallel between the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the funeral of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph in November 1916.”At his death, he was at the head of the largest European empire in recent centuries. He ruled for 68 years, he was an almost absolute monarch. And despite that, his empire nearly collapsed in 1918, two years after his death. We knew he was on the verge of collapse, but when we buried François Joseph, it was the funeral of old Europe”. Will it be the same after the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II?

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