chapter  11
14 Pages

Making a Past Fit for the Future: The Political and Ontological Dimensions of Historical Continuity

O n March 30, 2002, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, died at the age of 101. On the April 9, she was buried after a ceremonial funeral attended by over one million people and watched live on television, by well over 10 million. Much of the television coverage was of the attending crowd. There was film of people waving Union Jacks, of an elderly Rastafarian, of a young family with sleeping children-as if to emphasize through the diversity of participants that this was not a sectional event but rather that, in words that BBC correspondents and Web sites used many times, “a nation mourns.” I was struck by an interview with one family in particular which was reported by John Duffy at BBC News Online. The mother and her 7-year-old daughter Katherine were standing in the midst of the crowd, unable to see anything of the funeral cortege due to the wall of backs in front of them. However, they did not sound disappointed: “It’s a day of history we’ve come for,” said Mrs. Thompson from Hartford in East Sussex. “Even if we don’t see very much, it’s not important. I wanted Katherine to experience this.”1