News & Politics

We’re Sorry to Inform You That We’ve Live-Blogged the Queen’s Funeral

Mourners at the Queen Vic.

5:03 AM What does one wear to the 6 AM livestream of the Queen’s funeral, held at the Queen Vic British pub on H Street? Mourning garb? Bar clothes? An off-to-work-once-she’s-buried ensemble? I’m agonizing over this choice while using my phone as a flashlight so I won’t wake my husband and dog, neither of whom care about the monarchy.

5:05 AM I pick the “off-to-work-once-she’s-buried” option because it’s a) my unfortunate reality and b) seems to reasonably split the sartorial baby between “heading to the bar” and “royals in mourning.” I am open to being very wrong about this.

5:21 AM I tell my Uber driver that I’m going to a bar for a screening of the Queen’s funeral. “It’s for work,” I clarify, so he doesn’t think I’m an alcoholic—though this might be exactly what an alcoholic would say when asking to be driven to the bar before sunrise.

5:25 AM There’s a lonely news crew filming outside the British embassy. All the lights are on, but maybe that’s normal.

Outside the British embassy Monday morning.

5:39 AM “England is a very cold country,” my Uber driver says as he drops me off. I’m not sure if he’s being figurative.

5:40 AM The British woman checking reservations outside the Queen Vic tells me apologetically that they can’t serve alcohol until six. What a pity!

5:41 AM On TV, the Queen’s coffin is sitting in the street on some sort of pedestal, surrounded by uniformed military-looking people. It’s draped in a red and yellow flag, a mishmash of colors and symbols that apparently represent most of the countries in the UK (sorry, Wales). “It’s like a British version of the Maryland flag,” says my exhausted coworker who’s snagged us a table. Now that he’s said that, I can’t unsee it.

5:42 AM The Queen Vic is bumping. The bar is nearly full, and the tables along the wall are rapidly accruing mourners and reporters—mostly reporters, if I’m honest. Several women are wearing those hair adornments that are partway between hat and headband and seem to involve lots of mesh and spiky feathers.

5:43 AM I order a cup of tea, which is brought to me without milk or a saucer. I’ve never been to England, but this strikes me as inauthentic.

5:44 AM On TV, something is happening with the Queen’s coffin. The uniformed men have picked it up and they’re inching around in a circle in an eerie mechanical way like hands moving around a clock. Atop the coffin is a purple pillow that holds the crown. There’s a bouquet and some miscellaneous baubles: A sceptre? A strange gold orb? These are probably priceless and historic. What if they roll off the coffin while the men are carrying it? It’s stressing me out just to watch.

5:45 AM A TV reporter in a black dress and full face of makeup is going around trying to find someone photogenic who loves the Queen. Loved, I guess.

5:46 AM I have to confess that I’m not a great choice to send to the Queen’s funeral livestream since I have what I affectionately call “faceblindness for British things.” By this I mean that I find the nation’s culture absolutely bewildering and sometimes when I watch British movies, I can sense that there’s something important happening, but I can’t put my finger on what, because they’re all too repressed to express their emotions outright. What was The Phantom Thread even about? I don’t know. I come from a yelling family, so I’m not great at subtext.

5:49 AM An employee of the Queen Vic says they encourage anyone who is “dodging work and can’t be seen on camera” to sit upstairs. I’m glad to know this. I respect their privacy by remaining by the bar.

5:52 AM A TV reporter asks the woman sitting next to me why she’s here and she says, in an American accent, that she’s always been a huge fan of the royal family. She’s wearing a black gown with a sparkling thing on the midsection. She has one of those feathered headbands—these seem to be the uniform of this shindig.

Karen Szala, left, and Erica Miller watched the ceremony upstairs at the Queen Vic.

5:56 AM Someone is eating mashed potatoes slathered in a gravy that looks sort of like loose stool. There’s a honker of a sausage perched on top. I’m told this is “bangers and mash.” Sorry—which part of this dish is the “bangers”? Do the British call sausages “bangers”?? Aren’t they supposed to be polite? The man eating the banger has a somber, slicked-back ponytail and a black button down. I cannot believe it. It’s so early.

5:58 AM The bartender has just started pouring liquor into a shaker, anticipating six o’clock. 

5:59 AM The Queen’s coffin has now arrived at Westminster Abbey, which is apparently also where she was married and crowned. Would it be creepy to live your whole life knowing where your funeral would be held? Are the other royals in attendance all imagining their own funerals, wondering whether they’ll be this good?

6:00 AM No matter how many times people tell me, I can never remember what a “crumpet” is.

6:01 AM Westminster Abbey is weird. The floor has checkerboard tiling, like a 1950s kitchen. I’m sure it’s not linoleum, but it looks that way. Everything above the not-linoleum is gothic stone flourishes, which kind of looks like an elite American college that wants to seem old. Of course, Westminster is probably the kind of place those collegiate gothic buildings are modeled on—but it’s funny to be so American that British stuff looks fake. I am definitely the wrong reporter to send to this event.

6:02 AM When I was in high school, my family moved to Canada, and my new school had a portrait of the Queen in the atrium. Once, during a mock parliament exercise, I had to swear loyalty to her—which frankly felt treasonous, even though it was pretend. On the day the Queen died, I texted my dad to ask about the vibe in Ontario. He replied, “I’m at work. Nobody is crying in the streets.” So much for the head of state.

6:05 AM The soundscape of this funeral is wild. Bagpipes! Dribbling snares! Tolling bells! An organ! I contemplate ordering a drink but actually it’s 6:05 and I’m too old for that.

6:06 AM Whoa, Prince George is huge now! He’s probably the handsomest of all the royals, although maybe they all looked good as kids.

6:07 AM No, I googled Prince William at age nine, and George is way cuter. My coworker says that if “things go really wrong,” George becomes king and Harry oversees him until he turns 18. I vote for that scenario. Toddler king sounds like glorious chaos.

6:11 AM “I am the resurrection and the life,” et cetera. I actually have a lot to say on the topic of resurrection. First, some younger people at my office told me that the Queen has, in fact, been reincarnated as the baby of a YouTuber named Trisha Paytas. Trisha Paytas is (*checks Wikipedia*) a self-proclaimed tanning addict who identifies as a chicken nugget. Her baby was apparently born around the same time the Queen died. The Queen will apparently live out her next life as a Californian baby named “Malibu Barbie.”

6:12 AM The sermon has moved on, but I have more to say about resurrection. Of everything I’ve learned about the British royal family in the past ten days, my absolute favorite is this: back in the 90s, King Charles expressed his wish to be reincarnated as Camilla’s tampon. Finally, a human sentiment from the royals! That family always seemed so bloodless to me.

6:14 AM Is the Queen religious? I think she’s Anglican. But is she a true believer or is it just a cultural thing? In my extremely poor understanding of European history, the Anglican church was created when one of the Henries wanted a divorce and the Catholic Church wouldn’t grant it. So he made up an entirely new denomination and he got that divorce, goddamn it. Really, it’s lucky for the royal family—my understanding is that they’ve used and abused that provision for generations.

6:17 AM Who is the go-to maker of black hats in London? Are they rich now?

6:21 AM The speakers over the bar are not great, so it’s hard to hear what anyone is saying. I sort of feel like I’m in eighth grade algebra class—I have no idea what’s happening and I’m frankly not sure why any of it matters.

6:23 AM Shot of the crown. It’s basically barnacled in jewels. It looks like the hull of the wrecked Titanic, but shinier and responsible for more deaths.

6:25 AM I’ve ordered an “English breakfast,” which honestly isn’t bad. It’s sort of a kitchen sink situation—eggs, toast, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, ham, sausages. Weird mix of cinnamon and thyme that I can’t believe I don’t hate.

6:27 AM My breakfast is so hearty, so rich in proteins and fats. I’m prepared to spend the day cutting through foggy moors shooting ducks out of the sky. Then I remember that I’m actually going to be sitting at a desk writing my story on the Queen’s funeral for the next several hours. Probably should have just gotten an omelet.

6:30 AM The ponytail man has barely touched his mashed potatoes, though the honker of a sausage is gone.

6:32 AM A choir of schoolboys! Are they eunuchs? I’m told we don’t do that anymore. But if we did have eunuchs, this would definitely be the moment to wheel them out.

6:33 AM Liz Truss is here—what a wild two weeks for Liz Truss. As she speaks, there’s a man in the foreground with an actual ruffed collar. Like, Shakespeare style. Wild. I show my coworker a picture from a few days ago of what looks like crazed men in wigs and tricorns proclaiming that Charles is king. When did the British decide that they were going to cosplay some bygone era forever? What is it, Edwardian?

6:35 AM My coworker informs me that the doctor of one of the previous kings, um, “sped up his demise” (euthanized him) so that his death would make the classier morning papers, rather than being reported in the afternoon tabloid press. Cutthroat press shop over at Buckingham Palace. I think I’ll stay on this side of the pond.

6:37 AM I can no longer see the funeral because there are so many TV reporters with big fuzzy mics in the way. It occurs to me that these fuzzy microphones are dead ringers for those tall black fuzzy hats that some of the military guys are wearing. I ask my coworker what those hats are called—apparently they’re “busbies.” “I don’t know what synapse I just blew remembering that,” he says.

6:39 AM “It’s very somber here at the Queen Vic,” one of the TV reporters says into a camera. She’s speaking so loudly that I can no longer hear the sermon.

6:42 AM My coworker counts seven news photographers in his sightline. Several reporters have come by our table to say hi. The ratio of mourners to reporters seems…off. The TV reporter is loudly claiming that people are here to mourn, but from my perspective, people seem to be here either to report on mourners or to drink in public before sunrise.

6:49 AM Correction, the sun appears to have partially risen. I cannot eat another bite of my English breakfast.

6:50 AM “Death is the door to glory” says a man who might be some kind of bishop. He makes a weird distinction between “those who serve” and “those who cling to power and privileges,” apparently putting Elizabeth in the former camp. Sorry, friend—read the room.

6:53 AM Do the Anglicans believe that Corgis have souls? If they invented divorce simply to please the King, couldn’t they also create a heavenward path for the Queen’s canines? I hope she is reunited with “Windsor Loyal Subject” in heaven, which is the ice-coldest dog name I’ve ever heard.

6:59 AM Another reporter is telling me that “Game of Thrones” has played a big role in resurrecting American interest in the monarchy and—oh shit, we’re talking through a moment of silence. But when we manage to shut up, the upbeat bopping of the kitchen radio is almost deafening in the silent bar. It’s especially bad when servers open the door to bring forth more bangers and mash.

7:00 AM The funeral music gets brassy—love it! So much better than bagpipes!

7:02 AM Oh, back to bagpipes.

7:04 AM The recessional appears to have been kicked off with an organ solo that resembles the soundtrack to a campy horror film. Or are campy horror film soundtracks meant to resemble British funeral processions?

7:08 AM The coffin is on the move again. Some poor soul is marching alongside it with a bassoon.

7:11 AM Is it a casket or a coffin? Whatever it is, the way it’s draped with the flag makes it look like one of those garish fondant cakes. I worry slightly that I’m being disrespectful to the British, but honestly their press has been so shitty to Meghan that I think it’s fine to be a little grouchy today.

7:16 AM The men surrounding the coffin are wearing hats that look like poles with toilet paper streamers hanging down. I’m not kidding. I took a picture. It’s like a bathroom maypole.

Photograph by Sylvie McNamara.

7:17 AM An AP reporter asks me for comment and I tell him that I, too, am a reporter and “I don’t know anything about all this.” I’m sure he’s not the only person who will be disappointed in me today.

7:18 AM: The funeral is wrapping up but the lady at the end of the bar just ordered a frothy Guinness. Good for her. I hope she has a great day at work.

Sylvie McNamara
Staff Writer