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Royal Suite in the Club of the Immortals

Royal Suite in the Club of the Immortals

Monday, 19 September, 2022 - 07:15
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Today is her final date. It is not in her habit to miss a date or to break a promise. The heart betrayed her and it is in the habit of betraying.

The soil in which she will be buried has been waiting for days during which she received messages from admirers, who have stood in endless queues of tears, praise and flowers. The soil was made to wait so that a beautiful conclusion to a long novel could be written.

Tomorrow the world will awake emptier. A queen lived in its fold for seven decades and it was as if the world had lived in her fold.

Today, the lovers of stories realize that great halos do not need major wars or dangerous developments to be formed. Extraordinary halos can be formed through confidence, friendliness, wisdom, patience and silence.

The world will miss the woman, who was the crown of crowns. The queen whose smile healed the wounds of a dying empire. When fate summoned her in 1952, she vowed to devote her life to her people and to perform her duty to her last breath.

Palaces did not lure her towards vanity and power did not lead her towards greed. She always appeared grander than her office and more welcoming than her palace.

Her modest privileges did not prevent her from wielding moral authority that was consolidated by the citizens’ sense that she was good at listening to them and their concerns.

The world witnessed several changes throughout her reign. The new attacked everything that was old, including the royal establishment. Her genuineness did not prevent her from accepting the winds of change. Her nobility did not prevent her from modestly dancing with the age. Her royal self-possession shaped her image.

Several world leaders visited her office. She was the great date for any major official. The master of the White House used to consider it an honor to meet with her and shaking her hand a privilege greater than shaking the hand of the Soviet tzar.

The same applies to heads of government, who would meet with her upon their appointment, resignation or farewell.

One day, Tony Blair would proudly enter her office. She would remind him that he sat in the same seat occupied just a few years before he was born by Winston Churchill. Blair was humbled.

Tomorrow, the world will be emptier without her. It was addicted to living with the queen. The lady of the smile and bright colors. The blue that matched her eyes. The provocative green. The daring yellow. The dresses that tread on the edges of purple even as she pushed 90.

Tomorrow, the world will be a lesser place. It will miss the queen’s hat. A date between elegance and prestige. She did not follow fashion, rather fashion watched her and learned. The queen had her style of dress that fit her halo, age and palace. She became a timeless icon.

Storms swept through the royal family, from adolescent errors to betrayals. Rousing stories covered the pages of the tabloids and social media. Many believed that the cracks in the monarchy would bring it tumbling down. She weathered the storms. They were met with the legacy of a woman who occupied a special place in the people’s hearts.

Today she arrives at the faraway hotel. They drag along their glory to the lobby. Winston Churchill invited them to a meeting without specifying the reason. He has set them up for a trap. It is as if he wants them to prepare a welcome that befits the new guest.

The large screen displayed the images of the endless queues of those who came to take a final look at the queen. Masses that do not mind waiting long for the chance to bow before the coffin. They noted soldiers who had donned their old vibrant hats. They upheld traditions of days gone by that were believed to have been forgotten. The world was rapt with a magical farewell.

Joseph Stalin stared at the screen with wonder. The West makes up stories and the people believe them. It manipulates pictures and masses. The entire world falls into the trap. Her name did not come up in an epic battle to rival Stalingrad. Her privileges do not top those of the pope, who doesn’t even boast brigades and artillery.

He is reproachful of his people. He recalls how Nikita Khrushchev denounced him at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He knows that were it not for the steadfastness of “comrade” Vladimir Putin, they would have removed his coffin from the capital and “holy Russia”.

He felt a bit envious of the woman lying in state as her people shed tears, expressed admiration and laid down flowers in her memory.

Mao Zedong indignantly watched the scenes. Her name was not tied to a “long march” and a river of victims and pains. She did not spark a revolution or repel an invasion. Did they come to say farewell to the lady of bright dresses and hats? Were they lured by her smiles, photos of her horses, dogs and those strict traditions of bygone days?

It pains him that his “red book” is now nothing more than a relic at a museum. His one consolation is that unlike Gorbachev, comrade Xi will certainly not usher in major change at the party fortress.

Charles de Gaulle stared at the long queues and felt a measure of sorrow. He does not hate Britain, but envies its rich history and loyalty to symbols. The French are another story. Their tastes vary as much as their variety of cheeses and wines. They enjoy taking down figures off their pedestals. I was the last of their kings, but they let me down. When I granted the master of the Elysee semi-royal powers, they committed the sin of rejoicing at presidents without a history.

Kim Il-sung could not believe his eyes. He said he doffed his hat in respect to the head of British intelligence for succeeding in bringing these masses to deliver a message to the enemies of his country and people at the same time. Churchill realized what Kim was thinking so he met him with a carefully crafted British smile.

Moammar al-Gaddafi felt wronged. His people never showed him any affection as the king of kings of Africa. He didn’t see any queues of condemnation the day he was killed. Those who were addicted to bowing to him the day he was powerful soon climbed over his corpse and composed poems to deride him.

Saddam Hussein felt the same. They failed to remember that he forced the Iranian revolution to stick to its borders so that it would not flow into other countries and capitals. They did not form queues of love and farewell when his regime was overthrown and the noose tied around his neck.

It is difficult for him to understand these British queues. The woman lying in state had never seen jails, the traps of enemies and conspiracies of friends. She never waged the “mother of all battles” and faced its horrors.

The royal suite in the faraway hotel was prepared for the queen. She will be envied by many who needed blood and terror to reserve a place in the club of the immortals.

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