No one can deny that the Queen's funeral was a magnificent spectacle of ceremony and ritual, deeply moving in its solemnity. One also has to admire the organisational skills that pulled it off so well even if plans for it will have been prepared long ago. It's the sort of event that the British like to say they still do better than anyone else and that is probably true.
But what does it all mean? On one level what it means is obvious. The monarch receives the right to rule from God. He or she derives power and authority from the creative centre of the universe which, ultimately, is the only place that power and authority reside. This is lent and must be returned as was symbolically demonstrated at the end of the ceremony in St George's Chapel when the royal crown, orb and sceptre were taken from the top of the Queen's coffin and placed on the High Altar. She then became an ordinary person and returns to God as just another soul to be judged according to her spiritual state. Her power and authority as monarch pass to her successor.
That's what it means. In the Western view of kingship as brought to a peak during the Middle Ages the king reigns because he has been chosen by God but this is not just a medieval tradition. Everywhere we see the same pattern repeated. From Egyptian Pharaohs to Chinese and Aztec Emperors the king rules because of divine right which means he reigns as God's Regent. Without God his power is maintained only by force or subterfuge or the will of the people who are notoriously fickle and easily manipulated.
Isn't that where we are now? Despite the religious ceremony being absolutely central to everything that has just taken place the great bulk of the crowds who thronged the streets of London over the last few days, and the even greater number of people who watched on television in their homes, do not believe in God except, possibly, in a vaguely sentimental manner. But they don't believe in a way that makes a fundamental difference to the manner in which they lead their lives or to their attitudes to everything else. Some of them might fit God in somewhere but for few of them is he all that really matters. But this is what the ceremony is saying. This is what the fact of a monarch means. The monarch is nothing without God.
Perhaps the people flocked to the funeral procession because they feel the absence of God. So runs a certain type of well-meaning opinion but frankly I am impatient with this line of thinking. If the people feel God's absence they don't feel it nearly enough or they wouldn't behave as they do the rest of the time, happily swallowing all the nostrums of secular materialism and turning their backs on God except when convenient. We are a society of God rejecters and indulging in a few emotions in the face of death does not change that or make us worthier people. It's no good pointing to the reaction of the crowds as proof that religious belief persists underneath it all. Something like it may come out at odd moments but it will be firmly put away again almost immediately.
The points I make here do not mean I am against monarchy, even a monarchy which, as now, has become to all practical purposes severed from its roots in God and absorbed by the System. The situation is similar to that of the Christian churches which have also lost touch with their divine source. Even if the monarchy, like the churches, has been infiltrated, if not taken over, by forces antithetical to true spiritual growth (though one might well say when was that not the case?) it is probably still better to have something that preserves an opening to higher power than one which does not which is the case with purely political forms of governance.
That having been said, every once sacred institution in our world has lost spiritual authority. Some survive even when their true animating principle is neglected. The British monarchy is one of these. Let all those who claim to have been moved by the life of the late Queen and the idea of monarchy over the last week look behind the spectacle to see where the roots of these things might lie. If you don't follow these roots to their source, which is in divine being, and then change your life accordingly ask yourself to what were you actually responding?
Added note: Although I do recognise the theoretical value of monarchy compared to materialistic political forms of governance it has to be said that there is no effective difference nowadays between a monarchy and a republic. How is the UK in any way different to anywhere else? It isn't. The fact is that the monarchy in Britain is simply decorative and hasn't prevented the takeover of society by materialistic, secular forces. It could even be said to enable that because it gives the pretence that it hasn't happened and that things are carrying on as they traditionally did. This may well be why the monarchy is permitted to continue in existence.