Washington — I could not reach my colleague Wlady Pleszczynski for most of the day on Saturday. He was mysteriously missing. On Saturdays, we talk for at least an hour on the telephone about the past week’s events, but not this Saturday. His telephone rang and rang, all for naught. The same was true for two more of my weekend confidants. I had important news to convey to them, but no one was answering the telephone. At the end of the day, I finally roused Wlady. Where had he been? He had been engrossed in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s coverage of Prince Philip’s funereal rites. So had my other two friends. Actually, so had an astonishingly large number of Yanks. Did they not ever hear of our Revolutionary War?
I know that the left-wing brutes here in America have been defiling George Washington’s monuments, but American conservatives still honor George as the father of our country, and I would have thought that they might restrain themselves when the queen’s consort of 73 years passed away, but no. American conservatives were as eager as a Yorkshire coal miner to pay their respects to Philip and presumably the queen. It was not only that Wlady wanted to pay his respects to the prince, but he was also swept away by the splendor: the pageantry, the gold ceiling of Saint George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the ornate dress of the participants, the gorgeous music and, behold, the queen in her mourning dress and solitary solemnity. Her companion of 73 years was gone.
So, what was the important news that I had to convey to my confidants? Alas, they already had it. The Brits really know how to put on a funeral show. I watched it for an hour or so before I had to take out the morning trash. But why were so many Americans taken up with the doings at Saint George’s Chapel? Well, they were beautiful in themselves. That I know for a certitude, but there is something else. Unlike a rock concert or a street demonstration or a police shooting — all being public entertainments on both sides of the Atlantic — the prince’s burial was traditional. I think that Americans long to participate in tradition, and we get so few instances of it in the modern hurly-burly of daily life.
The New York Times, in its coverage of Saturday’s events, kept hinting that there were ominous clouds on the horizon for Britain. BBC received something like 100,000 complaints from viewers when it canceled television coverage of its scheduled programing in deference to the activities at Windsor and related events. Well, 100,000 malcontents missed a televised lecture on how to plant snapdragons or how to prepare pasta (we are talking about BBC on Saturday mornings, after all). That does not compare to millions of satisfied customers within the British Isles and millions more around the world last Saturday. I think many yearned to at least be television spectators at an event that featured timeless tradition, venerable institutions and a significant event — to wit, the passing of a historic figure, Prince Philip, and eventually, Queen Elizabeth II. Then, a new generation will come to the fore. It was all on display Saturday.
Such things have been happening in Britain for centuries, and they happen here also. Over the weekend, history was being made in Britain, and Americans could watch. Many Americans recognize that their country grew out of British history. We have a shared past with our British cousins — which brings up a related matter.
The British historian Andrew Roberts, the author of, among other works, “A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900,” has been writing about it in recent years. He foresees a new alliance of the English-speaking peoples as a counterweight against the authoritarian nations of the globe. He notes that the English-speaking nations have the same values, many of the same institutions, similar traditions and the same language. He sees them composing the Anglosphere.
“The Anglosphere is the name given to all those countries in the world,” he writes, “where the majority of people speak English as their first language, almost all of which have similar outlooks and shared values.” He sees “a mounting case that some form of federation among” Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. “would create a new global superpower and ally of the U.S., the great anchor of the Anglosphere.”
So, maybe we were not watching only a historic pageant last weekend of British history. Maybe we were watching the glimmerings of an evolution of a new chapter in the history of the English-speaking peoples on their way to defending democracy against its enemies.