The Queen is Dead, Long Live the King!!
What happens in the bell tower?
After eleven days of mourning Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, bell ringers everywhere will be “getting back to normal”. The muffles will be taken off the clappers and stored ready for our next act of remembrance as our memories of recent days tarry for a while.
During the last week or so we have rung at specific times in the process code-named Operation London Bridge, the guidance on “what to do” when the sovereign dies. Of course, it started as Operation Unicorn because the queen died in Scotland. Although the queen died on the 8th September (D-Day), D-Day was actually assigned as the 9th.
Ringers everywhere were mobilised at short notice and many rang on the 9th at midday to honour Her Majesty. In Great Gransden, as with many other towers, the bells were rung fully muffled but with the tenor “open” at backstroke, meaning that it had only one muffle on the clapper. Tower captain Sheila George organised the ringers so that everyone had equal opportunity to experience this unique and exciting type of ringing. Fully muffled ringing is reserved to mark the death of the sovereign.
Accession is instantaneous. As soon as Queen Elizabeth II died, Prince Charles became King Charles III. Although in mourning, the country had to mark the accession. Proclamations were made, first in London on the 10th September and a day later in the provinces, where Royal guidance advised us to ring on Sunday 11th from 4.00pm, and the Gransden ringers did so, ringing on open bells in celebration.
The days following the proclamation continued with end to end “mono-tely”, as ordinary life seemed to be on hold and there was an endless commentary on tv by many presenters saying the same things time and time again! The “Queue”, as it became known, to Westminster Hall where Her Majesty was lying in state was several miles long and could be seen from space! Ringers continued marking the queen’s death with muffled ringing, and in Great Gransden there was eagre anticipation of our next special ringing as emails were exchanged to coordinate the team.
Monday 19th was our final act of remembrance. We rang from 10.00am for 45 minutes. Once again Sheila had organised us and the bells were rung almost continuously. Finally, at 10.45am the tenor was tolled for 15 minutes until the start of the funeral service of Her Majesty.
It has been an extra-ordinary week and an honour to have taken an active part in this moment of our country’s history.