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Along with the Queen, Britain is laying to rest a sacred national image that never was | Nesrine Malik

She was the embodiment of an infallible nation, but in this new era we will speak of our imperfections

In Britain, there has been a whiff of decline in the air for a long time, temporarily masked by the cheap synthetic scent of Boris Johnson’s cheerleader government. But it is now unmistakable. When people used to say the Queen was to be admired because “she does the job so well”, I never quite understood what that meant. As far as I could see, her job was simply to turn up, go through protocols and not go off script. But the truth is that what others saw was a display of confidence, coherence and continuity, when the country she ruled over had little of these. Hers was a sanitising presence against a backdrop of wars, economic crises, Brexit and Covid.

That’s what a good head of state is meant to do, we are told: be there for moral support in times of national emergency, and stay out of it in moments of political upheaval. But the less she said, or the more she didn’t say, the more she enveloped the country in a sleepy, warm embrace of unreality. That is gone now.

Nesrine Malik is a Guardian columnist

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