I’m no royalist – but respect is due to the Duke of Edinburgh | Blaise Tapp

It was a matter of hours after the announcement of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death that I spotted a flag, in Emsworth, flying at half-mast for the first time that day.

By Blaise Tapp
Friday, 16th April 2021, 4:46 pm
A union flag flies at half-mast
A union flag flies at half-mast

Like everybody else, I have seen plenty since but that first sighting – outside an otherwise lifeless, shuttered-up pub – served as a reminder if I needed it of how significant his passing is to the vast majority of the population.

I have always fancied having a flag pole in the front garden of Chez Tapp but for some reason, it doesn’t rank high enough in the list of home improvement priorities to warrant serious consideration.

If this minor pipedream is to be fulfilled at some point, I would want to own an array of flags that would be hoisted high above my satellite dish at the appropriate time.

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One thing that I can be certain of is that if I did manage to convince Mrs Tapp that we needed a 15ft pole at the front of our home, I would’ve joined both the huge number of Brits and public buildings in displaying a Union Flag at half-mast this week.

In these times of continuing restrictions on what we can or cannot do, dropping a 5ft x 3ft piece of fabric halfway down its pole is one of a handful of ways to show respect to the most distinguished of individuals.

You could write a poem but unless you are the poet laureate, why would you want to inflict more gloom on the nation?

I speak not as an enthusiastic royalist who sports a ‘Charles loves Camilla’ tattoo or proudly displays the entire Royal Doulton silver jubilee collection in the corner cabinet, but as somebody who recognises the outstanding contribution the grand old duke made to British life.

Broadly speaking, I’m in good company as most people I have spoken to since the sad if not hugely unexpected announcement from Windsor Castle has spoken of him in the fondest terms.

Although his 73 years of marriage to the world’s most famous woman brought him unrivalled privileges and comfort, he was viewed by many as the embodiment of the Greatest Generation, a no-nonsense old man – he was always old to the majority – who got on and did what was expected of him, and more.

He has left his mark in many ways: anybody with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award on their CV will bore you to tears about how beneficial it has been to them. Despite all of this, there is a small, vocal minority who have exercised their right to free speech to loudly question whether the passing of a 99-year-old warranted the wall-to-wall coverage it received.

It was reported that the nation’s kicking post, otherwise known as the BBC, set up a dedicated complaints webpage to deal with those who were dismayed with the amount of perceived forelock tugging on their screens and radios. They received a record 100,000 complaints about the volume of coverage.

The inevitable blanket coverage on three of the four main terrestrial channels led to an outcry from some who objected to the cancellation of scheduled Friday night programmes.

Personally speaking, waiting a few days longer to find out whether a dish of Lobster blancmange with a dandelion foam would be enough to win Masterchef isn’t the end of the world (incidentally – spoiler – it was Tom who won in the end, with his Japanese-inspired menu), although it appears it is for some.

The beauty of television in the 21st century is that most of us have scores of channels to watch so those not wanting to watch lengthy tribute pieces could turn over and watch something else.

Yet, there are those who insist on making their barbed point about the royal family, even at a time of genuine sadness, by using the malign force of social media.

In centuries gone by, such critics would be sent to The Tower – now we have the mute button.

So for the next week or so, I will seek out a half-mast flag wherever I go and briefly pause to remember one of the greatest of public servants.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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