THIS is a watershed moment in the history of the UK and idea of Britain.

It is not a side show, irrelevant or empty of meaning. Instead it goes to the core of what the UK is, how Britain is seen, how power and privilege see themselves and the rest of us, and the constitutional wiring of the country.

Since Thursday’s news of the death of the Queen, broadcast media has been full of comment – including many examples of revealing, inaccurate comment. A BBC commentator said of the crowds on the route of the royal procession from Balmoral to Edinburgh that Scots “don’t emote as enthusiastically as people down south”; subsequently, the Edinburgh crowds were described as showing “old-fashioned English clapping”.

There was the remark of one broadcaster that John Knox had succeeded in “clearing’” Scotland of Catholics; while commentator Magnus Linklater declared that the monarchy was “a Unionist institution”, not differentiating his 1603 from 1707.

The most telling misrepresentation was the desire of people to describe the era we have just lived in as “the second Elizabethan age” – a comment which went from Liz Truss to centre-left commentator Helen Lewis in The Atlantic. The abiding characteristic of Elizabeth’s reign has been that we stopped naming it after the monarch. Then there is the small issue that there has been no previous Elizabethan age of the UK or monarchical union before the most recent Elizabeth.

Across Scotland and the UK people have, and will want to, gather to mark the passing of the Queen. The writer Darren McGarvey reflected that one reason is “it provides meaning and solace and a sense of connection and unity”. I think he is on to something here; people have a deep psychological need to be part of something beyond themselves and to locate themselves in a bigger story.

Being a “subject” is far from the mind of most people gathering along Dundee’s Kingsway, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile or even Buckingham Palace. It’s unlikely that people are actively celebrating their subjecthood and non-citizenship. It is something much more subtle that needs unpacking and understanding.

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Comments from people I asked in my town included the familiar: “She was always there for us”; “She never let us down unlike politicians”; and “She never put a foot wrong”. They may show deference and faith, but also a desire to believe in good authority and leadership – and obviously gloss over issues such as the sheltering and bankrolling of Andrew, to name but one.

This is about lineage, something about someone always being there, but of course in another sense not really there, and the passing of time in our own life and that of the history of the UK.

It is a complete coincidence that this year marks the 200th anniversary of “the King’s Jaunt” – George IV’s procession down Edinburgh Royal Mile choreographed by the writer Walter Scott.

This reinvented the idea of monarchy in Scotland, re-embraced tartanry and kilts after Culloden and gave birth to much of what passes for royal pageantry to the present. Monday saw a royal procession and “King’s Jaunt” up the very same street – but one that despite TV cameras and the world’s media, will have less impact.

The timeline and scale of the coronation of Charles will take us into spring to summer 2023. In February 1952, Elizabeth became Queen with the coronation 16 months later in June 1953. There won’t be such a lengthy wait this time, but spilling over well into next year allows the royal industry to churn out all sorts of spin.

Whatever we think of monarchy, that coronation will say something about the royals, their place in society and the wider establishment, and hence us – 1953 was a very different era and it cannot compete for the same reverence.

Tory MP Henry “Chips” Channon wrote in his diary on that day in 1953: “What a day for England, for the aristocracy and the traditional forces of the world. Shall we ever see the like again? I have been present at two coronations and can never see another.”

He signed off by reflecting on his son Paul who became a government minister under Thatcher: “Will my Paul be an old man at that of Charles III?” Paul Channon died in 2007.

The Queen provided the last major connection of a public figure to 1940 and the Second World War. Her death has removed the last great foundational story of the UK – a story which united people across backgrounds, classes, left, right and centre.

Without it, the UK will be a place which, as someone once sang, is reduced to being “just another country” – somewhere without a claim to be special and exceptional ... which is no bad thing, but that will involve a degree of difficult readjustment.

For all the talk of royal “modernisation” and even “democratisation”, these are words empty of meaning when it comes to the House of Windsor. Commentators have been endlessly repeating the line about royalty that: “We must not let in daylight upon magic.”

This Walter Bagehot quote is not just about the royals but about where power sits in the constitution and the use of what once were royal powers to allow the executive to rule through a cloak of secrecy.

It is too late to backtrack on the daylight and reimpose a veil of complete darkness as the establishment wishes to continue doing what it likes without any scrutiny. The royals long ago became a public soap opera and the hope is that under the reign of Charles, William and Kate can slowly usher in a new era.

THERE will in the interregnum until the coronation be an opportunity for a brief Charles honeymoon – which is more than Tory Prime Minister Liz Truss can hope for. But it will not change the fundamentals that we are in for a bumpy ride: of an establishment which has lost its place, an unpopular Tory premier and a monarchy which will be seen to be losing the popular touch and feel for the country.

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A major factor under Liz Truss and Charles is the nature of the Tory Party. As historian David Edgerton pointed out at the weekend, the Tories long ago stopped being a genuine “party of the monarchy, the union, the constitution”.

Rather, they have continued to use the politics of court, patronage and royal illusion to withhold the light and march of democracy and advance their increasingly bitter, divisive, nasty policies.

The next few days, weeks and months will see many eulogies about the Queen, pro-palace commentary about the new regime and wish fulfilment that we are in a new age of royal popularity and renewal. But no new Britain or society can be built on the pillars of hereditary entitlement and anti-democracy, and eventually the UK has to have a conversation about the constitutional character of the UK and its four nations.

The British establishments and political classes – Tory, Labour and LibDem – have been avoiding this for as long as they can, preventing the UK from becoming a modern country and clinging to the deceptions of the monarchical state. But eventually that conversation will happen and the UK will decide whether it wants to be a 21st-century state. It may be too late for some of us, but it cannot come too soon.