BRIGADOON, the fabled 200-year-old Scottish village of the hit Broadway musical, only rises for one day in every hundred years.

The modern version of it, materialising before our eyes, will last for nearly three weeks, having been summoned forth by the death of Queen Elizabeth. Modern Britain in these days has regressed into a grotesque 18th century parody of itself.

Those of us who, in our naivete, had hoped that the Queen’s funeral would be marked by a sense of quiet dignity have been astonished at the way it’s been used as a fanfare for a lost empire. All around us, people whom we had taken to be possessed of good sense and reason are in the process of losing it. There is support for the monarchy. And then there is this. 

The death of a queen who has been on the throne of Britain for 70 years is a significant event in the life of the nation. Those of us who believe there should be no room in a modern democracy for a sprawling family living a gilded life in a groaning portfolio of palaces and castles by accidents of birth can still acknowledge that they represent something meaningful for many ordinary British citizens.

The National: Marco BertonelloMarco Bertonello (Image: PA Media)

You won’t persuade any of them to the cause of, say, Scottish independence, by ridiculing their allegiances. It’s why the SNP wanted Queen Elizabeth to be head of state after independence. It was a reasonable concession and besides, we’d always have the option of reviewing this arrangement later.

But there is nothing of this distorted masquerade of 18th-century feudal entitlement that can be considered reasonable. And we’re still five days away from the funeral itself, and 14 days away from the end of the official mourning period.

Even then we might still have indulged their ceremonials if they hadn’t impinged on the normal rhythms of our daily lives. A day or so, yes; but not 18 days of everything being expected to stop to allow the British aristocracy and its lickspittles in the right-wing press and the BBC to indulge their fetish for pantomime ceremonial.

This, though, is about much more than an eccentric pageantry of death. Much of it is about reinforcing the Union and along with it the idea that unearned privilege and wealth is normal and that influence can be assumed rather than earned.

On Monday, a number of Scottish Tories were generous in their praise of Nicola Sturgeon and assorted nationalists as they gathered at Holyrood to wish the new king all the very best for the future. It’s instructive that the only time that Tories express appreciation for their opponents is when they’re being polite in the face of the monarchical principal.

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These same Tories are never too slow to accuse Scottish nationalists of sowing division among people and using independence as a means of deflecting from what they regard as more pressing concerns. But such has been the absurd monarchical fetishism of these past few days that normal people who may have admired Queen Elizabeth are beginning to be revolted by the performative bowing and scraping.

This is not respect for a widely admired monarch but the exploitation of her death – and using it to send a message to the masses and those who believe that there must be profound societal change if we are to bring an end to inequality.

There have been some startling scenes along the way with the promise of many more to come. The spectacle of politicians ascribing supernatural powers and conferring sainthood on Elizabeth would surely have appalled a woman who seemed to possess an authentic devotion to the Christian faith.

The ceremonial proclamation of Charles as the new King included passages that obliged him to uphold the Protestant religion. It spoke of “this great inheritance” and the “loyalty of the peoples whose sovereign I have been called upon to be”.

And then this one: “To continue the tradition of surrendering the hereditary revenues, including the crown estate, to my government for the benefit of all, in return for the sovereign grant, which supports my official duties as head of state and head of nation.” Effectively, this means: “My ancestors grabbed your land, but I’ll lease part of it back to you in exchange for an annual ransom of £100 million.”

Defenders of the exotic and archaic language in these ceremonials argue that it’s simply “tradition”. Yet, in the 70 years since the last passing of the crown, many other ancient institutions have updated their articles and laws to reflect the progress of reason and enlightenment.

Perhaps most startling of all has been the wholesale metamorphosis of the BBC from restrained and equitable state broadcaster to a propaganda tool of the UK establishment. You might reasonably have felt that this also happened during the course of the first referendum on independence. But the BBC’s coverage of the death of Elizabeth has plumbed new depths of obsequious soup-taking. This hasn’t been journalism or a quiet reflection of a life decently-lived; this has been a witless and asinine stream of consciousness laced with malignant little barbs and observations.

Some of this can be put down simply to plain ignorance of British history, a lot more of it has been about disseminating propaganda for the Union. The BBC’s royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, a man whose contract appears to have included a clause about willingly sacrificing all self-respect in pursuit of his duties, has provided the sort of commentary that you might expect to hear on the death of Kim Jong-un.

It can’t have surprised many when it emerged that the Queen had expressed her relief, following the referendum, that Scotland would be remaining in the UK for a while yet. Surely though, she’d have recoiled at the thought of her funeral being exploited clumsily by the BBC to reinforce the strength of the Union?

It was also startling to hear two of the BBC’s commentators casually slighting Scotland’s Catholic community as the Queen’s cortege passed John Knox’s house on its way down the Royal Mile. According to them, the old Scottish Protestant reformer has “cleared the Catholics out of Scotland”. Knox did no such thing and this observation was as offensive to his memory as it was to Scottish Catholics, many of whom would have prayed for the repose of the soul of the departed Queen at Sunday Mass.

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Rather, Knox was seeking to reform a church which had lately begun to display the entitled feudalism apparent even now in the British aristocracy. And what was it about the concept of clearing the Catholics out of Scotland which gave these BBC people such a giggle?

MUCH more troubling during these febrile days has been the behaviour of the British and Scottish police. It’s not simply that they felt empowered to remove and detain members of the public for making peaceful protests about the monarchy and specific individuals within the Windsor family. But that they seemed to have acted with the authority of the Police Executives on either side of the Border.

Thus, a casual suspension of free speech seems to have been permitted to occur these past few days, a sort of curfew on anything that might be considered a bit disrespectful and which must be enacted with maximum force.

Presumably, this was also why the entire football card across the UK was suspended for three days while more genteel pastimes were allowed to proceed as usual. You just can’t trust these working-class ruffians. They have a habit of not doing what they’re told and speaking out of turn.

Much will also be made about the presence and active participation of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon in this abstruse and distended exercise in self-abasement and submissiveness. Yet, what else were they supposed to do? For the past 20 years they have strived to portray the nationalist movement as a benign force for decency and mature political engagement.

Perhaps they ought to have seen this coming and taken steps to pre-empt it by discreet diplomatic conversations. There again, perhaps they, like many of us, have been surprised at how quickly all the levers of UK state power have gathered to feast on the Queen’s funeral and turn it into an imperial toga party. This is far more insulting to her memory than a few shouted republican slogans.

And it’s not over yet, not by a long shot. There’s still the King’s coronation to take place next year.