Craig Murray: Mass Hysteria, UK-Royal Style

The public is being whipped up to observe emotional mourning for the late queen, while those who you would expect truly to be in grief are engaged in cold, political calculation. 

Images of the late queen flank an escalator at Tottenham Court Road rail station in London. (Doyle of London, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Craig Murray

When the so-called leader of the opposition opposes protest against a new unelected head of state, out of respect for the previous unelected head of state, you know you live under totalitarianism.

Except almost all dictatorships do at least have the form of an election. Indeed, some of the worst dictators in modern history have been genuinely elected, an unfortunate fact we generally prefer to elide.

Over a week of mob hysteria in the U.K. helps us to understand how.

The psychological phenomenon of societal emotional spasm is fairly well studied but still not necessarily fully explained. How we get to a stage where, in 2022, newspapers are seriously promoting as miraculous clouds that “look like the Queen,” double rainbows, or meteors, is a difficult question.

What is not in the doubt is the tendency of deluded mobs to turn on those who do not join in — and the capacity of the unscrupulous to exploit that power.

Attempts to intimidate people out of protesting against the monarchy appear broadly to have succeeded. We saw some hideous attacks on free speech over the last week, including people arrested for holding up placards, for peacefully expressing vocal dissent, or even for carrying eggs or blank pieces of paper.

A number of figures have stood up to come out arguing for freedom of speech – Andrew Marr, Martin Bell, John Sweeney, David Davis, Joanna Cherry, Michael Russell. These are all figures who broadly represent a liberal consensus in society that seems to have gone. As I know all but one of them, I hope they will forgive me for saying they tend to be slightly passé.

Nobody in power, in Westminster or in Scotland, has asserted the importance of freedom of speech, while Opposition Leader Keir Starmer has done the opposite, emphasising “respect” for authority as more important than freedom of speech, a position taken by anti-democrats everywhere.

There are two arguments used against freedom of speech at present:

1) We should honour the dead, and respect the sanctity of the mourning period.

I do not in general dismiss the value of all societal convention, and I have a certain sympathy for this approach. However, the difficulty is that the accession of a new monarch happens at the moment of death of the old monarch. The latter cannot be used to stifle all protest at the former.

The Establishment quite deliberately conflates the two in order to prevent protest. We have the extraordinary and macabre spectacle of the corpse of the late queen being carted around the country and her coffin put on public display.

If people really cared for her, I would have thought it much more respectful to bury her, but the monarchist hysteria has to be dialed up past 11 for the longest possible period, and the excuse for suppressing dissent has to be maintained.

The 22-year old Rory, who was viciously, physically attacked for heckling sexual abuser Prince Andrew at the Edinburgh procession and then arrested, handcuffed and charged, was widely condemned by the media for disturbing a funeral. But it was not a funeral. That funeral is still not until Monday, when this farce finally ends.

The correct word for what we have witnessed so far is not a funeral but a series of bizarre obsequies. The state is demanding that all citizens be obsequious. 

There is a reason that word has such negative connotations, and if the U.K. had educated journalists rather than state stenographers they might explore it.

Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin leaves the Palace of Holyroodhouse in a black hearse in Edinburgh. (Taras Young, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

So much has been entirely irrational. One moment that stuck in my mind was criticism of the new prime minister, Liz Truss, for failing to curtsy to the coffin of the queen when it arrived at RAF Northolt. This was described as “grotesque” – as though curtsying to a corpse were not itself an image straight out of Edgar Allan Poe.

The concomitant of stretching out the period before poor Elizabeth is finally put to rest, is to use that period to maximum political advantage for the introduction of the new king, while his mother’s aura still shines.

Spoof comparing British reporting to North Korea’s:

We have the deliberate confusion of the two processes. Both the man in Oxford who merely asked “who elected him?” and the woman in Edinburgh who held the sign saying “Fuck imperialism, abolish the monarchy” were at the specific proclamation of the accession of King Charles III – events separate to the obsequies. Yet both were condemned for lack of respect for a dead queen.

[Related: Anti-Royal Protester: Even Police Doubted Arrest Legal]

We also have the extraordinary spectacle of Charles, immediately after the death of his mother, abandoning his mourning and bottling his grief while shuttling furiously around Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales for entirely political events.

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This did not have to happen. This is absolutely not a tradition. Nothing remotely like it has ever happened before.

There was no reason whatsoever why Charles had to visit the Scottish parliament, the Welsh assembly or the assembly in the north of Ireland, now. This could have waited until after the funeral. He could even have had a week of rest and reflection after the funeral before embarking on a tour of the nations.

There was a deliberate decision to hold these political events in Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff, aimed at strengthening the monarchy and union, while the corpse was still metaphorically warm, in order to maximise the political bounce for the monarchy from Elizabeth’s death.

Flags at half mast at the prime minister’s office and resident at Number 10 Downing Street in London in observance of the queen’s death. (Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street)

Part of this calculation was that, if Charles’ first visit as king was after the funeral, there would be political protest at the accession in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, possibly quite substantial.

There is absolutely no modern precedent for a royal tour between the death and the funeral of the previous monarch. It is, when you think about it, disrespectful.

Edinburgh is explicable in terms of Elizabeth dying in Scotland, but Belfast and Cardiff? 

Which tells us that “King Charles III” would have still taken advantage of the mourning period to make his power consolidation visit to Edinburgh, no matter where his mother had died.

There is nothing more cynical. We are whipped up to observe emotional mourning, while those who you would expect truly to be in mourning are engaged in cold, political calculation. 

One of the darkly amusing things about the last few days was to witness all of the deluded monarchists on social media excusing Charles’ extraordinary tantrum in Northern Ireland about a pen, on the grounds that he must be exhausted making this tour when his mother had just died.

But the answer of course is that he did not have instantly to dash to Northern Ireland at all, leaving behind the rites for his mother. He was doing so for political gain.

It is a capricious God who supports a royal family so much he makes clouds in their image and celebrates them in rainbows and comets, yet makes pens leak on them “every stinking time.”

2) Protest may cause a breach of the peace.

This is a truly sinister argument. What it amounts to is this:

The mob is encouraged to beat up dissidents, so the expression of dissent is illegal.

It is quite literal fascism, the exertion of violent force by thugs in the street to quell dissent, with the state backing the thugs and criminalising the dissidents. That is precisely how all fascist regimes operate.

It is now being used shamelessly. None of the thugs who attacked Rory in Edinburgh has been charged. Rory has been charged with a breach of the peace.

If a breach of the peace is an action likely to provoke disorder, then the persons to be charged should be those who decided to put on display in positions of great honour a man who avoided a trial on sex trafficking by payment of £12 million pounds.

One sign of how emboldened the dregs of society are by this period of mob rule, is the quite extraordinary number of people on social media actively defending Prince Andrew, something that was extremely rare before the death of the queen.

On Twitter, it is interesting how many of those defending Andrew show the characteristics I identified of British government troll units. These are very low follower numbers for an account claiming to have been in existence at least 10 years, and a timeline consisting entirely of retweets.

The rehabilitation of Andrew is another of the political purposes to which Elizabeth’s death is being put, to which we are not allowed to object on grounds of “decorum” and “respect.”

Now I would not personally have done what Rory did, in the presence of a coffin. But that is a question of etiquette, taste and demeanour, not of the criminal law.

Anybody who had been paying attention ought not be surprised that the Scottish prosecutorial service is happily channeling this fascism and people are coming up for trial for breach of the peace, including the young woman who did nothing but hold up a placard at the outdoor, public proclamation ceremony.

On Sunday, Police Scotland have banned Yestival, an annual Independence rally in George Square, Glasgow, on the grounds that the queen’s funeral is on the next day, 400 miles away.

The organisers have quietly rescheduled the event, but I shall turn up anyway to bear witness to my beliefs, because I object to being told I may not express my political opinions. I don’t expect there will be more than a dozen of us and nothing in particular is organised to happen — no stage and no microphones. Unless the mere fact of my existence is held by the fascists to be a breach of the peace, I am not sure how it would be illegal. But they may find a way. This is Scotland 2022.

In the long term I am not downhearted. Propaganda works, and I have no doubt whatsoever that monarchism and even unionism will get a measurable opinion poll boost from the current shenanigans.

But it will not be true that the replacement of a popular monarch by an unpopular one will, in the medium term, strengthen the monarchy. Public and press access will be stifled to suppress awareness of Charles’ appalling high-handedness and temper and the way he treats staff.


But you can’t make this man popular, and his queen consort will be a constant reminder of how he treated his unfortunate first wife.

As for the mob hysteria, I am of the generation that was sent to church every Sunday of my childhood. I recall the sermon every Palm Sunday pointing out that the same rapturous crowd that hailed Jesus into Jerusalem, called for his death five days later.

All the great religions contain a lot of good sense within their mysticism.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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21 comments for “Craig Murray: Mass Hysteria, UK-Royal Style

  1. R. Billie
    September 18, 2022 at 19:17

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Andrew is just the tip of the iceberg. In a movie called “The Aristocrats”, which is all about a classic and utterly filthy joke and how it’s told by various comedians, somebody from England (it might be George Harrison, I can’t quite recall) explains that when that joke is told in the UK the punchline is not “the aristocrats but “the Royals” Talk about ROFLMAO!

  2. delia ruhe
    September 18, 2022 at 00:01

    Craig, I thought you’d had “enough of the monarchy, thank you.”

  3. Adam Gorelick
    September 17, 2022 at 19:33

    Police State abuses in an ostensible democracy should be shocking. But more disturbing is the normalization of such assaults for a willingly mesmerized public.
    Fascism has become like an airborne virus; invisible to many and insidiously progressive in its undermining of civil liberties. I recall some footage from early 1930’s Germany of a truculent public display of brown shirts, boots pounding down the road. A brave soul runs out in front of the marchers to protest and, without a moment of hesitation, one of the thugs violently pushes him out of the way. In 2020 a nearly identical scene unfolded in Los Angeles – a phalanx of combat armed and armoured LAPD cops were marching down a street (apparently to “keep the peace” during a innocuous lock-down protest) when a young woman approached one the officers to politely inquire if people should clear off the streets. The Storm Trooper’s response was to push her so violently that she flew several yards and hit her head on the curb. Concerned passers-by immediately approached the unconscious woman; blood pouring out of her head. Britain’s “Left”- more precisely England’s- like America crossed over to the dark side decades ago with the rise of the “Iron Lady/Wrecking Ball” and Tony Blair and the political crucifixion of Jeremy Corbin. The parallels with the degeneration of the U.S. Left are striking. But most of this would not be possible without the acquiesce of an increasing frightened public that clings to anodyne illusions.

  4. Valerie
    September 17, 2022 at 13:55

    The whole thing is akin to a glorified circus; with all the attending exotic creatures and vehicles. Who is paying for all this extravaganza. Charles has saved millions on the inheritance tax, so perhaps he can help with costs.

  5. Eddie S
    September 17, 2022 at 12:25

    I — like many people in the USA — have had a lifelong admiration for much of English culture. The reserved, low-crime,progressive politics (at least in comparison to my country, admittedly a low-bar to clear) — especially pre-Thatcher era —- often made me envious. Even relatively recently England was able — after a horrible school shooting incident—- to pass a virtual ban on private possession of handguns, while here in the US…well, I won’t bother recounting our disgraceful and sickening non-responses. There is an aspiration in England to a quiet, more rational approach to life (think Bertrand Russell), though I admit that obviously this is an idealized stereotype with notable exceptions in reality. I’ve been to Britain 3 or 4 times, did all the std tourist stuff, and enjoyed it greatly.
    All that being said, as a 73 yr-old US left-leaning/Progressive, I have to admit to a great deal of disdain for all this British monarchy/royalty/pomp-and-circumstance crap. I was revulsed by all the hype and media coverage (even here in the US) back when Lady Di & Charles got married, when Diana died, and now… here we go again. This whole British monarchy thing is such an artificial construct since it’s just a ceremonial, vestigial remnant of a past era. Britain is NOT a monarchy, it’s a parliamentary form of government, more to its credit, having after-all been one of the early diluters of monarchical power with the Magna Carta. This semi-obsession with ‘the royals’ seems like a permanent cos-play or ‘Renaissance Faire’ gone live. Here in the US we too have our celebrity-worship on an even trashier level with ‘reality TV’ stars like Jersey Shore, the Osborns, or the infamous Kardashians (famous for being famous), but I expect more ‘rationality’ from the Brits… time to move on!

      September 17, 2022 at 14:49

      Constitutional monarchy, not a complete figurehead.

      • Tony
        September 18, 2022 at 13:45

        Secretly amending legislation so as to exclude the royals.

        Secret deals so as to avoid inheritance tax.

      • Eddie S
        September 18, 2022 at 15:55

        I stand corrected – thanks for the accurate clarification! I subsequently checked the Wikipedia page on the ‘British monarchy’ and the most interesting thing I personally noted in that was the fact that there’s no written British constitution and that includes many of the ‘duties’ of the monarchy (ceremonial as they are) — it’s almost all done by unwritten traditions. Hard not to compare with the US system, for better or worse. At the end of the day, IMO the British monarchy remains an expensive, redundant (in the British sense) anachronistic ‘master of ceremonies’/tourist attraction that the Brits would do-well to move-on from.

  6. Alan
    September 17, 2022 at 10:57

    Sorry, but it didn’t look like much of a tantrum to me. Still, Charles and the whole royal system are an anachronism that puts pageantry and a noble face on centuries of imperialism and classism.

    Excellent essay, Craig Murray.

  7. Lois Gagnon
    September 17, 2022 at 10:32

    The collapse of Western Empire is an ugly spectacle. That much was inevitable. It will get uglier still until the spell is finally broken and the masses take their revenge.

  8. Jams O'Donnell
    September 17, 2022 at 08:32

    It looks like Big-Ears is going to go on as he has always has – spoiled, petulant and vastly over privileged. And his pal Noddy Truss can be depended on to run the car into the ditch, as usual, too. I suppose Starmer could fill in as Policeman Plod, as ‘plodding’ describes him perfectly. Enid Blyton was really prescient in her portrayal of these nursery-league clowns.

  9. Lester
    September 17, 2022 at 07:19

    Still not as much a ship of fools as the US Republic.

  10. Riaan
    September 17, 2022 at 05:16

    The regime in the UK have used the ‘breach of the peace’ tactic a long time now – especially with Tommy Robinson who tried to expose the muslim rape gangs and islamism in England. It will only get worse, because we all know how the peace gets disturbed when islam is involved.

    • Rebecca Turner
      September 18, 2022 at 05:25

      As Wikipedia accurately describes him, “Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, is a British far-right, anti-Islam activist, and convicted criminal on multiple counts of violence and fraud as well as other crimes.” Your hatred of Muslim people has little basis in evidence.

      • Common Sense
        September 19, 2022 at 16:11

        Thank you for making this clear ^^

    • Red Star
      September 18, 2022 at 06:39

      Do you mean Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) the career criminal and fascist, who takes every opportunity to stir up racial hatred ?

      A bit disengenuous trying to move the focus of the topic away from royalty to Islam, no ?

    • Mike
      September 18, 2022 at 08:32

      Yes, Tommy Robinson, what a lovely fella.
      You two must be like two peas in a pod.

  11. Barry
    September 16, 2022 at 23:17

    Very good,i think most of us all know what a horrible bastard this bloke is,fortunately i don’t live in England so don’t have to put up with this bullshit,i left their a long time ago when i was a young man,i could not stand be treated like some turd because i come from working class,hasn’t changed in centuries in England,and this guy is the epitome of a very privileged and arrogant self serving prick,who would not give a toss about anyone,but unfortunately sheep will be sheep you cant change that,you only have to look how they have sucked up all the crap about Ukraine’s Zelenskys Nazi regime,maybe a nice cold winter,might be just what the doctor ordered

  12. Elial
    September 16, 2022 at 21:32

    Excellent article! Thank you Mr Murray. It covers so many important points. I loved the DPRK spoof!

    Stay well and thank you for your courage.

  13. Seby
    September 16, 2022 at 19:21

    Hey at least they unofficially boycotted going to izrael i.e. Occupied Palestine.

    Though I am not optimistic, the offspring sticking to that tradition.

  14. Piotr Berman
    September 16, 2022 at 17:32

    Charles III is an improvement compared to Charles II, somewhat low bar for comparison, e.g. the Parliament did not had to approve feudal titles for twelve illegitimate children.

    The whole thing is quaint, to bad people get arrested over it. UK drifts to Thai model, establishment using the reverence to the monarch to crack on the opponents.

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