Radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer stirred Twitter anger by asking if the royal family would be exempted from Covid-19 rules to lay the late Prince Philip to rest. Some feel the UK’s reaction to the death gives off Pyongyang vibes.
The passing of the longtime husband and consort to the Queen has stirred some deep emotions in the UK and has re-invigorated the debate between those who see the British royal family a cherished element of national identity and those who consider them an obsolete institution. After all, why should blood grant somebody special privileges before the law, opponents of monarchy argue.
One voice coming from the republican side belonged to Julia Hartley-Brewer, the host of talkRADIO and a vocal critic of government restrictions imposed in response to Covid-19 epidemic. As the news of Prince Philip’s death was sinking in, she wondered if his upcoming funeral would be exempt from the usual social-distancing rules.
Question: how many people will be allowed to attend Prince Philip's funeral?The law allows a maximum of 30 people until 21st June.Hundreds of thousands who lost loved ones this past year were banned from saying goodbye as they wanted.Do the royals get special treatment?
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) April 9, 2021
“Hundreds of thousands who lost loved ones this past year were banned from saying goodbye as they wanted,” she pointed out. “Do the royals get special treatment?”
Buckingham palace will reportedly limit the arrangements to a small ceremony, both because of the epidemic and to follow the wishes of Prince Philip himself, who didn’t want a full state funeral.
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The question, however, which was asked on Friday before the plan became public knowledge, was met with a torrent of anger from Twitter. Many commenters found it inappropriate, untimely and disrespectful to the royal family.
On Saturday, the radio host posted a non-apologetic response to her critics, saying those who didn’t like her opinions were free not to learn them. “This isn’t North Korea quite yet…” Hartley-Brewer added grimly.
Top Twitter tip: if you're "disappointed" by someone you follow giving their opinion on something, maybe this social media platform isn't for you. You can unfollow, mute or block that person, but don't tell them what they can and can't say. This isn't North Korea quite yet…
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) April 10, 2021
Incidentally, the name of the Asian country that many Westerners associate with over-the-top public mournings for dead leaders, trended on Twitter in the UK the same day. It was apparently because of the many critical comparisons with what was happening in the UK.
One can see why a person skeptical about the value of royalty would see the resemblance. For instance, BBC Presenter Martine Croxall was noticeably tearful when she announced Prince Philips’ passing on Friday – not unlike how the media in North Korea act on similar occasions.
Tears on the BBC pic.twitter.com/l6WLCrPY79
— Mr Ethical (@nw_nicholas) April 9, 2021
And by Saturday, the image of the late Duke of Edinburgh replaced the usual Covid-19 public awareness messages on display boards in the UK.
Billboards all over London paying respect to His Majesty Prince Philip pic.twitter.com/DFjcnStKld
— Emma Webb (@Emma_A_Webb) April 9, 2021
Public displays of grief over deaths of public figures is by no means an exclusive feature of North Korean culture. Historically, dead leaders in Seoul got sent out by weeping crowds just like their counterparts in Pyongyang. And it’s not like people in the West are beyond bursting into tears on occasion, like at the funeral of George Floyd last year.
So, bringing up North Korea by way of criticism of a purely British tradition may be unfair, some people pointed out.
I’m just waiting for the inevitable “it’s like North Korea” takes from people too chauvinistic to criticise the grim reality of their own country without comparing it to a caricatured, supposedly worse foreign ‘other’. https://t.co/TQteQC6hsk
— Louis Allday (@Louis_Allday) April 9, 2021
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