Decades in the planning, a massive operation to honour the late Queen of England has failed to dispel questions over the future of the monarchy or the unity of their kingdom.
Driven by blanket media coverage, hundreds of thousands of royal devotees have been paying their respects to the queen, either at ceremonial processions or lying in state.
The choreography has boosted support for the Crown as it makes a very difficult transition. The enigmatic but popular queen Elizabeth, who featured in the daily lives of millions of British people for generations, has been succeeded by her relatively unloved son, Charles.
Three weeks of veneration will climax on Monday with the funeral of the Queen at Westminster Abbey in London. But an aggressive police approach to the small number of anti-monarchy protesters has belied a fragile agenda which cannot tolerate dissent.
The protest message ‘Not My King’ and other anti-monarchist criticism have been violently suppressed and those carrying such placards have been subjected to arrest. Even the act of holding up a blank piece of paper near royal events is being clamped down on in a zero-tolerance approach.
A man was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence after shouting “who elected him?” when he came across a reading of the proclamation of Charles’s accession. Another man was hauled away for carrying eggs as the Queen’s funeral cortege passed him.
Free speech and human rights campaign groups described the way protesters have been policed as an “affront to democracy”.
Nationalists in Ireland have also been threatened with arrest for showing disrespect. The PSNI said it was investigating group of young people who sang “Lizzie’s in a Box” in a pub in Newcastle, County Down, while motorists who beeped their horns in the Creggan were being “monitored” by the force.
For unionists and royalists, the death of the queen has created a nostalgia for England’s colonial past, and also a fear for its future.
“When we were growing up, the empire was not unproblematic, but generally perceived to be something that we were proud of,” BBC broadcaster Andrew Marr told viewers of the royal events.
“We are now ashamed of the empire - many people in this country are ashamed of the empire. Our history is being constantly revisited.
“It may well be the United Kingdom breaks up in our lifetimes and Scotland goes her own way, and even Ireland is reunified.
“This is a time when almost everything that, as it were, conservative, traditional British people took for granted, is being shaken. And this is going to be the biggest shaking of all.
“Britain’s sense of herself is now under question in a way that hasn’t been seen before this event... The queen is part of the glue, a very important part of the glue.”
Demands for change in response to the royal succession are already being heard.
Over 10,000 people in Wales signed a petition against the offensive ‘Prince of Wales’ title being handed to Charles’ son, William. And the Jedward pop duo gained massive support on social media when they spoke out against English colonialism and in support of a united Ireland.
There is a growing backlash to the enforced ‘mourning’ which has seen businesses threatened, holidaymakers threatened with eviction and even food banks ordered to close.
Writing in the National, Scottish commentator Kevin McKenna condemned what he said was the “fanfare for a lost empire”.
“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,” he wrote.
“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.”