After seven decades of constancy, a door swings shut

For two minutes today the drumming will cease, the pipers will fall silent, the march of boots on procession routes will still. For two minutes today, at the end of the

funeral service in Westminster Abbey, before the national anthem is heard, before the coffin is taken away for committal and burial at Windsor, there will be silence. And a

door will swing shut. A reign of seven decades will come to a close. For 10 rather bewildering days we have spoken of the Queen and the new king as if they could somehow

both be with us. Today that long week of transition comes to an end. In the earliest years of her reign, a new Elizabethan Age was proclaimed by some. Such was the

excitement over the young queen, the marvels of technology and the new prosperity, after the grinding grey of the depression years, the sacrifice of World War Two and the hard

road of recovery after it. She - wise in her earliest decades to fickle fashion - dismissed all that talk. But if this was not an age - and who are we to contradict her? -

then it was an era, the Elizabethan Era. Over decades of wrenching change, she was constancy, for a largely still-conservative country. That profile on the stamps, that

voice at Christmas, that bowed head on Remembrance Sunday. Today the door swings shut on that. It swings shut too on "Prince" Charles, on his many decades as Prince

of Wales. His staff always bridled at the idea of him as an understudy or apprentice, pointing to his decades of achievement, of carving out a distinct role. His

challenge, once Royal Mourning is over, is in part to enjoy - and show that he enjoys - the role of monarch.