Note: During the television coverage of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth ll, many viewers were able to detect, crawling across the white card among the flowers on the coffin, a small green spider.
My little sister Margaret is gone forever now. She has fulfilled her destiny, or if you like, her task in life, and we may never see her like again. With the eyes of the whole world upon her, she gave her final interview, which I reproduce here. I believe there is no better way to tell her story, and no finer way to immortalise her. We are incredibly proud of her, and while our hearts are heavy, our souls will always sing her praise.
Lily Orb-Weaver, on the leaves of the second rosemary bush from the end.
As a member of the Orb-Weaver family, you are here on this historic day to perform a sacred duty.
Yes, we were first invited way back in 1547 to watch over the royal Orb whenever it accompanies the dead body of the Sovereign to rest.
Do you do Coronations?
They don’t need us at Coronations because in that case the Orb doesn’t travel around. But the final journey is one of particular significance, when the Orb—and the Sceptre of course—are left behind at the end, and the body must go on, as it were, alone.
What happened in 1547?
That was the funeral of the eighth Henry. In fact, he had a much plainer Orb. Oliver Cromwell later had it melted down. So the one you see today was made for the first Charles when he was crowned in 1661. The Archbishop still says the same words when he places the Orb in the hand of the Sovereign. ‘Receive this orb set under the cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.’ Or words to that effect. Very grand. I’ve never actually heard him say it. Never had the chance to witness a Coronation.
Could you give the viewers a quick description of today’s Orb?
With pleasure. It’s a rather heavy hollow golden ball representing the harmonious whole of the universe. A strangely bored yet meticulous ancestor of mine at one of the funerals counted the number of pearls on it – three hundred and seventy-five – ten more than the number of diamonds. He sent a message home giving all the statistics. Yes, three hundred and sixty-five diamonds.
That’s quite a lot! A diamond a day.
I should think so. And eighteen rubies and nine sapphires.
I believe there is an amethyst?
Amethyst, yes, my favourite. And a piece of glass.
A piece of glass?
Yes, glass was quite a thing in 1661. And it’s just a reminder.
Of what, exactly?
That not everything can be pearls and diamonds and so forth. It’s actually a lovely piece of glass, I can assure you. Make no mistake.
Oh, quite. And there’s a handsome cross on top of the Orb, I notice.
Yes, that really sets the whole thing off, to my way of thinking. You know the ball itself is a reminder of Jupiter.
A Roman god. How so?
Well, Jupiter was the top god of the Roman pantheon. Having the Orb is a link to all that whole ancient thing. The Christians naturally added the cross—it’s more or less their signature, isn’t it? The whole business means the Sovereign is appointed by God.
Yes, I suppose you’re right. And you were saying the tradition is for the green Orb-Weavers to accompany the Orb at the funeral when the coffin is displayed in public.
It is. We do. I am the next in line for today’s specific task. A distant ancestor last did the work back in 1952. It’s a suicide mission.
Why a suicide mission?
After the Lord Chamberlain breaks his magic wand over the coffin, showing that this particular carnival is over, I am to remain with the flowers and leaves when the coffin goes down into the vault. The Orb, with the Sceptre of course, will be safe above ground, but, having performed my duty, I will be with the body of the Sovereign. I look forward to hearing the muffled mournful notes of the lone piper as we descend into the abyss.
Once down there I might spin a last web among the rosemary. A last trap, a last insect, a last supper. But basically, I’m out. Dust to dust you know. You realise it’s a good seventy years since an Orb-Weaver enjoyed the privilege of all this.
It is. And I believe that today you were able to read what was written on the card that was resting among the flowers.
It was very sweet. It just said: ‘In loving and devoted memory – Charles R.’
I probably don’t need to tell you that today you have become quite the celebrity yourself.
How is that?
You were photographed climbing along the card, and your picture has been all over the internet. Social media, news.
Oh how interesting. The family will no doubt be pleased. But of course one of our very distant relatives has been incredibly famous for over two thousand years.
Er, I am not actually aware…
She was in Bethlehem when King Herod ordered the soldiers to slaughter all the boy babies. She hurried down to the stable and wove a curtain right across the doorway, so that when the soldiers came looking they thought the place was derelict and deserted. It was a huge job, doing the web. That was partly why we were given our shape, and chosen to guard the Orb.
That explains a lot!
Oh, I thought everybody knew.
Many of the old stories have been lost. But thanks to your gracious granting of this interview, now everybody does.
I have heard there is quite a bit of fake news these days. Webs of lies and so forth. It must be difficult for you. Something I did learn today – you see those big black furry helmets on the heads of the Grenadiers?
I do. What did you hear about them?
Apparently, they have to slaughter a hundred bears from Canada every year so they can keep up the supply. And that’s the truth. Rather cruel, whichever way you look at it.
I see. Well, everyone can be certain that all you have told us here today is the truth, simple and unadorned.
I can swear to that. And now the procession is moving on, and I must say my last farewell. Sic transit gloria mundi.
And so Margaret Orb-Weaver moves slowly into history, into eternity, as she proceeds, concealed within the delicate green petals of a hydrangea from the Palace. Thank you, and farewell.