Britain reminded the world again this weekend that it has a thorough understanding of the potency of public ceremony. The Windsor funeral of Prince Philip, though greatly constrained, showed a commitment to formality and tradition that few cultures celebrate so vigorously much less try to replicate.
Whether a majority in the increasingly polarised United Kingdom — 52/48 — was moved by those events is an open question. That almost 110,000 people complained to the BBC before the funeral over its blanket coverage of the duke's death shows that even the oldest assumptions can endure for only so long. How long those assumptions might survive should Scotland or Northern Ireland change their status is a pressing, open question. These shifts underline one of the only certainties of our world — change is constant and largely unstoppable.
This was confirmed by an announcement made 4.500 km from London on the eve of the Windsor funeral. Raúl Castro has confirmed that he will resign as head of Cuba’s Communist party, ending an era of formal leadership by him and his brother Fidel that began with the 1959 revolution, a mere 62 years ago.
The Castros could, it seems, learn from the Windsors about attaining and keeping power. The Windsors, or more correctly, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was established in 1901 to deflect growing anti-German sentiment. It has been in power since. This, ironically shows that one of the foundations of tradition and continuity is the ability to change as circumstances demand.
Will Joe Biden help Cuba's next leader do just that?