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Tea Leaves

Why Britain's royal succession resonates in Asia

Queen Elizabeth's funeral highlights similar focus on reinforcing national identity

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II arrives at Westminster Hall in London on Sept. 14. The pomp that accompanied the queen's funeral was steeped in the kind of elaborate symbolism and arcane rituals seen in parts of Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia.   © Reuters

A week or so ahead of the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 19 I was asked by media outlets in Asia and beyond to compare Asian monarchies, including their hereditary traditions and conservative mores, with the modern British monarchy. The implication was that Britain's constitutional monarchy has survived by evolving in a democratic context while many Asian kings, monarchs and sultans (and they are all male) have not.

That is not quite how I see it. Having observed over many years the elaborate rituals that coddle and protect the kings of Thailand and Cambodia, the multiple sultans of Malaysia and surviving traditional rulers in Indonesia, I was surprised by the similarities between the funeral for Queen Elizabeth, who died on Sept. 8, and royal pageantry in Asia.

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