Crowds gather outside royal residences to mourn Queen Elizabeth, an 'amazing lady'

Many laid flowers outside Buckingham Palace in London, Windsor Castle just outside the capital, and Balmoral in the Highlands of Scotland

Reuters
Published : 9 Sept 2022, 02:17 PM
Updated : 9 Sept 2022, 02:17 PM

Thousands of people, from ordinary Britons to foreign tourists, congregated outside royal residences on Friday to pay their respects to the late Queen Elizabeth, speaking of their shock and sadness at her death but praising a woman who had been part of their lives for so many years.

Many laid flowers outside Buckingham Palace in London, Windsor Castle just outside the capital, and Balmoral in the Highlands of Scotland, the piles growing higher as the day went on.

"It's not as if it wasn't expected but it's a shock. It's just she was such a rock, wasn't she, for so long really," said Deborah O'Brien, who was visiting Balmoral from Norfolk, in eastern England.

Queen Elizabeth died at Balmoral Castle on Thursday at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne, the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Her son is now King Charles III.

For many, it was hard to imagine the country without someone who had been a constant presence in their lives, through good times and bad.

"She's been around for so long, being sort of like the face of Britain and the Commonwealth, so it's just that sort of shock of it being different, it just sort of doesn't feel real," said Aberdeen resident Dan Buckley, 22, who had braved the Scottish rain to pay his respects at Balmoral.

"I just remember that sort of excitement when there was something going on, from the Commonwealth Games to the Diamond Jubilee, when it was to do with the Royal Family and the Queen."

Others praised her sense of duty and the fact that she had been working almost up to her death, meeting the outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his successor Liz Truss at Balmoral on Tuesday.

Alice Hendry, a 48-year-old textile designer, was among the crowd outside Windsor Castle, where a constant stream of people came to lay flowers.

"What an amazing lady. She was working right up until two days before, swearing in a new prime minister. That's quite remarkable. You know, when somebody takes an oath to serve their country and their sense of duty to last their whole life. I mean, what a shining example of that."

'EVERYONE'S GRANNY'

In London, thousands of people gathered in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace and up the Mall, the boulevard leading to it, under a drizzle of rain.

Some had dyed their hair red, white and blue, the colours of the Union Jack flag. People were able to walk up to the gate themselves and drop off flowers. Some wept or hugged each other.

Liam Fitzjohn, 27, a railway worker from South London, had brought his young daughter.

"Even though she won't remember it, we can tell her she was here as history was happening," he said. "We just had to come bring flowers. She's all we ever knew, we will never have a Queen like that again."

Many of those outside Buckingham Palace were foreign tourists, some in tour groups and even carrying suitcases.

"I'm flying back to Japan today, and I dropped by on my way to the airport," said Nobu Yamanaka, 52. "I carried my big bag through the line for this special occasion. Everyone in Japan is watching it."

Asked how she would remember the queen, Trish Heathcote, a visitor from Derbyshire, in central England, who was at Balmoral, said: "Just as a lovely, kind person, and she's dedicated so much of her time to everybody really."

At Windsor, Sharon Stevens, a 57-year-old employee of the Royal Meteorological Society, said she was shocked and sad.

"But then also you want to celebrate what an amazing woman she was and the legacy she left. And you just felt we had to come here today and just pay our respects because she's always been part of our lives."

Her daughter Kelly Stevens, a 25-year-old shop designer, said: "She has been the queen my entire life. She's been such an inspiration. Such a woman to look up to."

"I think it will be really different. Something to really get used to, having a king. But I'm sure Charles will do an amazing job."

Kay McClement, a 55-year-old tourism worker who lives near Balmoral, said she came with a friend to drop flowers.

"She was amazing. She was like everyone's granny. She always managed to capture the mood with her words and she loved Britain."

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher