People in Britain remember those who died
Rory Burke, from Leeds, was just sitting down at his parents’ dining table, who live in south London, when the news of his death broke in on Thursday. 16 hours later, the HR consultant still can’t quite believe it: “She was always there,” reflects the 51-year-old. “She was the person who held us together. Unlike politicians, I believed what she said.”
Like hundreds, later tens of thousands of his compatriots, Burke came to Buckingham Palace this Friday. He has flowers with him, like many others. He will say a few words of prayer “for the Queen and for her family.”
It was of course clear to everyone that a 97th year person is in the very last phase of his life. Against all reason, however, they believed their Queen would “just keep going” – as Charlotte Baker puts it. The 29-year-old Londoner has arrived at the palace with her five-month-old daughter Matilda. Her parents live in Wales, “otherwise they would be there already. Instead, we are both now the representatives of the family.”
There is no strike now
It was important for Baker to come, just as she did in front of the palace at the anniversary celebrations in June. Referring to her baby, she says, “It was important to me that she could later say, ‘I was there.’ There won’t be a queen for a very long time.” In fact, Princes William, 40, and George, 9, are now in first and second place in the line of succession to the throne.
The postal workers have ended their warning strike, the railways have canceled theirs for the coming week. Not only has the BBC tailored its entire programming to the memorial service; the Proms classical music festival, with the Last Night of the Proms scheduled for Saturday, has been canceled entirely. This weekend’s England v South Africa cricket match is out, as are Premier League football matches.
And people continue to flock by the thousands to the royal palaces, most notably Buckingham in London. They “just wanted to say thank you,” as Rory Burke believes, they wanted to experience community and be a part of a historic event. The Windsors don’t like the draughty, 775-room gray box, and its ten-year renovation will cost hundreds of millions of pounds. For the population, however, the palace remains their meeting place for important events in the life of the nation.
So Erika Molnor from East London has also set out before her shift as a beautician starts in the afternoon. She is all in black, “and will remain so for the mourning period”. Long before Molnor came to London from Hungary eight years ago, she had already fallen in love with the Queen: “She was a strong woman.” Somehow she was part of the family.
And King Charles III? Well, says Molnor, “It has to settle down. But it’s the tradition and we’ll get used to it.” Cleo and Danny Mace take a similarly sober view. The London couple had taken this Friday off anyway because they finally wanted to visit the Buckingham Palace halls, which are open to the public in summer. Instead, they now lay flowers for the Queen they adored. And they would somehow get along with the new king, Danny is convinced: “He will lead the country the way we want it to be.”
Britain still hasn’t quite gotten its head around the fact that the longest-serving prince in English royal history is now a monarch. Celebrities struggle on the radio. “His Majesty,” that sounds funny, says Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby and laughs sheepishly. 90-year-old historian Antonia Fraser chatted happily about the “Prince” until the BBC presenter subtly pointed out the new situation to her. “Oh yeah, sorry, I’ll have to remember that.”
Applause for Charles
It’s no different for the people on the streets of London. “Well, saying ‘God save the King’ is going to be weird,” believes Rory Burke. And soon a new face on all banknotes, on all coins? To imagine that, “it’s a bit difficult at the moment”. After all, everyone already feels with Charles: “It’s terribly difficult for him too.”
In fact, he receives warm applause and has to shake countless hands when he arrives at the palace in the afternoon. It seems that the long-term future of the monarchy is secure, just as the Queen wished.
Of course, all considerations about Charles that day remain secondary at best. The focus is on mourning for the deceased, honoring her long life, planning for the ten-day funeral ceremonies, which will end with the first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s death in 1965. Then Rory Burke will travel to London again: “I watched the anniversary celebrations on television. But this time I want to be there myself.”
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