11 July 2024

(AFP) – Tearful crowds outside Buckingham Palace sang a forlorn “God Save the Queen” as news broke of Elizabeth II’s death on Thursday.

Hundreds braved torrential rain to stand at the palace gates after it was announced that doctors had placed the monarch under medical supervision at Balmoral, her Scottish estate.

A vivid rainbow temporarily lifted spirits, but the mood turned mournful at 6:30 pm (1730 GMT) as the seismic news was announced, triggering widespread cries of “oh no”, according to an AFP journalist.

Some wept as the Union Jack flag on the queen’s London residence was lowered, before a numbed silence fell over the crowd.

Another rainbow appeared as the flag was lowered at her Windsor Castle residence outside London.

“She’s been the queen for as long as I’ve been alive, she’s been the queen for as long as my parents have been alive,” currency broker Charlie Wolstenholme told AFP.

“So she’s really a very, very important part of the fabric. You know, it’s going to be terrible.”

Suzan Antonowicz compared it to losing a family member.

People gather outside Buckingham Palace in central London after it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II has died, in central London on September 8, 2022. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

“She is the mother of our nation. She was heroic in so many situations. My respect for her is incredible, but my love is even bigger. We will grieve our loss for years,” she said.

Choking back the tears, Joshua Ellis, 24, said he was in “shock”.

“Every time people needed support she was there. She was also a link to my grandmother, who was a huge fan of her and passed away last year.”

Wellwishers arrive to place flowers at the gates of Buckingham Palace, after the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, in central London on September 8, 2022. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

– ‘Nation’s conscience’ –

Drivers of London’s famous black taxis lined the Mall, the road leading to Buckingham Palace, in tribute, while the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus glowed with a picture of the late monarch.

Supporters of Premier League football club West Ham spontaneously broke out into a rendition of “God Save the Queen” before their Europa Conference League fixture, while Manchester United fans observed a minute’s silence ahead of their match.

“She was our conscience. She was like the nation’s grandma,” said Sophie, 27.

Many of the well-wishers at Buckingham Palace, some carrying flowers, came from outside the UK.

“As a French person, even I am touched by this,” said student Chloe Papeil.

“She is a part of English culture, but also global culture.”

Wellwishers arrive to place flowers at the gates of Buckingham Palace, after the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, in central London on September 8, 2022. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

The queen — an instantly recognisable figure to billions of people across the world — was in her Platinum Jubilee year, marking 70 years since she succeeded her father king George VI in 1952.

Britain’s longest-serving monarch had been dogged by health problems since last October that left her struggling to walk and stand.

News spread rapidly across a shellshocked country, with announcements in public spaces, including a train from London to Edinburgh.

“I’m speechless, it’s very sad,” said lawyer Rory Turbet, 38, who was travelling on the train for a wedding.

“A lot of British people will feel that way; she’s been a constant presence in people’s lives,” he told AFP.

On the streets of London, animation producer Toni Cunningham told AFP: “I feel really sad, I feel like my nana (grandmother) has died.

“She did so much for this country, she was here so much for us.”

A union flag flies at at half mast atop Buckingham Palace in central London after it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II has died, in central London on September 8, 2022. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

-PM says late queen was ‘loved and admired around the world’-

Prime Minister Liz Truss said Thursday Queen Elizabeth II was “loved and admired around the world”, as she paid tribute to Britain’s longest-serving monarch shortly after her death was announced.

“The death of Her Majesty the Queen is a huge shock to the nation and to the world,” Truss said in a short address on the steps of Downing Street, just two days after the queen appointed her the UK’s new leader.

“Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built. Our country has grown and flourished under her reign. Britain is the great country it is today because of her.”

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 6, 2022 Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and new Conservative Party leader and Britain’s Prime Minister-elect Liz Truss meet at Balmoral Castle in Ballater, Scotland (Photo by Jane Barlow / POOL / AFP)

-World briefly unites to mourn Queen Elizabeth-

Leaders from every corner of the globe briefly united Thursday in homage to Queen Elizabeth II, after the world’s longest-serving monarch died at her Scottish home at age 96.

Tributes poured in — from countries she had ruled over to those she had been at war with, from tiny territories to the mightiest governments on the planet, and from centuries-old institutions to nations that had not yet been born when she took the throne.

Here are some of the accolades to Queen Elizabeth, who had ruled the United Kingdom since 1952 and was also head of state in 14 Commonwealth countries around the world.

Global tributes were led by the Commonwealth, the association of countries that were previously part of the British empire as well as its remaining overseas territories.

South Asia, where Britain was the colonial power until just before Elizabeth’s reign began, paved the way, with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he was “pained” by her death.

In the southern hemisphere, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa described how he and the queen had reminisced together about Nelson Mandela, while Kenya’s president-elect William Ruto hailed her “admirable” leadership of the Commonwealth.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to her “timeless decency” and said her death marked the “end of an era.”

On the other side of the world, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Elizabeth, who as queen was Canada’s head of state, was a “constant presence in our lives — and her service to Canadians will forever remain an important part of our country’s history.”

The smallest Commonwealth members also paid tribute, with David Burt, premier of tiny British territory Bermuda, hailing her “life of undimmed duty”.

US President Joe Biden signs the condolence book at the British Embassy in Washington to pay his respects following the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in Washington, DC on September 8, 2022. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP)

US President Joe Biden called the queen the first British monarch to make a personal connection with people around the world, as he ordered flags at the White House and government buildings flown at half-staff in her honor.

“Queen Elizabeth II was a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States. She helped make our relationship special,” he said.

Others who have taken a less friendly view of Britain also sent tributes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to King Charles III, wishing the new monarch “courage and resilience” after his mother’s passing — even as Britain leads the West in imposing sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

While Germany, which in the queen’s lifetime went from Britain’s greatest enemy to a powerful ally, hailed her as a “symbol of reconciliation” after two world wars.

“Her commitment to German-British reconciliation after the horrors of World War II will remain unforgotten,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Argentina, which fought and lost a bitter war with Britain over the Falkland Islands in 1982, expressed its “regret” over Elizabeth’s passing. In a terse statement from the foreign ministry, the government offered its sorrow and said it “accompanies the British people and her family in this moment of grief.”

At the United Nations, the Security Council held a minute of silence.

Queen Elizabeth had been “widely admired for her grace, dignity and dedication around the world. She was a reassuring presence throughout decades of sweeping change,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

In the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by her death and would pray for the late queen as well as King Charles.

European Union leaders expressed regret at the death of the queen, who was Britain’s head of state throughout its entire EU membership and eventual departure.

“Once called ‘Elizabeth the Steadfast’, she never failed to show us the importance of lasting values in a modern world,” said EU council president Charles Michel.

Ireland’s President Michael Higgins called Queen Elizabeth II “a remarkable friend” who had “great impact on the bonds of mutual understanding between our two peoples”.

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, who supports Scotland’s independence from the rest of Britain, called her death “a profoundly sad moment for the UK, the Commonwealth and the world.”

And French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the queen as “a friend of France… who marked her country and her century as never before”.

Even far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, which does not have particularly close ties to Britain, paid homage.

Bolsonaro, seeking re-election next month, declared three days of national mourning and called Elizabeth “a queen not just to Britons, but to all of us.”