By a grand coincidence, three well-known Redlands residents were in London when the grand monarch died. They share photos and the story of a nation in mourning.
The end of the longest reign in British history and the accession of a new monarch for the United Kingdom — two important events in the history of this nation that could not have been predicted when this trip was originally planned, and then rescheduled because of the pandemic — more than two years ago. After we arrived at Heathrow and made it into London on the morning of Sept. 8, the town was abuzz with the anticipated vibrancy of one of the great cities of Europe, and Queen Elizabeth II was seemingly comfortable at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. That evening, however, things changed, and in a typical British exchange, a waiter quietly approached our table to share the news that the queen had passed.
Larry Burgess: I was struck by the stark contrast between the respect and affection for the queen and, at the same time, the realization that there was now a king. Nevertheless, quickly appeared in our hotel, and especially in the windows of the shops and offices, portraits of the Queen adorned with the black ribbon of mourning.
Char Burgess: It’s quite amazing that I haven’t heard one person complain about being inconvenienced by the street and shop closures, and everyone I’ve spoken with has remarked in such somber and reverential ways.
Something that seems to be a unique feature of British news reporting is the inclusion of interviews with children.
The country seems to be united as a family during this time of mourning.
Nathan Gonzales: As an historian, it’s fascinating to see such a different perspective for how people who are subjects, rather than citizens, as we are, respond to something like this. Queen Elizabeth has been a constant and every day figure for 70 years in their lives, whether seen on currency, postage stamps, on the news, in the tabloids, or in public appearances.
It is a significant feeling of loss, even for many of those who aren’t supportive of a constitutional monarchy.
Char: It is pretty remarkable that hundreds of thousands of people are willing to stand in a line miles long for some 30 hours to pay respects to the Queen while she lies in state in Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament.
Nathan: I was amazed at how immediately the ubiquitous demonstrations of condolence and grief appeared. We walked to Buckingham palace that night, and already thousands of bouquets of flowers had appeared at its gates, with a somber feeling amongst the numerous people who were looking for a way to focus their sense of loss.
The next morning, shops had already blackened display windows, and portraits - both print and digital - were everywhere. The massive digital wall at Piccadilly Circus usually displaying advertising was a simple tribute to Elizabeth II.
Char: The attention to detail and logistics are extraordinary - No one does ceremony better than the British. We even saw books of condolence for people to sign in hotels and museums around the city.
Larry: Regardless of opinions about the monarchy, the family at once must both grieve and assume new duties, as Prince Charles immediately transitioned to King Charles III and head of state.
A truly remarkable and unexpected experience to be visiting London during a time of significant transition and mourning for the British people, which has brought people together in a sense of unity in their loss.
All: We join with everyone here in offering our condolences to the Royal Family and best wishes for the future of the United Kingdom.