Dina Mahmoud (London)
Sadness and shock swept across the UK and church bells rang, particularly at St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral and Windsor Castle, where the late Queen Elizabeth II resided most of the time. The government, “united in support of His Majesty the new King”, Charles III, observed a minute of silence for the spirit of the Queen, who ascended the throne for more than 70 years, as confirmed by the British Prime Minister after an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers. Yesterday evening, a religious ceremony was held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, in the presence of Prime Minister Liz Terrace, who met the new king shortly after his arrival in London.
Yesterday, thousands of people, from ordinary Britons to foreign tourists, gathered outside the palace in London and other royal residences at Windsor Castle, just west of the capital, and at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Many laid flowers outside the residences, where mounds of bouquets piled up as the day went on. Several people cried and hugged as they tried to overcome the shock and grief of the Queen’s death at Balmoral yesterday.
At noon on Friday, church bells rang throughout the country, and the bell of the Sydney municipality headquarters in Australia, which Elizabeth II also owned, rang 96 times for each year of the late queen’s life.
Then 96 cannon rounds were fired from several places in the British capital, such as the Tower of London and Hyde Park, as well as the palaces of Cardiff, Edinburgh, York, Portsmouth and Gibraltar.
The Queen died yesterday at Balmoral Palace in Scotland, in the presence of her son Charles and daughter Anne. Her other two sons, Andrew and Edward, and Prince William, who became heir to the throne, arrived after her death. Her health, which has been declining for a year, has deteriorated dramatically yesterday, which prompted the royal palace to express at noon the doctors’ “concern” about her, in a statement, rarely issued by the royal family.
The new king announced that the royal mourning, which includes members of the royal family, its employees and the guards participating in the ceremony, will continue for seven days after the funeral of the queen, whose date has not yet been confirmed, but is expected to be on September 19. The royal circuits will remain closed until the burial ceremonies and flags at half-mast.
The national mourning will continue until the day of the funeral.
In the United Kingdom, thousands of Britons have flocked since Thursday to Buckingham Palace, where the “Etihad” correspondent was present, as well as Balmoral, where she died, and Windsor.
Roger Keane, who was laying a bouquet of flowers in front of Buckingham, said the Queen “maintained the unity of the country and played a central role in the unity of Great Britain”.
The late Queen, known for her sense of duty, is a powerful presence in British life, her face on banknotes as well as on stamps that must now be changed.
Her photos have replaced advertisements at bus stations in London, while condolence records have been opened in some churches and online on the royal family’s official website.
With the start of national mourning, sporting and cultural events were canceled, while supermarkets decided to keep their doors closed, and railway and postal workers suspended their planned strikes in the face of the cost of living crisis.
The Bank of England announced the postponement of its upcoming monetary policy meeting by a week.
During her historic reign, Elizabeth III co-existed with 15 British Prime Ministers. She would receive them in weekly sessions, listen to them and give advice to them without recommending anything about her.
In the space of four days, Liz Truss met two monarchs, which is unprecedented in British history.
After the funeral, the Queen will be buried in the chapel of Windsor Castle as part of a family ceremony.
The body of Queen Elizabeth II is still buried in Scotland, in parallel with the continuing preparations for her funeral, which is expected to take place with a high-level international presence.
According to sources from the British royal court, the coffin containing the body is scheduled to be flown after about ten days to London, to be placed in the “Westminster Hall” building on the grounds of Parliament, to allow the British public to have a last look at it for about four days.
The front pages of most major British newspapers yesterday were covered in black, in mourning for the late Queen, who was the longest-reigning monarch in the country’s history.
Those newspapers, with their various political orientations, devoted almost the entire pages of the Friday issue to publishing reports and photos covering the events of the last day in the life of Queen Elizabeth II, and the reactions that were issued after the announcement of her death, in addition to reviewing the most prominent stations of her life, which spanned nearly a century.