by Heather R Darsie, J. D.
Dear Reader, this is a reflection piece from my visit to the Greater London area after the Queen’s passing. I booked my flight across the Pond several months before, and it was by fate that I arrived in London the day after Queen Elizabeth II shuffled off her mortal coil.
Upon walking through the airport, there was a feeling of sadness in the air. Whether it was simply my own, I couldn’t say — but it was there. The usually colorful electric bilboards inside Heathrow instead bore a somber message, “All of us at Heathrow are saddened to hear that Her Majesty the Queen has passed away. We offer our condolences to the Royal Family, the British public and all the nations of the Commonwealth at this time.” Similar signs are all over public transport.
On Saturday, 10 September 2022, the accession ceremony for Charles III was certainly overshawdowed by the loss of the Queen. William, now Prince of Wales, wore his emotions on his face more distinctly than anyone else. The prince looked shocked, sad, and at times numb. However, King Charles wasted no time in visiting the devolved nations of the United Kingdom. He was in Scotland at Balmoral when the Queen died on Thursday, 8 September, but had to hurry to St James’s Palace in London on 9 September. There, he swore the oath of accession and became the United Kingdom’s new monarch. King Charles returned to Scotland on 11 September, then went to Northern Ireland on 13 September. Finally, he went to Wales on 15 September. All whilst shouldering what certainly must be a deep sorrow at the death of his mother.
On 11 September, I went to the Victoria and Albert museum, where visitors had the opportunity to sign a book of condolences. I signed it, and signed a different one when I went to the National Archives on 14 September. I saw other books around London, too.
London itself, at least on Thursday evening when I went there, was overall quiet. The queue to see the Queen was orderly and impressively long. Westminster Bridge was closed to motor vehicle traffic, creating a unique experience to walk across it and quietly take in what was happening. The traffic around the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Hall, and Westminster Abbey was blocked, so Parliament Square and the surrounding streets were flooded with people. Camera crews were beginning to set up, and scaffolding was in place on the United Nations Green, northwest and over the road from the main entrance to Westminster. A camera crew was on top of the giftshop roof for Westminster Abbey.
Crossing back over the Thames via Lambeth Bridge, the city still seemed somber but was not closed off as the Westminster area was. People were queued for about four miles, extending back to Southwark not far from the Golden Hind. Along the queue, there were various images and tributes to the Queen. The British Film Institute had a short film about the Queen’s life, including images and footage of her earliest days.
As night fell, we went inside Blackfriars train station, which is a bridge clad in glass that extends over the Thames. The Shard, Tower Bridge, and other notable buildings in the London skyline were lit up purple in the Queen’s honor. London is in mourning, and it is obvious.
The Queen’s funeral service will take place on Monday, 19 September 2022. Thereafter, she will be taken to Windsor so that she and Prince Philip of Edinburgh may entombed together. The official period of mourning lasts until 26 September.
I cannot help but think of London’s reaction to the death of Elizabeth I when I think of our recent loss of Elizabeth II. To learn more about Elizabeth I’s death, click here.
May Elizabeth II rest in peace.