LONDON — Outside Buckingham Palace Thursday evening, a crowd began to gather. A press release from the palace earlier that day revealed Queen Elizabeth’s doctors were concerned for her health and advised her to stay under medical supervision while she stayed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
“I was surprised when I heard the news, but I honestly thought she was going to be okay,” Toby Kult, a Notre Dame junior who is part of the London Global Gateway program this semester, said. “Everyone was freaking out, but I thought she was going to pull through because she’s the queen and she’s immortal.”
But at exactly 6:30 p.m., the Union Jack that flies above Buckingham Palace was lowered to half mast, and an official announcement from the palace was fixed upon its gates.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” the statement read. “The King and Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and return to London tomorrow.”
Upon her death at age 96, Queen Elizabeth II was both the longest-lived British monarch and the longest-ruling monarch in British history. She ascended to the throne in 1952 and was subsequently coronated in 1953.
On Feb. 6, 2022, she became the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, honoring her 70-year reign. Within this time frame, she held the throne through major world events such as the end of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the end of the apartheid in South Africa, the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The longevity of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign touches the hearts of many British citizens, including Notre Dame junior Arabella Baker and her family.
“The queen was like no other world leader because other leaders have an expiration date,” Baker said. “She’s been a leading figure when it comes to helping the country move forward through times of trouble. She was a resilient figure, and I think that’s why she meant so much to the British people.”
According to Bloomberg News, a woman laid the first bouquet of flowers in front of the palace at 5 p.m. on Thursday. By 8 p.m., there were thousands of people gathered outside the palace.
Caitlin Papalia, a Notre Dame junior studying in London this semester, went to Buckingham Palace with other Notre Dame students soon after the death of the queen had been announced.
“The mood was very solemn. It was an unspoken thing that a really big thing had happened,” Papalia said. “I’ve been at Buckingham Palace in the past when there’s a lot of noise and bustle, but this was completely different.”
Mourners pushed through a tightly-packed crowd to place flowers outside the front gates. Those who couldn’t push through passed their bouquets to the front. Despite the size of the crowd, there was not much noise. The crowd stayed even as it began to pour. Instead of leaving, mourners opened their umbrellas and put up their hoods.
Buckingham Palace announced that the former queen’s funeral will take place Monday, Sept. 19 in Westminster Abbey at 11 a.m. During the four-day period before the funeral, the queen’s casket will lie in state in Westminster Hall, giving the public the opportunity to pay their respects. The date of the funeral has also been declared a bank holiday by her eldest son, now King Charles III.
Contact Gabby Beechert at firstname.lastname@example.org.