in London, a crowd of Britons greet a queen who “all her life has stood by” them

in London, a crowd of Britons greet a queen who “all her life has stood by” them

“My little girl is learning history at school. Right now she has the opportunity to experience it. We all want to be part of a moment like this.” Jane and her family watch, puzzled, as the crowd enters the funnel – a space bounded on one side by a wall, on the other by a fence – which leads to Buckingham Palace. Sunday 11 September, thousands of people come and go, every hour, by the paths that cross Green Park, in the hope of gathering as close as possible to the palace, after the death, Thursday, of Elizabeth II.

From here, Google Maps counts on barely a three-minute walk. The security guard who informs the little family is less optimistic: “About two hours.” His Majesty’s subjects turn back. Faced with the crowds, they “will live the story” a little further.

Flowers laid in a dedicated space, in Green Park, which adjoins Buckingham Palace, in London, on September 10, 2022.   (MARIE-ADELAIDE SCIGACZ / FRANCEINFO)

Earlier today, the Queen’s body left Balmoral, heading for Edinburgh. Attention therefore turned to Scotland, the first stop on Elizabeth II’s final journey through Britain. But in London, as in all the high places of the British monarchy, the crowd continues to compose its unofficial ceremony, with its codes and its automatisms.

“Thank you for everything.” “Thank you for your dedication over these 70 years.” “We will miss you.” Green Park, which adjoins Buckingham Palace, has become Britain’s most flower-filled garden in just a few hours. The tree trunks are surrounded by flowers, cards, drawings, notes, photos and, occasionally, stuffed animals of Paddington Bear, the latest “celebrity” spotted with the Queen, in a sketch broadcast on the occasion of his jubilee.

These marks of affection reflect the unique relationship that many Britons had with Elizabeth II. “It’s normal to be here”, explains Cris, 48, from Surrey contributing with her 13-year-old daughter, Eve, to this ever-expanding bouquet.

Cris and her daughter, Eve, lay a bouquet of flowers in Green Park, near Buckingham Palace, on September 10, 2022.   (MARIE-ADELAIDE SCIGACZ / FRANCEINFO)

“25 years ago I went to Kensington Gardens to lay flowers for Princess Diana, she says, and today I share this historic moment with my daughter.”

She describes an emotion just as strong as after the accidental death of the “princess of the people”, but an atmosphere “more peaceful, like a sweet sadness, without the tragic dimension that surrounded the disappearance of Diana, which was such a shock. The queen was a 96-year-old lady and, although we are sad, we tell ourselves that she has lived a long and full life, notes Cris.

A photo of the Queen was laid in a flowerbed, in Green Park, London, on September 11, 2022.   (MARIE-ADELAIDE SCIGACZ / FRANCEINFO)

These commemorative outings are a collective affair, motivated by a sense of duty that is difficult to understand on the other side of the Channel. “Yes, we pay homage to the Queen, of course”assures Chantalle, 15, and her friends, Kaylah and Liona, leaning on a bed of roses, tulips, daisies and other sunflowers. “We came to thank her.” Yes, okay, but thank her for what? The friends look at each other and improvise with a smile of complicity: “Uh… for everything.”

Wiqar, 51, puts it simply: “She has always carried a message of mutual aid and solidarity.assures this Londoner. All her life, she stood with us. These gatherings allow us to express our gratitude for his dedication and to be together.”

Wiqar and her son, Rayan, lay flowers in Green Park, near Buckingham Palace, in London on September 10, 2022.   (MARIE-ADELAIDE SCIGACZ / FRANCEINFO)

In short, to put into practice what the British believe to have been the teachings of the Queen. All while practicing this activity which, according to legend, is in the pantheon of the nation’s favorite disciplines: queuing.

The Mail, the avenue that connects Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, is closed to traffic: workers are busy preparing for the Queen’s last visit to the castle which was her official residence (if not her favorite ) for 70 years. On Tuesday, the body will be taken to Buckingham Palace, before being transported again the next day, via the Mail, to the Palace of Westminster, for a four-day vigil open to the public.

“Four days is what is planned, but the vigil could last four months. There would always be people lining up to attend,” smiled Tim, a 40-year-old subject of His Majesty, who crossed paths with the City on Friday evening.

Passers-by lay flowers and come to pay their respects near Buckingham Palace, London, September 11, 2022.   (MARIE-ADELAIDE SCIGACZ / FRANCEINFO)

“I would really like to take my children there, but it will depend on our ability to queue for hours”he says to Peter, a childhood friend he found in a London pub.

Based in Uxbridge, west of the capital, Tim also argues “the story” to justify this commemorative fever. Without thinking too much, he says, he got into his car as soon as the news of Elizabeth II’s death was announced on Thursday evening, and was among the first to lay flowers outside another royal residence, Windsor Castle. . He describes a desire for communion that would be a reflex for anyone who grew up respecting “the nation’s grandmother”.

A little boy looks at flowers laid in Green Park near Buckingham Palace in London on September 10, 2022.   (MARIE-ADELAIDE SCIGACZ / FRANCEINFO)

A respect that, like the crown, is transmitted from generation to generation. But if the subjects gathered by the thousands in recent days have inherited this affection for Elizabeth II, the years to come will tell us if Charles III will in turn be able to embody a model and an identity.

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