“My little girl is learning history at school. Now she has the opportunity to experience it. We all want to be a part of a moment like this.” Jane and her family watched, confused, as the crowd entered the funnel – a space surrounded on one side by a wall, on the other by a fence. – heading to Buckingham Palace. Sunday 11 September, thousands of people come and go, every hour, on the paths that cross the Green Park, in the hope of gathering as much as possible in the palace, after the death, Thursday, of Elizabeth II.
From here, Google Maps reckons it’s about a three-minute walk. The security guard who informed the small family was less optimistic: “About two hours.” His Majesty’s subjects returned. Facing the crowds, they “live the story” a little more.
Earlier today, the Queen’s body left Balmoral, en route to Edinburgh. So the focus turned to Scotland, the first stop on Elizabeth II’s last trip to Britain. But in London, as in all the high places of the British monarchy, the crowd continued to perform its unofficial ceremony, with its codes and its automatisms.
“Thanks for everything.” “Thank you for your dedication these 70 years.” “We will miss you.” Green Park, adjacent to Buckingham Palace, became Britain’s largest flower garden in just a few hours. The trees are surrounded by flowers, cards, drawings, notes, photos and, sometimes, 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 many Britons have with Elizabeth II. “It’s normal to be here”, explained Cris, 48, from Surrey who contributed with his 13-year-old daughter, Eve, to this expanding bouquet.
“25 years ago I went to Kensington Gardens to lay flowers for Princess Diana, he said, and now I share this historic moment with my daughter.”
He described an emotion as strong as after the accidental death of the “people’s princess”, but an atmosphere “more peaceful, like a sweet sadness, without the tragic dimension surrounding the loss of Diana, which was a shock. long and full life, Cris notes.
These commemorative outings are a collective activity, motivated by a sense of duty that is difficult to understand on the other side of the Channel. “Yes, we honor the Queen, of course”assured Chantalle, 15, and her friends, Kaylah and Liona, leaning against a bed of roses, tulips, daisies and other sunflowers. “We came to thank him.” Yes, okay, but thank him for what? The friends look at each other and improvise with a smile of complexity: “Uh… for everyone.”
Wiqar, 51, puts it simply: “He always brought a message of cooperation and unity.assured this Londoner. Throughout his life, he stood with us. These gatherings allow us to express our gratitude for his dedication and companionship. “
In short, to apply what the British believe the teachings of the Queen. All while practicing this activity that, according to legend, is in the pantheon of the country’s favorite disciplines: queuing.
The Mail, the passage that connects Trafalgar Square with Buckingham Palace, is closed to traffic: workers are busy preparing for the Queen’s last visit to the castle that is her official residence (if not her favorite) within 70 years. On Tuesday, the body will be taken to Buckingham Palace, before being sent again the next day, by Mail, to the Palace of Westminster, for a four-day vigil open to the public.
“Four days are planned, but the vigil can last for four months. There are always people queuing up to attend,” smiled Tim, a 40-year-old member of His Majesty, crossing the street in the City on Friday night.
“I really want to take my kids there, but it will depend on our ability to queue for hours”he says to Peter, a childhood friend he meets 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 said, he got into his car when the news of Elizabeth II’s death was announced on Thursday night, and was one of the first to lay flowers outside another residence. of the king, Windsor Castle. . He describes a desire for communion that would be a reflex for anyone who grew up reverent “grandmother of the country”.
A respect that, like the crown, is passed down from generation to generation. But if the subjects gathered in thousands in recent days have inherited this affection for Elizabeth II, the years to come will tell us if Charles III in turn can create a model and an identity.