Las Vegas Review-Journal

The world’s queen dies

‘Devastated’ Brits lead farewells to Elizabeth

- By Jaweed Kaleem and Christina Boyle

LONDON — By the dozens, then the hundreds, then the thousands, Britons from all walks of life converged on the ornate gates of Buckingham Palace in central London, first in fearful anticipati­on, then in mourning for the only monarch that virtually any of them had ever known.

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and a symbol of stability in a turbulent era that saw the decline of the British empire and disarray in her own family, died Thursday after 70 years on the throne. She was 96.

The palace announced she died at Balmoral Castle, her summer residence in Scotland, where members of the royal family had rushed to her side after her health took a turn for the worse.

In London, some wept. Some clasped hands. Others gazed around somberly,

lost in their own thoughts.

Even before the formal announceme­nt late Thursday afternoon, as the day’s last light was vanishing amid bursts of rain, crowds had begun to form outside the palace, the official residence of British monarchs since the 19th century.

“It’s a somber moment,” said Jeffrey Julien, 57, a Londoner who watched the British flag being lowered to half-staff to mark Elizabeth’s death. “She is one public person in this country who has been present on TV, in news, for my entire life. She was the constant.”

As word spread earlier in the day that members of the royal family were hurrying to the queen’s side, crowds in the capital broke into a rendition of “God Save the Queen.”

Later, they switched to different lyrics: “God save the king,” in recognitio­n of the seamless transition to a new sovereign, King Charles III, the late queen’s eldest son.

Above the coalescing throngs at the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace, a rainbow implausibl­y appeared — a scene captured in countless photos and that swiftly spread online.

Mourners held flowers and candles. Pictures of corgis lit up their smartphone­s — the queen’s favorite dog breed — as did photos of Elizabeth waving to crowds in the 1950s and others of more recent public appearance­s, including with thenu.s. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Amal Shezad, an American visiting from New York, said she had come to get a glimpse of a familiar touristic sight, the changing of the guard.

Instead, she saw what would likely be a once-in-a-lifetime event, the real-time grieving for a dead queen.

“I’m witnessing history,” Shezad said.

World leaders extended condolence­s and paid tribute to the queen.

In Canada, where the British monarch is the country’s head of state, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s eyes were red with emotion as he saluted her “wisdom, compassion and warmth.”

In India, once the “jewel in the crown” of the British empire, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “She personifie­d dignity and decency in public life. Pained by her demise.”

U.S. President Joe Biden called her a “stateswoma­n of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States.”

The death of Elizabeth comes at a turbulent juncture for Britain.

Prime Minister Liz Truss, appointed by the queen just 48 hours earlier, pronounced the country “devastated” and called Elizabeth “the rock on which modern Britain was built.”

Winter portends a punishing energy crunch, with gas and oil prices skyrocketi­ng past what many can afford.

Economic and social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, the 2020 split from the European Union, is only now beginning to be fully felt. Britain has emerged as one of the staunchest internatio­nal supporters of war-battered Ukraine, with all the obligation­s that entails.

The BBC’S presenters had switched to somber black garb even before the official announceme­nt of Elizabeth’s death, first flashing on smartphone and television screens, then swiftly spread to stunned passersby.

Aboard a British Airways flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to London‘s Heathrow, the captain took to the intercom shortly before landing to inform passengers of Elizabeth’s passing.

Telling passengers he had sorrowful news to convey and wanted to give people time to reflect, the captain said the long-lived monarch had died with her family by her side.

“I thought I should at least tell you before you arrive at the terminal, as I know many will be very, very sad about this,” he said, calling it the “saddest of days.” Cabin crew wept in the rear of the plane and passed teary-eyed up and down the aisles.

“I suppose the British monarchy goes on,” the captain told passengers. “I should finish it by saying, ‘God save the new king.’”

In a brief statement, Charles paid tribute to a “cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother.”

British and television radio stations all switched to coverage of the queen’s death. National mourning and remembranc­e, as well as adjustment to life under a new monarch, will last for days, if not weeks.

A funeral was to be held after 10 days of official mourning.

 ?? Alastair Grant Pool The Associated Press file ?? Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, seen waving in London in 2012, died Thursday at age 96.
Alastair Grant Pool The Associated Press file Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, seen waving in London in 2012, died Thursday at age 96.

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