Britain faces first day in more than 70 years without its Queen, as country mourns
King Charles III returned to London on Friday where he will address the nation as the United Kingdom faces a new era without Queen Elizabeth II at its helm.
Tributes have poured in from across the globe for Elizabeth, who died at age 96 on Thursday after the longest reign in British history, a seven-decade period during which she oversaw the last throes of the British empire, weathered global upheaval and domestic scandal, welcomed 15 prime ministers, and dramatically modernized the monarchy.
UK Prime Minister Liz Truss said Queen Elizabeth was “one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known” as she paid tribute to the late monarch in Parliament on Friday.
Truss called for the country to rally around the new King, saying he deserved “our loyalty and devotion” as he takes Britain forward into a “new Carolean age.”
As the UK goes into a period of national mourning, the coming hours and days will see an itinerary of events to honor the life of Elizabeth and guide the transition ahead. But her passing leaves a void for the UK at a time of steep challenges, amid a change in political leadership and a looming economic recession.
Though Britons rarely looked to the monarchy for political leadership, the late Queen was a steady presence highly esteemed by many throughout decades of significant change that saw Britain transform from a war-weary declining imperial power into a modern multi-cultural state.
World leaders from across the globe issued statements honoring Elizabeth’s life, underscoring the global impact she made during her 70-year reign. Elizabeth was head of state not just in the UK but in 14 other Commonwealth realms including Australia and Canada, and was head of the 54-member Commonwealth — the overwhelming majority of which are former colonial territories of the British Empire.
As the day began on Friday and the UK entered its first full day of mourning, church bells rang out in the Queen’s honor across the country, gun salutes were fired in royal parks in her memory, and people gathered outside Buckingham Palace in London.
Some shops, including department store chain Selfridges, decided to close as a mark of respect, and Premier League soccer games have been postponed this weekend.
King Charles III is expected to make a televised address to the nation on Friday afternoon after meeting with Truss, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London will hold an evening service to mark the Queen’s death at 6 p.m local time, which will be open to the public.
As monarch, Queen Elizabeth is automatically granted a publicly funded state funeral, and details will be released in the coming days.
Arrangements will be made for her to be transported back from Balmoral Castle in Scotland to London, where she is expected to lie in state for several days before her funeral.
Other formalities to come include a meeting of the Accession Council in an ancient ceremony at the 500-year-old St. James’s Palace in London, which will take place on Saturday. One part of that meeting will include a formal announcement of the sovereign’s death, and a formal proclamation of King Charles III as the new sovereign.
This is a closed meeting but attended by hundreds of dignitaries and members of the Privy Council, which is a panel of royal advisers, and will be followed by the Garter King of Arms — the person charged with overseeing royal ceremonial duties — reading the Proclamation from the palace balcony and gun salutes will across the capital.
The King has asked for a period of Royal Mourning to be observed from Friday until seven days after the Queen’s funeral, according to a Buckingham Palace statement issued Friday.
Royal Mourning is observed by “members of the royal family, royal household staff and representatives of the royal household on official duties, together with troops committed to ceremonial duties,” it added.
Royal residences will also close until after the Queen’s funeral, according to the palace.
On Thursday, after her death was announced, crowds of mourners — some visibly shaken by the news — braved downpours to gather outside Buckingham Palace, Balmoral and other royal residences. Many returned on Friday, laying flowers at the gates of the palace.
More than eight out of 10 people in England and Wales have never known a monarch other than Elizabeth, according to CNN analysis of 2021 census data.
Some mourners outside Buckingham Palace told CNN how fearful they felt about the months to come, without the Queen to offer the type of stability she provided to the UK during times of political upheaval. Britain, which is grappling with its new identity since leaving the European Union, has had four prime ministers in a little over six years.
“She’s always kept the country together in moments (of national crisis),” said James Cox, 22, from Bristol, southwest England. “It’s quite uncertain now.”
Kamaljit Singh Kundra, 50, from Coventry, central England, spoke of the sense of “calm” the Queen gave to the UK. “It just felt like we had some sort of hold on the country” while she was on the throne for seven decades.
Others spoke about their mixed feelings about the monarchy itself. “I’m Indian, and we were colonized by the British. But the monarchy is always changing, especially with the younger generation coming in,” Om Shah, an 18-year-old student from London, told CNN.
The outpouring of sympathy included a statement from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who called the Queen “a reassuring presence throughout decades of sweeping change,” and another from US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, who said the Queen “defined an era.”
In Asia, India declared a day of mourning on September 11. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in a tweet Friday morning that the Queen would be “remembered as a stalwart of our times,” while Chinese leader Xi Jinping called Charles on Friday to express his “deep condolences,” Chinese state media said.
French President Emmanuel Macron praised the Queen for her service and love of France. “Elizabeth II mastered our language, loved our cultures, and touched our hearts,” he said Friday.
“To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was the Queen,” Macron added. “She will be with all of us forever.”
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