The House was discussing energy, and our house-guests were impressed by the braininess of Keir Starmer (or so they told us later.) They were just wondering what to do next, when Parliament suddenly shut down. Just like that. They had to leave immediately. The Queen's death had been announced while they were right there.
Immediately I heard the news, the image above flashed into my mind. I saw it often in my childhood, spent in British enclaves in different parts of the world. A copy hung in a light oak frame in my dad's office at work, and her image was there in her blue sash and glittery diadem in the hall of every British school I attended abroad, too.
Her death shocked me more than I'd expected. She was 96 years old and had been in poor health for a while, but the thing was, she'd always been there, and suddenly she wasn't. Her profile had been on the coins I'd used to buy my comics with, her initials on the red pillar box as I stood on tiptoe to post my granny's letters. My parents and also my grandparents had all thought about her and talked about her and she was part of our lives. And now she was gone. Not only did I miss having her there, I also felt we had lost someone who lived a life of service and always put Britain and its people first.
Some folk do ask what this "service" consisted of. It is a fair question, since in some ways it seems that all she did was live in grand palaces, drive around waving at or shaking hands with people, opening concert halls or power stations or factories or schools, attending charity events, or carrying out elaborate ceremonial duties that entailed a great deal of pomp and flummery for everyone to look at. I knew she was actively interested in Parliament's doings, and read and commented on the state papers supplied to her, although she was not allowed to interfere in Parliament's running of the country. You could certainly say that Britain could have got on perfectly well without any of this. Many countries do.
But the difference between her job and everyone else's is that she was picked out when young to represent Britain non stop throughout the world for every single moment of her life, and she did this job to the best of her ability on our behalf for seventy years. The true nature of the service she gave, and what it meant to people, only dawned on me the following Wednesday. T and I happened to be in Piccadilly and we decided to go to nearby Green Park to see the area that has been temporarily fenced off to hold tributes left by members of the public.
We went, expecting something like Diana's tributes, perhaps. But it wasn't the same. It was even more overwhelming. Long before you even reached the garden, which is the middle of the park, you could see people had piled up flowers tributes and messages for the Queen all over the place. Each little pile had plenty to look at - pictures, small toys, letters, cards, and all kinds of beautiful flowers, as you see below.
These informal tributes became larger and more widespread as you approached the fenced area. Inside that, they all seemed to merge together, and flowers and messages and gifts stretched as far as the eye could see. It was crazy.
It felt to me as if everyone was responding to her as if she was their parent or grandparent, in some way personal to them. You know how a good parent is supposed to act. No matter how boring, tiring and limiting it is to work for your kids, good parents do it. Even when the kids don't appreciate it or are rude or reluctant, the parents carry on. The kids can be loving, fun and adorable too, and possibly this encourages the good parent to keep on getting up each morning to take them to school,working to give them what they need, showing them how to behave. But it doesn't make any difference to the basic thing that the good parent does, which is to keep sticking up for them through thick and thin.
And certainly it was a fact that no matter how she felt or what she would rather have done you knew the Queen would get up each day and do her duty, meeting and speaking and shaking hands, treating everyone with respect and courtesy and taking a humble interest in their lives, listening for hours to them while saying almost nothing about herself.
She travelled thousands of miles, whether she wanted to or not, because it was her job to represent our country all over the world. Who knows if she wanted to act as a figurehead and half-mythical figure for people to look at, talk about and have opinions about? They were not always the opinions she would necessarily have liked, I imagine. And she worked right up to a few days before her death.
And I like this photo of some people who had come with a beautiful floral crown one of them had made, they were wondering where to put it down.
You make some very good points here Jenny. Indeed the image of the woman, as queen and aged relative, has struck a cord. She has been around longer than most of the country and some react to that. Many, especially in England, still want a monarchy for whatever reason. Liz played the monarch role very well, little troubled her outwardly. It is not wonder she has so many responses here. There is much to debate re monarchy and republic, Charles ways will be different, he is a man after all, not a grannie, and will get a harder time than she did. Interesting to see how he responds in the coming weeks.ReplyDelete
Dear Jenny, Thank you so much for taking all these wonderful photos, and sharing them with your readers around the world. As I have watched the news reports, I have wished I could be there, up close, looking at the tributes, and now I feel that in a way, I have done that. Your tribute is beautifully expressed, and the whole farewell has been absolutely beautiful, and majestic. We have been glued to the telly! Every detail was so perfectly planned, timed, and executed. The British are amazing at that. I can just barely remember the Coronation, and now I can say I 'knew' the Queen my whole life. And seen her up very close several times. I feel very proud of that. God Save the King.ReplyDelete
I guess I would have gone to have a look, too, if I were in London. Your pictures give a good idea of how people feel the need to express their thoughts and feelings, people of all ages and provenance.ReplyDelete
Although she was never my queen in political terms, she was highly respected and much loved in my country, too.
Thank you, Jenny, for your very moving words and photographs of a tiny fraction of the tributes made to the Queen during this most profound period of all our lives.ReplyDelete
My partner met the Queen twice. She was friendly and had a great sense of humour. I'm not a Royalist at all, but she will be missed.ReplyDelete
I always enjoy your writing, Jenny and loved reading your thoughts here. The photos are appreciated too, providing an insight the news coverage didn't manage to convey, despite the extent of it all. Had I still been living in/around London, I would have gone up. Now she is really gone, it feels very odd without her.ReplyDelete
Jenny, this is astounding. I looked closely at each and every photo and the messages are so touching. Some are heartbreaking and all are beautiful. I think you can probably imagine how much I have thought of you and of London in these past days and how very much I would have liked to have seen this in person. Your photos are the next best thing. And so, too, are your thoughtful memories. I don't think anyone in this country can quite understand all this -- we are used to the constant (sometimes not constant enough) turn around of presidents, similar to your PM elections in a way. But no constant, like the Queen. It's a different, more complicated kind of relationship, I think, but one that is beautiful. I've often said you couldn't pay me enough to do her job -- every single day of her past 70 years, and really, in many ways before that while growing up. I admired her so. Thanks for this one.ReplyDelete
Thanks for posting this, Jenny - it makes me feel almost like I'd been walking around there myself! I also watched the funeral service from Westminster Abbey yesterday (live on Swedish television). She really left an imprint reaching far beyond her own "realm", and will be missed by people all over the world.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your beautiful post. I feel both admiration and sorrow.ReplyDelete
She truly was the thread that ran through everyone's life in your country. The thread that held things together through many difficult times. It is no surprise to me that her death has caused more of a reaction than anyone could have imagined.ReplyDelete
Jenny, this is incredibly touching to see. I am so glad the British public showed their affection for her in this heat felt and personal way. You are so right about her service to the country. As you say, it might not seem much on the surface, but her life was completely given over to performing her duties and she did it from the day she became Queen, three years before I was born, until just days before she died. She was endlessly gracious and dignified. I am no longer a British citizen, but she’s been my Queen throughout my life and I love it that she was honoured so sincerely by ordinary people.ReplyDelete
Oh, I thank you very much for showing us all the notes and flowers that you have shared with us here. If I had been there, I promise you I would have stood in that very long line of people to pay my respects. I would have!ReplyDelete
We followed the proceedings a fair bit. It seemed like the thing to do, and I am glad that we did it. She certainly had a job from which she couldn’t or didn’t retire, and I have to admire that. She did her job with class and dignity.ReplyDelete
That is an amazing display of flowers left in the park, people thought a lot of the queen. Like many people I have my own memories. My father had a photo taken in 1956 of the Queen at the RAF Freedom of the town of Wallingford. She is facing the RAF guard of Honour and a crowd of onlookers. At the back is a guy wearing a flat had holding up his little boy to see the queen. You can see quite easy it is my self and dad. Years later I worked at Diamond Light Source at Harwell and the Queen officially opened the facility along with Prince Philip. The group of guys I work with were presented to Prince Philip who spoke to us all about what we had help build. After not wanting to follow his party out we took another route and while getting to the staircase we spotted the Queen being escorted to meet the management so held back a few moments. We had to meet up with some other dignitaries to escort them around and accompany to lunch with the Queen which was where I went as well to have lunch in the Queens presence. After she made a speech to us all. We were on the balcony watching when she opened the facility. One thing I also remember is that the Queens Standard was flying at the place because she was in residence for over half a day. One day I will remember. I did not go to London for anything preferring to watch it all on the TV, I feel I am getting old for having to mix with a lot of people now, but I do feel happy for those who did go.ReplyDelete
Sorry this is late - - I don't know how I missed your post. The photos are so touching and truly overwhelming. I watched every moment of live coverage on Sky News. Experiencing this tribute was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Queen Elizabeth was one of the few people in modern history whom I genuinely admired and respected. She was an extraordinary monarch and a great lady. She was extremely consistent and it seemed like her reign would go on forever. She will be sorely missed.ReplyDelete
So happy to read your blog. Thanks for sharing these photos. I was saddened to hear of her passing also. I watched every minute of the funeral and before events, on T.V. I got up at 3am to watch the funeral, I live in Canada. If I had been younger and I would have hopped on a plane and joined the queue to visit her coffin in Westminster Abbey. I visited London in 2018 and visited Buckingham Palace, Windsor, climbed the tower, Kensington etc. I did a blog post last week on "Paddington and The Queen". She has earned her rest and we are thankful to have had her so long.ReplyDelete
Oh my goodness first I must mention how wonderful it was to see you stopped by my blog, it's been so long and thank you. Your post is incredible, and the attendance and love from all the people, and their offering is something she truly would admire and be over beyond the moon of delight. It is sad that she has left this life, but she has given such an amazing amount to all. Take care!ReplyDelete
Whether it technically can be called that or not, I personally consider Britain to be every bit a republic as it is a monarchy, and as long as the former remains in relatively good health, then I see no problem with the latter. And you certainly can't say your republic is in any worse shape than what exists here in the United States at the moment!ReplyDelete
I enjoyed reading the thoughts that ran on in your mind as much as I did looking at the photos.
The past couple of weeks have been filled with much emotion...mourning the loss of Queen Elizabeth ll. How very sad it is. The coverage down this way has been excellent, and in depth...and I was glued to my television almost non-stop...and to the daily papers which featured wonderful, memorable photos and stories. So, so sad...many tears have been shed....ReplyDelete
This made it so much more personal and intimate seeing all the cards, letters, and flowers. Thanks, Jenny! I think Elizabeth always had such dignity and genuine class. Her years of service are finally done. Worked up until she died.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Jenny, for this post showing how much the late queen meant to so many people. I watched much of the events online via BBC streaming. This public display of affection via all the floral displays and handwritten notes and cards was something I had not seen before. Queen Elizabeth was certainly admired by so many.ReplyDelete
One clearly sees that penmanship and good grammar are in need of improvement for many!ReplyDelete
Thank you, it's always a delight to see you've stopped by! Enjoy your weekend.ReplyDelete
I hope King Charles is as admired (if not adored) as much as Queen Elizabeth was. He waited and waited for such a long time, training and preparing for his place on the throne. I wish him well.ReplyDelete
Your post is amazing, Queen Elizabeth will be missed. The flowers and messages are touching.
Thanks for visiting my post. Take care, enjoy your weekend.
Jenny, thank you for showing the tribute that the people have shown in connection with the Queen's death. I was very upset to hear this news because I know how much Queen Elisabeth II has done for your country. She was the face of the nation. Rest in peace, Your Majesty.ReplyDelete
Jenny, I am so late to this post, but am so pleased I visited your blog today.ReplyDelete
A truly wonderful post, and I too add my thanks and gratitude to our Queen.
All the best Jan
You make some valid points...ReplyDelete