People from all over the world converged outside London’s Buckingham Palace on Saturday to mark the end of one era and the start of another, as Charles III was officially proclaimed king in the wake of his beloved mother’s death.
At a segment of Green Park, near the palace, rows upon rows of bouquets, photos, handwritten notes and flags formed an ever-growing tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at 96.
Children’s drawings, poems, postcards of horses and framed photographs were among the mementoes people brought to acknowledge the Queen, who was described as the “grandmother of the whole nation” in one sign.
Outside the palace, it was difficult to move amid the crush of people pressing against the barricades in hopes of laying flowers or catching a glimpse of a royal face in the cars coming and going from the palace gates.
Anthia Page, who came with her husband to lay a bouquet, said ordinary people are paying tribute to the Queen in the only way available to them.
“We just loved our Queen,” she said. “We’re old enough to remember her coronation, we remember her wedding, and she’s served us so well. She’s been a real support to the whole country.”
The crowd that came to the palace on Saturday hailed from all around the world, including Canada. With access to the Buckingham Palace gates largely barricaded off, bouquets piled up the base of nearby trees and in impromptu stacks on the ground. In Green Park, flags from Denmark, Hong Kong and Cameroon sat among the flowers.
Ben Sisokin, A Canadian from Oakville, Ont. who moved to London a year ago, said the outpouring of love was a tribute to the Queen’s ability to unite the world.
“It seems very apparent, especially now, that she had a wonderful way of bringing people together,” he said. “You look around here and there’s people from all over the world, but also all walks of life,” he said.
His girlfriend Carly Duffy, who is from Toronto, wiped away tears as she struggled to explain what the Queen meant to her.
“It’s very emotional,” she said.
“I don’t know why I’m crying!” she added with a smile as she wiped away tears.
King Charles III was officially proclaimed Britain’s monarch Saturday in a pomp-filled ceremony in London. He was also named King of Canada in a separate ceremony at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall that was attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Charles, who spent seven decades as heir apparent, automatically became king when his mother died. But the accession ceremony was a key constitutional and ceremonial step in introducing the new monarch to the country.
The Queen’s picture is everywhere across London, from billboards in the theatre district to pub and coffee shop windows — a testament to what seems like near-universal respect in England’s capital.
Charles, on the other hand, enjoys lower approval ratings than his famous mother, and has been hurt by high-profile scandals dating back to the time of his marriage with Diana, the late Princess of Wales. More recently, the monarch has faced speculation over his relationship with his youngest son, Prince Harry, who acknowledged tension with his father in a 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Those who gathered outside Buckingham Palace on Saturday agreed the new King had big shoes to fill, although many expressed at least cautious optimism.
Page, who lives just outside London, said she didn’t use to like Charles in the Diana days but has come to feel he’ll be “even more a king of the people than his mother.”
She said this personal touch was obvious on Friday, when Charles returned to London from Scotland and almost immediately went to greet mourners outside the palace gates.
“He seemed quite comfortable talking to people, which I don’t think our Queen would have done,” Page said.
Rod Froneman, a South African who now lives in London, said he felt Charles was ready to rule after more than 70 years in waiting.
“Hopefully with his mom reigning so long, he’ll learn a few lessons from her and I’m sure (he) saw from example what to do,” he said. “I think he’ll be fine.”
Sisokin and Duffy, the Toronto-area couple, said they were still undecided about King Charles III.
“I neither like him nor dislike him,” Sisokin said, adding he was encouraged after seeing television images of the new king getting out of his car to greet people.
“I think it’s important to build connections with those people like his mom did,” he said. “In my mind, that’s a good sign.”
But the focus around Buckingham Palace on Saturday remained the Queen — as the sea of flowers showed.
The royal family confirmed Saturday that the public will get more chances to say goodbye when the Queen lies in state for four days, leading up to her funeral on Sept. 19 at Westminster Abbey.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2022.