Large palace with lots of people and flower bads
History,  London,  Travel galleries

Gallery: a farewell to a monarch

You must have been living on Mars, or as a hermit, not to have heard that Queen Elizabeth II passed away last week. Here in the UK we are in a period of official mourning such as most of us have never experienced. Whether you are a fervent monarchist, staunch republican or (like me) somewhere on a scale between those two extremes, it’s hard not to be fascinated by the sense of history that surrounds us right now.

Most of us have never known a Britain without the Queen. She came to the throne in 1952, before the majority of the population was born. So she has been part of the backdrop to our lives, unquestioned for the most part, adored by some, accepted by most and resented by a few. She popped up on news stories almost weekly: welcoming visiting dignitaries, opening a community centre, touring her realm. She oversaw massive change in the Commonwealth and here in the UK. And more changes are likely to follow her death, so this definitely feels like a moment in history.

London bids farewell

This post however isn’t about my own views on the monarchy or indeed those of anyone else. As a Londoner I simply felt the need to document a little of what is happening in my city right now. No. I’m not going to join the by-now famous queue to see the Queen lying in state. Even if I wanted to, my back couldn’t take the (currently as I write) fourteen hours of shuffling forwards for a brief moment in Westminster Hall.

But yesterday I visited Green Park to see the mountains of flowers laid in tribute. Our florists must feel as if Christmas has come early! My photos show just one small corner of the park; roughly half of what is a sizeable park looks like this. And if the presence of Paddington Bear surprises anyone, this article on the BBC website will explain it.

It was hard to take photos in the shade under the trees in the park. Please click on any image to open them in a slide show if you want to see the details.

Along the Mall to the Palace

I also took a walk down the Mall and past Buckingham Palace. I observed arrangements being made for the funeral on Monday and the lines of people paying their respects there. Roads are closed and there are dedicated walking routes in place all around this area. The logistical and security challenges must be immense, both here and all along the queue for the lying in state. And all this before five hundred VIPs arrive on Monday for the funeral itself!

I thought those of you who know London might be interested to see how different it looks, and feels, just now, as our capital bids farewell to a monarch.

I live in London; all these photos were taken in September 2022

58 Comments

  • Wind Kisses

    I love the story you have told here through your documentation, Sarah. The Queen is deserving all the love and honor she has received. She was. walking history lesson/book. I was always intrigued with her elegance and ability to seemingly take a deep breath as needed. She seemed so down to earth. She will be missed by Americans as well. This is a beautiful tribute to her, though eyes of your lens, and her city.

  • maristravels

    A lovely post, Sarah, and very proper, diplomatic comments on comments. It has been an interesting week or more. I didn’t watch the funeral today as I reckon it will be all over the screens tonight and I shall watch it then. I’ve had the radio on though so I know exactly what happened, as it’s been repeated over and over again. The cliches are being well used.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Mari – an interesting week for sure. I started watching the funeral out of curiosity and found myself more drawn in than I had expected to be – not so much by the service as by the ceremony of the processions before and afterwards.

  • leightontravels

    Wonderful shots Sarah, thanks for taking me “home” for a few minutes as I write this message from the hills above the city of Batumi in Georgia. Part of me would’ve loved to have spent just a few hours breathing all this in first hand and saying my own farewell. I can only echo what you and others have said. Partnered with everything else going on domestically and globally, The Queen’s passing leaves the nation at a major crossroads. It will be very interesting (and hopefully not too turbulent) to see how it all plays out from here.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      It’s very interesting being in London right now Leighton, but Georgia sounds amazing too! I hope to read about it on your blog in due course! The nation is in an interesting place for sure, but then it was anyway I guess.

  • Marsha

    No one has headed a country for seventy years. Few people live long enough to be able to do so. She led an amazing life, traveling more than probably anyone in the world, if your add her years of experience. She provided a degree of stability, and definitely was a target of either devotion or discontent. She had to bear them all. It’s interesting all the discussion of flowers. I’m not a super flower person, but it is expected that people would bring them, I think, but the spark of controversy over them was a surprise to me. Your photos are newsworthy, Sarah and really capture the importance of this event in history. I wonder how life will change there, if it will at all.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Marsha 🙂 To be honest there’s not been a huge amount of controversy around the flowers that I have heard – the main concerns early on were about the plastic left around them, but they now have teams of volunteers dealing with that! I suspect life here won’t change a lot due to her passing, as the monarchy is largely a ceremonial role. Other factors are having / will have much more impact, like Brexit and the possible break up of the union if Scotland votes for independence.

  • Marie

    This is a lovely tribute and a perfect capture of the moment….. Elizabeth has earned a lot of admiration and respect (even on this side of the Irish Sea!!) and I for one will be tuning in on Monday.

  • Margaret

    For some reason I can’t see your photo’s Sarah which is strange as I always have before. I see this [modula id=”17262″] – but can’t click on it. Am I not doing something I need to?

    I would have loved to have visited London had we not just returned from Norfolk and I would have joined the shorter queue a few days ago. A couple of miles at such a slow pace is endurable for me but not at current timings. I must say I’m enjoying some of the jokes I’m reading about ‘the queue’, there’s some really funny ones going around. I mustn’t be very British as I detest queuing 😬 I think for many people it’s about ‘being part of history, showing unity and doing something, anything, rather than just wanting to file past a box and a crown. I believe there’s now a queue to join ‘the queue’ plus another queue to watch!
    It was interesting to see the difference in the amount of flowers left at Sandringham when we visited the day after the Queen died compared to when William and Kate visited. Loads more as you would expect.
    It’s all a momentous, historic occasion as you say and I wish Charles (or perhaps I should say King Charles III) all the luck in the world. He’s going to need it in my opinion. I can’t see him finding it easy to stay silent over those things he feels passionate about and nor should he – but others will disagree! 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      It’s really odd you can’t see the photos. That code you’re seeing is the one I paste in to link to my Modula gallery but it shouldn’t show in the blog, and I assume from the comments that other people can see them OK. Maybe try again? It could have been just a temporary blip?

      Yes, I know people who’ve gone just to look at the queue and the thought did cross my mind while I was in the area but I decided that would be a bit too mad! It definitely seems to have become a thing in its own right and I think people are now queuing as much for the experience of being in the queue and saying they were there as for that of filing past the coffin, although many do seem to be genuinely moved by the latter. And I do agree the king will need a fair bit of luck and will also need to steer a careful path. He has big shoes to fill and I suspect there will be plenty looking out for any slip-ups, as they might perceive them. I’ve heard rumours that he wants to modernise the monarchy a bit and slim it down, which would be no bad thing. And I hope he finds a way to pursue his passion for the environment in a way considered appropriate to the role.

  • RosalieAnn Beasley

    I am old enough to remember a time before she became Queen. Our first visit to England was in 1950 and when her father died, I was in high school. But I really wasn’t paying much attention to the monarchy then – we didn’t watch much TV. Sometimes people would say that I looked like her (or the other Elizabeth – Elizabeth Taylor), but I couldn’t see it myself.

    More recently – before she died – I was watching some TV documentaries on the Windsor family. I don’t know enough about how things go over there, but after I looked at your marvelous photos, I read some of the comments and I wondered – what could she have done about Boris? Is it possible for the monarch to reject a Prime Minister?

    They are bringing flowers to the British Embassy here in D.C. too. I don’t think you can keep people from doing that. It seems to be hard wired in that the way to honor the departed is with flowers or something similar. Over here we put wreaths on soldiers graves at Christmas and that costs an enormous amount of money (not to mention time) just to do Arlington Cemetery. I don’t think people would donate to a charity instead of giving flowers. I think if they were prohibited from giving flowers, they would just not do anything.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      No, there was no way she could reject Boris as he was democratically elected. The way it works is that the monarch accepts the resignation of the departing PM who goes either because her/his party has lost a General Election or because, as in Boris’s case, they have to resign as party leader for one reason or another. The monarch then invites the new PM to form a government but it’s more of a ceremonial act than anything else. The PM is de facto the leader of the majority party and the people choose that party. The oddity at the moment is that only party members choose the party leader, so Liz Truss was ‘elected’ by just a relative handful of people who are paid-up members of the Tory party – the rest of us didn’t get a say whereas we did (unfortunately) get the chance to vote for Boris. The monarch is supposed to stay out of government policy even though they give the speech outlining forthcoming legislation at the annual State Opening of Parliament. Having said that, none of us is privy to the weekly private audiences between monarch and PM so it’s feasible that the Queen occasionally expressed an opinion. And in theory the monarch CAN sack the PM although I can’t imagine the circumstances in which that would happen – general incompetence certainly isn’t a sufficient reason. Maybe for treason …??? And I think if a PM ever refused to vacate the post after a vote of no confidence the monarch could give them a bit of a shove, reminding them of their own constitutional responsibilities.

  • Sue

    Great set of images, Sarah….like you, I’m an in betweener, but I have to say, I admired her work ethic. And pleased she went as she did, no long drawn out illness. By the way, I’ve sent a ‘contact’ message to see if we can meet up

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Sue. Yes, I’m with you on the work ethic and also not having a long drawn out illness. As I said to Jo, that was much better for all concerned – her, her family and the country. Sorry I couldn’t make next week work, but let’s keep in touch and hopefully meet up in October 🙂

  • restlessjo

    It seems no time since crowds of adulation were gathered for the Jubilee, Sarah. That was a joyful occasion. It must be very hard for her nearest and dearest to go through this enormous circus, respecting history and her wishes or not. And I’m happy for her that she managed to fulfill her duty for as long as she did, without lying suffering, and is now reunited with Philip, the one she loved best.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      All very true Jo, and despite the shock, going quite suddenly like this, when just two days beforehand she was still working, must be better than a long drawn out illness for all concerned – her, her family and the country.

  • Anna

    Great set of photos Sarah. I was in London during the queens mothers passing and was front row of the passing vehicles. I still have my photos of family driving past. It was so cool even though a sad occasion .

  • Rose

    Thank-you for sharing this, Sarah. I enjoy your personal perspective far more than that of the televised media. It is sad that so much money is wasted, in the guise of honoring her. I felt the Queen was a decent example in leadership, especially compared to other leaders around the world in the last few years. My condolences on your country’s loss. May the future leadership hold far better values than the past.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you for your thoughts Rose. She did set a very decent example, but as you know the role of the monarchy in leading our country is quite limited. I suspect she will have been horrified at some of the things that happened under her watch, especially recently. She was overheard, rather controversially, expressing a view that we should stay in the EU, for instance. And I can’t believe she was stupid enough to think that Boris was anything other than a buffoon, particularly as she had to meet with him weekly! I don’t think there’s anything much wrong with King Charles’ values either, but again his influence will be limited – although it’s possible he may try to meddle a little more, as he has a track record of doing so as Prince!

  • bitaboutbritain

    I lived and worked in and around London for years, so really appreciated your photos and insight. Thank you. The photos are part of the narrative too. If I was still in the south, I would have gone to something. But we are paying our respects to this remarkable lady in our community, and homes. We have been watching the coverage and we will stand on the green tomorrow at 8pm and be lost in our thoughts. This is history in the making – or, rather, we recognise it as such. I think the comments about flowers are perfectly valid, btw.
    Wonderful post, thanks Sarah xxx

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Mike, and yes, we do feel as if we are living through a significant moment in history. It’s not just the death of a long-serving and respected monarch, I also feel that we could be at a turning point in how we see the monarchy and the role it plays. Will King Charles perhaps take the opportunity to modernise the institution, especially given the recent ‘scandals’? Will the UK break up further and if so how will the monarchy fit into the new model?

      • bitaboutbritain

        Join us in future episodes for the answers to these, and other, intriguing questions… Personally, I don’t want the UK to break up (I don’t see the advantages for anyone – it would also be expensive and extremely disruptive). Nor, for all its faults, do I want to lose the monarchy. The idea of a partisan elected head of state fills me with horror.

        • Sarah Wilkie

          I agree with you on both points. But I do have some sympathies with Scottish people who have had enough of recent government actions and decisions. I can see why they would want out, even though I hope they don’t go.

          • bitaboutbritain

            On that basis, whole swathes of the country could decide to opt-out because they didn’t like what government did. You could have little states popping up all over the place! 🙂

  • Sandy

    Whatever we may think about the monarchy in general, the sincere appreciation of the queen is remarkable. It’s a historical moment in Britain’s history & it must be something to be living it in London now. The floral tribute is something to see. On the one hand it’s very touching but it does seem such a waste. But I suppose that same could be said about a lot of other things. These tributes at least, are very personal. Thanks for sharing the photos Sarah.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, there’s definitely a lot of sincerity in these messages and tributes. The flowers are well-meant and as I said to Margaret and Jude below, I suspect that even if Charles said something about the waste (and yo would think he must recognise it as such, given his passion for green issues?) most people would still want to bring them. They like to leave a visible sign of their emotions and a charity donation just wouldn’t cut it, unfortunately.

  • Heyjude

    I can see why if you live in London you would want to capture the moment(s) but the amount of coverage on the TV is overwhelming. It’s just too much. And I have to wonder how many people queuing for so long are doing so because they approve of the monarchy or just want to be part of history.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I totally agree about the TV coverage. It was appropriate on the day of her death, of course, and to be expected for the funeral, but the days in-between have been crazy. For three days at least BBC 1 seemed to show nothing else. But my husband, who used to work for the Beeb, says they have to do it because many people want and expect it. I guess it is hard for them to find a balance and please everyone. I’m sure you’re right that many people do just want to be part of history but I think that’s a valid response. It’s what drove me to go up to town to see all this. I wouldn’t go so far as to queue but I did want to get a sense of the impact it’s had on the city and the atmosphere there at present.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I have other US friends who feel the same. One is due to arrive here on Wednesday (a long-ago planned trip, just a coincidence) but is wishing she were here in time for the funeral, while another would have dropped everything to come if her father weren’t very ill. And a German friend told me she would come to queue for the lying-in-state if she could get off work, but can’t. It seems slightly odd to many of us that people from other countries feel stronger than many Brits do.

  • margaret21

    Like you, I’m a bit of an in-betweener when it comes to the monarchy, though I certainly had respect for the queen. It’s the flowers I don’t understand. People have even left bunches in the churchyard in our village, where only some locals will see them, where they’ll simply lie there and rot. Spending the same money on a donation to a food bank or any worthwhile cause might have been more to the point.

    • Heyjude

      The flowers make me quite upset – just think of how much money could have been donated to any of the Queen’s charities! I’m sure she would have preferred that and I am sorry that Charles hasn’t said something about this very expensive compost.

      • Sarah Wilkie

        I completely agree about the flowers, especially those left in other places (we saw some around the war memorial in Reading when we were there earlier in the week). But I suspect that even if Charles said something most people would still want to bring them. They like to leave a visible sign of their emotions and many have messages attached as you can see. At least now they have a system for collecting all the plastic wrappers and bags – there are tables at the entrances to the area (there are temporary barriers around most of this part of the park), with volunteers taking the wrappings and binning them properly, sorting plastic from paper etc.

        As an interesting side note, at present at least we all seem to be comfortable saying ‘Charles’ rather than ‘the king’ or ‘King Charles’, whereas I doubt any of us just said ‘Elizabeth’ when referring to the queen! We got so used to it over the years. Do you think that will continue or will it start to seem odd???

        • Heyjude

          I think I have always referred to the Queen as ‘The Queen’ and Charles as ‘Charles’ not Prince Charles. I can’t see me changing. Royal titles don’t mean much to me.

      • margaret21

        I can see that it would be difficult to say something which the donors might take umbrage at. But it is upsetting. I gather that it has been impossible to satisfy the demand for orders for Monday. They’re coming from as far away as Turkey. The best we can do is be happy for the florists who will have had a successful week.

          • thehungrytravellers.blog

            This is certainly a uniquely historical time…remarkable that someone as old as me has only lived under a single monarch. I think my two favourite stats have been… 94% of the world’s population was born during her reign; and her first PM (Churchill) was born in 1874, and her last (Truss) was born in 1975. What changes the world has seen in that time frame!

          • Sarah Wilkie

            I hadn’t heard that stat about the world’s population – amazing! Oddly enough, we were at a talk the evening before given by Michael Cockerill of the BBC (my husband as an ex-employee gets invites to occasional interesting events) and he was describing his interviews with 12 out of the 15 PMs who have served under her. He’s written a book about them which I’m about to start reading – should be fascinating!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, that’s so true – from what I can see the UK is at the centre of attention right now and the gathering of Heads of State and dignitaries for the funeral on Monday will be one of the biggest ever, anywhere. I wouldn’t want to be in charge of security!

  • Easymalc

    You’ve provided a perfect snapshot of the occasion Sarah. For many of us in Britain this is a momentous occasion, and even as time moves on I‘m convinced it will be remembered for a very long time. Thank you for showing us how London is paying its respects to such a remarkable woman.

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