Royal family: Britain mourns the loss of Queen Elizabeth as King Charles ascends the throne

LONDON– Britain’s new king was preparing to meet the Prime Minister on Friday and address a nation mourning the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, the only British monarch most of the world had known and a force of Stability in a volatile age.

The country began a 10-day period of mourning on Friday, with bells ringing across Britain and a 96 gun salute planned in London – one for each year of the Queen’s long life. People around the world gathered at British embassies to pay homage to the Queen, who died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Thursday.

King Charles III, who spent much of his 73 years preparing for this role, ascends the throne at a time of uncertainty for both his country and the monarchy itself.

On his first full day of work on Friday, he is expected to return to London to meet Prime Minister-appointed Liz Truss just days earlier and deliver a speech to the nation at a time when many Britons are preoccupied with an energy crisis, soaring cost of living , the war in Ukraine and the consequences of Brexit.

Hundreds of people came through the night to lay flowers or simply pause and reflect at the gates of Buckingham Palace, the monarch’s London home.

Finance worker Giles Cudmore said the Queen had “just been a constant through everything, good and bad”.

“It was just the basis of my life, the country,” he said.

Day-to-day politics were put on hold and lawmakers were due to pay tribute to the monarch in Parliament for two days from midday. Many sporting and cultural events have been canceled out of respect, and some businesses – including Selfridges department store and Legoland amusement park – have closed their doors.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the Queen’s death was a “huge change” for Britain and the world.

“A part of our lives that we took for granted is no longer there,” he said.

Elizabeth was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and a symbol of resilience in a turbulent era that saw the decline of the British Empire and the disintegration of her own family. Members of the royal family had rushed to her side at the family’s summer residence in Balmoral after her health deteriorated.

On Friday, Truss and other senior ministers are expected to attend a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Charles, who became monarch immediately after the death of his mother, will be officially proclaimed king in a special ceremony on Saturday.

After a vigil in Edinburgh, the Queen’s coffin is taken to London, where she will be laid out for several days before her funeral in Westminster Abbey.

As the second Elizabethan age drew to a close on Thursday, the BBC played the national anthem “God Save the Queen” over a portrait of the monarch in full regalia as her death was announced. The flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-mast. And in one of the first of many shifts to come, the anthem played on Friday was “God Save the King.”

The impact of Elizabeth’s loss on Britain will be huge and unpredictable. It helped stabilize and modernize the monarchy through decades of tremendous social change, but its relevance in the 21st century has often been questioned.

The public’s continued affection for the Queen had helped support the monarchy during the family scandals, but Charles is not nearly as popular.

Calling his mother’s death “a moment of greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” Charles added, “I know her loss is deeply felt across the country, in the realms of the realm and in the Commonwealth, and to countless people around the world will be felt.”

The changing of the guard comes at a difficult time for Britain – and just after a brand new Prime Minister has taken the reins.

Truss, who had been appointed by the Queen just 48 hours earlier, called Elizabeth “the rock on which modern Britain was built”.

Some people gathered outside Buckingham Palace wept as officials carried a note confirming the Queen’s death to the wrought-iron gates on Thursday. Hundreds gathered in the rain, and mourners laid heaps of colorful bouquets on the gates.

World leaders expressed their 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 greeted them with “wisdom, compassion and warmth”. In India, once the “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “She embodied dignity and decency in public life.

US President Joe Biden called her a “stateswoman of unmatched dignity and fortitude who has deepened the rock-solid alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States.”

Since February 6, 1952, Elizabeth has reigned over a Britain which, after a destructive and financially draining war, had rebuilt and lost its empire; joined and then left the European Union; and made the painful transition into the 21st century.

Outlasting 15 Prime Ministers, from Winston Churchill to Truss, she became an institution and icon – a reassuring presence even for those who ignored or loathed the monarchy.

In her final years, she became less visible as age and frailty limited many public appearances. But she remained at the center of national life as Britain celebrated its platinum anniversary with days of parties and pageants in June.

On Tuesday, she officiated at a ceremony at Balmoral Castle to accept Boris Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister and name Truss as his successor.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Royal family: Britain mourns the loss of Queen Elizabeth as King Charles ascends the throne

Laura Coffey

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