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LONDON, United Kingdom – Central London became a maze of mourners Monday morning, September 19, all wanting to secure a spot along the procession route of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
Some had camped out overnight at The Mall, a long stretch of road near the Buckingham Palace, a road that, as the voice on the speaker ringing through the area said, Her Majesty had traversed herself all too many times before.
Those who joined only in the morning were pushed beyond into Hyde Park corner where they settled to see the hearse, instead of the gun carriage with the royal family walking behind.
Still, it was worth the trouble for those who came to pay their last respects.
“I’m a royalist. I love pageantry. I love how the British do this. I’m from the Philippines, we don’t have this, we don’t have royal families. It’s a sad day for me. I’ve been here 20 years. I saw the queen as my second mum, England as my second home,” Filipino nurse Ben Vega told Reuters.
An estimate of 2,000 mourners jammed London Monday, after four and a half days of enduring queue for the queen’s lying-in-state at the Palace of Westminster, seat of power of the British government.
“Thank you Ma’am,” the free Metro paper splashed full spread, keeping travelers company as most of the shops were closed for the holiday.
Even the skies were quiet – London Heathrow canceled all Monday flights.
“We all thought she was invincible,” Prince William told mourners.
It’s a profound moment of grief and celebration of the life of a beloved figure, which leaves only a small place – at least this week – for the oppositions against the monarch and the Republican sentiments, or those wanting their nations, not just the United Kingdom, to become a republic and part ways with the Crown.
“We will never not need the monarchy,” said racer Sir Jackie Stewart, a friend of the queen, over a morning broadcast of state-run BBC.
Anthony Albanese, prime minister of Australia, one of the 15 realms where the Crown is head of state, has stepped on the brakes on Republican talk even though a referendum on becoming a republic had grown stronger since his term.
Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand and also one of the realms under the Crown, said her country will become a republic “in her lifetime.”
The Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary group that chose the Queen, and now King Charles III, as its head has 56 members, or 2.6 billion people which make up a third of the world.
Fourteen (14) of those nations now have as their head of state King Charles, a less popular monarch not helped by tumultuous past years for the royal family – sexual assault accusations against Prince Andrew, and Harry and Meghan “stepped back” from duties as senior royals.
“I’m not particularly mad about the royal family but I like the queen. I wasn’t going to miss it, though – I had to be here,” Vicky McConkey told Reuters.
After the ceremony at the Westminster Abbey, where Queen Elizabeth was crowned and married, London observed two minutes of silence, followed by a playing of God Save the King – the first time in 70 years of God Save the Queen.
“We’re so happy you’re back with Grandpa. Goodbye dear grannie, it has been the honour of our lives to have been your granddaughters and we’re so very proud of you,” grandchildren Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie said.
When the hearse carrying the queen drove past Hyde Park corner en route the Windsor Caste where she will be buried next to her parents and Prince Philip, mourners dispersed and went on their day as transport resumed normal operation.
Some bleak prospects also returned to reality after a standstill week – inflation is feared to reach a peak of 11% in October, and one million people are pegged to go poor once winter comes because of soaring oil prices.
Exiled Filipino playwright and novelist Rogelio Braga said “the State is very powerful right now, I think majority of the British citizens here like the monarchy but they’re not really comfortable with how the police and the current government handles opposition.”
“There’s really a crisis I would say about freedom of expression or those with dissenting opinions,” said Braga.
Life goes on after the queen in Britain, no matter where it’s headed, whether life will be easy or very difficult. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com