LONDON – Gertrude Dudley recalls sitting on her grandfather’s shoulder in 1953 at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, a monarch she came to know as “the cloth of England.”
On Friday, Mrs Dudley, 78, a retired businessman, was mourning the queen’s death with a friend at a London cafe. Ms Dudley said: “This country is in such a terrible state, she is the only one who is stable. “She’s gone now, too.”
However, Chrissy Mash, 29, grocery shopping in London’s Islington district, had a different reaction.
“I was surprised how unaffected I was,” she said. “The monarchy does not serve any purpose and if it did, it would be replaced by the harmful effects of colonialism,” she said. “I’m not buying fanfare anymore, it’s a brutally violent past show.”
Signs of mourning and grief were displayed in the British capital on Friday as residents awoke for the first time in 70 years in a country where Queen Elizabeth is no longer monarch. Billboards and cinemas on the city’s main thoroughfares display tributes, canceled events, and small talk about the queen that kicks off first dates and business meetings.
But while Elizabeth’s death was a force of solidarity for many, conversations with Londoners also show signs of a generational divide, with many younger people expressing apathy, if not to say hostile, to the complex institution the queen represents.
According to a YouGov poll conducted in May, 74% of respondents aged 65 and over believe the monarchy is good for Britain, compared with 24% of those aged 18 to 24.
Some young people expressed fatigue at another royal breakdown after two years of multiple crises – including the coronavirus or the war in Ukraine. Others shared amusing jokes about the queen’s final public act of appointing Conservative Party leader Liz Truss as prime minister this week.
Many of the older generations can be seen wearing black as a sign of mourning, or flocking to buy newspapers with the king’s picture on them, and some recall memories of a young woman. Emperors have been with them for a long time in their lives.
Sitting in front of a candlelit photograph of Elizabeth in St James’ church in London, Angela Kennedy, 71, a retired fashion journalist, said she had struggled to cope with the queen’s departure. , whom she had met and admired for a long time.
“It was very difficult to accept it,” she said. “It really is the end of an era.”
Mrs. Kennedy recalled how the queen visited the media organization she worked for in the late 1970s. She said that while Elizabeth appeared to be more interested in magazines like Horse and Hound than fashion publications , she still spends time with her staff, looking “spotlessly beautiful” for the visit.
“She represents a puppet who is truly British,” she said, adding that she feels lucky to live in a country with a monarchy like Britain. “I just grew up with it, it’s just part of my life.”
That sentiment will likely be on display at memorials held for Elizabeth over the next 10 days, culminating in a funeral scheduled to take place at Westminster Abbey.
Outside the Church of St. At the gates of Buckingham Palace, flowers were laid – among them the newly enthroned King Charles III – and shots were fired honoring the queen’s life. Fashion shows have been cancelled, as have union meetings, festivals and protests.
Elizabeth Hastings, 69, who is named after the queen, was holding a newspaper with the king’s picture plastered across the front page as she walked to a yoga class.
“I was born in 1953, the year of her coronation,” she said, “I was raised with her reign and I read a lot about her growing up process,” she said.
Ms Hastings said she met the queen in the 1970s while she was working at the foreign affairs office in London, and she will forever remember her beautiful skin.
“Like a doll,” she said admiringly. “It was a really sad day,” she added.
Dave Stanley, 78, a retired butcher, walks his German Shepherd dog in London amid torrential downpours over the capital on Friday.
“I choked,” he said. “I was a kid when she was crowned; now she is dead. It was the end of an era. I can not explain. I’ve known her all my life. And now she’s gone.”
Felix Clarke, 31, manager of a co-working space in central London, stood at his counter seemingly unaffected by the news of the queen’s death.
He said that while every death is sad, he sees the royal family as an organization “founded on a colonial and racist past.”
Earlier that day, his mother and sister shared their grief in messages on their family’s WhatsApp group, but Mr Clarke refrained and did not add his thoughts.
“I don’t want to jump in and be rude,” he said.
Naf Raiyan, 29, who works in banking, said the queen’s death was like the departure of a celebrity, and while he has nothing against the royal family, “I just don’t think they’re related.”
He said his grandparents lived in what is now Bangladesh when it was still part of the British Empire, and the monarchy represented that colonial legacy to him.
“It doesn’t seem like the royal family is involved in anything these days,” he said. “But that’s ingrained in their roots.”
The whole concept of inheriting too much wealth, he added, “doesn’t really fit when other people have to work for it.”
Many young people also expressed feelings of grief, not so much from love for the royal family, but with the passing of the only monarch they had ever known, and the changing earth beneath them. again after what happened. difficult in the past few years.
With the coronavirus pandemic and war in Ukraine, the queen’s death and transition to a new monarch is another worrying factor, said Jordan John, 29, a bartender at the cafe. know. “You wonder what’s next?”
“So much has changed,” his colleague, Erin Williamson, 24. “I’m sick of change.”
Tilly Casey, 22, who was watching a giant screen at Piccadilly Circus that featured the queen’s face, said she was worried about the future.
“It’s the sense of security she gives,” she said. “Change is the biggest cause of anxiety,” she says.
Some young people said they admired the way the queen, as a young woman, shouldered the responsibility of becoming a global celebrity, even if they had no particular love for the royal family.
“She always meant hope for me,” said Laura Bello, reading a newspaper full of articles about the queen while on the train. She added that she felt drawn to Elizabeth because of the pressure she imagined she had to go through as a young monarch. “I don’t know Charles.”
“Now things will start to change,” she said. “This is a new England now.”