Thousands of people have gathered across the United Kingdom to pay tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, as her son Charles ascends to the throne amid a wave of global mourning.
People flocked to Buckingham Palace in London and other royal sites on Friday as the royal family was preparing funeral services for the United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch.
Queen Elizabeth died “peacefully” on Thursday at age 96 after reigning as sovereign for more than 70 years, Buckingham Palace said. Despite her advanced age, some expressed shock at the death of the head of state.
“I think there really was that whole sense of, ‘Oh, we’ll have her forever.’ And unfortunately, that’s not been the case,” a mourner told Al Jazeera outside of Buckingham Palace. “And I think we’ll really miss her, wish she could have carried on longer.”
Another woman in the crowd recalled the queen’s assuring messages amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “The impact of just a few words from her kind of settled the nation in a way that nothing else really can,” she said.
Reporting from London, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons said a “sense of permanence” came with the late queen’s decades-long reign.
“She was known as the grandmother of the nation, but to the people here, they think she was much more than that: in the good times exuding charm and fun; in the bad times, giving comfort and calm,” Simmons said.
A man outside Buckingham Palace spoke of mixed emotions amongst the mourners. “Everyone here is reflecting the same sadness but at the same time gratitude for her service to our country and its people,” he told Al Jazeera.
People had piled flowers and written tributes on the outer gates of Buckingham Palace. The crowd greeted Charles, who has taken the title King Charles III, when he arrived at the palace in the UK capital earlier in the day.
Mourners also rallied to pay respect outside Windsor Castle, west of London, and Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands, where the queen died.
“It’s not as if it wasn’t expected but it’s a shock. It’s just she was such a rock, wasn’t she, for so long really,” Deborah O’Brien, who was visiting Balmoral from Norfolk, in eastern England, told the Reuters news agency.
Alice Hendry, a 48-year-old textile designer, was among the crowd outside Windsor Castle, where a constant stream of people came to lay flowers.
“What an amazing lady,” Hendry told Reuters. “She was working right up until two days before, swearing in a new prime minister. That’s quite remarkable. You know, when somebody takes an oath to serve their country and their sense of duty to last their whole life. I mean, what a shining example of that.”
Meanwhile, international tributes continued to pour in for the British queen on Friday, and US President Joe Biden confirmed that he will attend her funeral. “I don’t know what the details are yet, but I’ll be going,” he said.