LONDON: Hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the streets of London on Monday to honor and say farewell to Queen Elizabeth II, whose seven-decade reign meant she had been a constant throughout the lives of most people in the UK.
Her funeral service took place at Westminster Abbey, where members of the British royal family were joined by heads of state, politicians and other VIPs. Later, she was laid to rest at Windsor Castle.
Some of the people who gathered in the streets to watch her funeral procession pass by, and pay their last respects as the Queen made her final journey, shared with Arab News their own personal tributes to her, along with their thoughts on her successor, King Charles III, and the future of the monarchy.
“In my personal opinion, there will never be another monarch like the Queen because she’d been around for, I think, everybody’s lives because she served for so long. I think everyone will miss her,” said Craig Bell, a retired British Army officer who served with the Scots Guards.
He had come with colleagues to pay their respects and was amazed to see how many people had turned out for the historic event, which he said showed how important the Queen was to the British people.
Bell, who was drum major in his regiment and now works as a prison officer, said he met the Queen four times while serving in the army and that speaking to her “was like speaking to your grandma.”
She had a good understanding of people, he added, and was “really, really down to earth. She loved soldiers — her whole life she had loads and loads of time for people. I’ll miss her a lot.”
Looking to the future, he said: “Britain and the monarchy has become more diverse so I think, going forward, it will probably be a whole lot different in the future.”
Val Floyd, whose journey with a friend to London from Cornwall in southwestern England took almost six hours, was just two years old when the Queen took the throne. She said wanted to be part of the pomp and circumstance of the funeral and experience the atmosphere.
“She’s been like a mother figure and keeping the whole country stable,” she said. “That’s how I feel about her and I just wanted to be here to feel the atmosphere, which was electrifying; it was fantastic.
“I’m hoping the new king will be almost as good as the old queen. She was fantastic (and) I just think he’s done such a good job so far, because losing your mother and just dealing with everything he’s had to deal with, it’s been amazing, so I’m hoping that he’s going to make a good king.”
Farzana Khan, who was born and raised in London but whose family is of Pakistani origin, said she took part in many commemorative events that took place during the 10-day official mourning period that followed the death of the Queen on Sept. 8.
“She’s such a constant in our lives,” she said. “She’s a fantastic role model and we’ve had a feminine reign in our country for so long, so I felt compelled (to come) and I brought my children and friends down to give her the big farewell and let the family know, as well, that we’re here to support them for the future.”
Khan described the queen as a quiet and humble person but said King Charles has “got a little bit of a personality, some serious issues he cares about, like the environment.” She is optimistic and has “positive vibes” about his reign, despite the fact that he takes the throne at the relatively old age of 73, she added.
Rose Afshar, who is originally from Malaysia but has lived in the UK for many years, said she queued for nine hours to pay her respects when the Queen was lying in state at Westminster Hall, and waited a further five hours to see the coffin as it passed through the streets of the capital.
“It was magnificent, the place, the atmosphere, and I’m really thankful that we managed to get inside and we did our prayers for her,” she said. “I’m also thankful to her for making this country a very stable and prosperous country, from when she (became) queen until now.
“Also the policies of her governments have made it possible for those of us who are not born British, not born English, to be able to study here, settle here and make a good income in this country.”
Afshar said that when she was 10 years old, her grandmother, who was a royalist, showed her a picture of the Queen and she was mesmerized by her beauty and huge, shimmering crown, covered in diamonds, she wore. She said she asked whether she might go to England one day and her grandmother replied that the only way it would happen was if she studied very hard.
“I think, in the back of my mind, that made me study really hard and eventually, at the age of 16 or 17, I got a scholarship, came to England, did my A levels, went to university and then settled here — so, in a way, she (the Queen) was an inspiration to many of us girls,” Afshar said.
Burcu Salman, who moved from Istanbul to London two months ago, was keen to be part of such a special and historic moment.
“Many people came from all over the world (and) we are lucky to witness these moments,” Salman said. “I will never forget this day. Rest in peace Queen Elizabeth.”