‘I will miss her so’: World reacts to the death of Queen Elizabeth II

The city of Sydney pays a spectacular tribute to Queen Elizabeth II - Jaimi Joy/Reuters
The city of Sydney pays a spectacular tribute to Queen Elizabeth II – Jaimi Joy/Reuters

Tearful commuters kneeling outside the British consulate-general in Hong Kong. An impromptu Haka performed at the Auckland War Memorial by young people in army fatigues.

Candles flickering outside the British embassy in Berlin as God Save the Queen echoed across the canals of Venice.

And the flowers. So many flowers, a life of walkabouts and royal tours that could have been measured in children’s posies commemorated with a riot of blooms as wreaths and bouquets were left at official buildings from Indonesia to Ireland.

In Tokyo, members of a ballet company brought armfuls of white lilies and roses to place outside the British embassy.

We knew how much Queen Elizabeth II meant to the world. Of course we did. Throughout her 70-year reign, she was met with jubilant crowds, parades and celebration whenever and wherever she travelled beyond these shores.

So yes, we knew. But we never felt it, truly felt it, until now. The extraordinary outpouring of sorrow, of love, has been nothing short of astonishing, but heartwarming and comforting too.

Members of a Tokyo ballet company lay flowers outside the British embassy - Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP
Members of a Tokyo ballet company lay flowers outside the British embassy – Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP

As political leaders, crowned heads, staunch republicans and ordinary people across the globe expressed their sadness at her passing, they conveyed condolences not just to her family but to us, her people. It was impossible not to be filled with pride and gratitude even in the midst of our mourning.

An enduring figure of unity in life, it should have been no surprise that in death the late Queen also brought people together. But the scale of the gestures, both spontaneous and well-orchestrated, extended far beyond what most of us expected.

Our much-vaunted special relationship with America was self-evident. At Flushing Meadows, the US Open tennis tournament paused for a minute’s silence. At the NFL’s opening game, the Rams and Buffalo Bills did the same. The Yankees soundlessly paid their respects in the Bronx before Thursday night’s game.

The United Nations rose to its feet. The Empire State Building was transformed in purple and silver light, echoing the colours chosen for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The New York Stock Exchange stood for a monarch who transcended politics and national borders alike.

Emotions were raw. “It’s like your mom died, because we’ve grown up with her, and her family,” said Nick Perry, who runs Tea & Sympathy, a New York restaurant serving British favourites. “I’ve had so many people turn up here today in floods of tears. Men. Americans.”

Barack Obama, the former US president spoke with real affection about a friendship that survived and thrived after his nervous wife Michelle broke strict royal protocol by putting her hand on Queen Elizabeth’s back during their first meeting.

She generously put Mrs Obama at ease by returning the gesture, placing her hand on the First Lady’s shoulder, sparking an enduring bond that outlasted the Obamas’ tenure at the White House.

“Michelle and I were lucky enough to come to know Her Majesty, and she meant a great deal to us,” said Mr Obama. “Time and again, we were struck by her warmth, the way she put people at ease, and how she brought her considerable humor and charm to moments of great pomp and circumstance.”

Joe Biden, the current president, praised the late Queen as “the first British monarch to whom people all around the world could feel a personal and immediate connection, whether they heard her on the radio as a young princess speaking to the children of the United Kingdom, or gathered around their televisions for her coronation, or watched her final Christmas speech or her Platinum Jubilee on their phones”.

It is this sense of personal connection that has contributed to Britain’s status and reputation. Queen Elizabeth was uniquely punctilious when it came to her role. Her sense of duty always came first.

Last month, she interrupted her Balmoral break with a heartfelt statement to Arif Alvi, Pakistan’s president, in which she said she was “deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the floods across Pakistan”. On Friday, Mr Alvi expressed his sadness and “sincere condolence to the Royal family, the government and people of Great Britain”.

In India, prime minister Narendra Modi observed that Queen Elizabeth was “a stalwart of our times” who had “personified dignity and decency in public life”.

In Brazil, the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer, overlooking Rio de Janeiro, was lit up in red, white and blue. The UK flag was also projected, along with the Israeli flag, onto the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau, the president, said the late Queen’s “steady grace and resolve brought comfort and strength to us all”. Canada, he said, was in mourning.

In France, the Eiffel Tower descended into darkness within hours of Queen Elizabeth’s passing. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said the UK would forever “bear the seal of she who embodied it for 70 years” as he paid tribute to her “unwavering strength and moral authority”.

He also hailed her contribution to the Second World War effort, when she became a mechanic and ambulance driver, and her later roles as a wife and mother.

“Then all these faces, all these names, gave way to a single title, and a single profile printed on stamps, coins and the imagination of the whole world,” he said.

So it was that the late Queen’s image, so magnificent and familiar, was projected onto Sydney Opera House and a 96-gun salute was givenat Parliament House in Canberra.

Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime ninister, put into words what a great many felt when he said: “With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, an historic reign and a long life devoted to duty, family, faith and service has come to an end.

“There is comfort to be found in Her Majesty’s own words: ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’”

Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime minister, signs a book of condolence in Canberra - Mick Tsikas/AP
Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime minister, signs a book of condolence in Canberra – Mick Tsikas/AP

The late Queen, of all people, would surely have understood the myriad ways in which different cultures expressed their feelings for her.

“Papua New Guineans from the mountains, valleys, and coasts rose up this morning to the news that our Queen has been taken to rest by God,” Prime Minister James Marape told his country. “She was the anchor of our Commonwealth and for PNG we fondly call her Mama Queen”, he said.

Queen Elizabeth touched many lives in many places. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, like so many others who knew and admired her, cited her “grace, dignity, and dedication”, describin her as “a reassuring presence throughout decades of sweeping change”.

In Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, the president, said that “the story of modern Nigeria will never be complete without a chapter on Queen Elizabeth II, a towering global personality and an outstanding leader”.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, spoke of his “deep sadness” at the news, saying the UK and the Commonwealth had suffered an “irreparable loss”.

There were messages too, from nations who, to put it delicately, do not share Britain’s robust social and democratic values. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, contacted King Charles to “wish you courage and resilience”. President Xi Jinping of China expressed his “sincere sympathies to the British government and people”.

But it was the comments from those who had spent time with the late Queen that rose above the diplomatic white noise. Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, said: “Her commitment to German-British reconciliation after the horrors of the Second World War will remain unforgotten. She will be missed, not least her wonderful humour.”

Queen Elizabeth II was a monarch who kept her own counsel in public yet revealed a quick, sometimes mischievous wit in private. Diligent and dutiful, but also kind and compassionate. The very embodiment of keeping calm and carrying on.

Our Queen. But also the Queen. A reassuring beacon of continuity and steadfastness to people across the planet.

When Mr Trudeau observed that “she was one of my favourite people in the world and I will miss her so”, he spoke for us all.

Published by anthonyhayble


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