Standing room only as New York’s Churchill Tavern sees Queen on her way


Adam Gabbatt in New York

Mon, 19 September 2022 at 3:02 pm

<img src="https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/pIsoxxH4o3FRT0OU8Myp9Q–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3NztjZj13ZWJw/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/5vCYJqRpdIGzA3u2cS3sqg–~B/aD02MDA7dz05OTk7YXBwaWQ9eXRhY2h5b24-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/c31496eb1cee07d038010834c72d2d58&quot; alt="<span>Photograph: Yuki Iwamura/AP
Photograph: Yuki Iwamura/AP

It has been almost 250 years since the US announced its independence from the British monarchy, but in New York City on Monday morning there was plenty to suggest that some affection remains.

A mix of American royal family enthusiasts, flag-bearing British tourists, and scurrying local TV journalists filled the Churchill Tavern, a British bar a few blocks south of the Empire State Building, to watch the Queen’s funeral – the crowd observing an hour of hushed silence as the monarch was sent on her way.

Despite the early hour – the Churchill opened at 5.30am – seating was in short supply, with standing room only as people continued to arrive. Mourners were welcomed by a life-sized model of a Queen’s guard outside, and a somber, respectful atmosphere within.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the bar quiet for an hour and 10 minutes before, ever – nor would you ever really want it to be – but there was something quite surreal about that, and very respectful, and deeply moving, actually,” said Sinead Naughton, an Irish woman who owns the Churchill with her British husband.

A typical midtown Manhattan establishment, with a long wooden bar stretching down one side and scattered seating opposite, the Churchill is set apart from other watering holes by its swathe of Queen Elizabeth photos and paintings.

Naughton said many regular customers were British, and the bar has been open for every major British event since it opened 11 years ago. Naughton said she felt “we had to” open for the funeral.

Early on there was chatter among the attendees, but as the Queen’s coffin was lugged towards Westminster Abbey the bar fell silent. By 6am, when the service started, there was just the occasional clink of coffee cups from the bar as staff kept the patrons fuelled.

Some of the attendees had dressed for the occasion, including Jean Shafiroff, who was sporting a very large black hat.

Shafiroff, an American who serves on the board of several charities, said she had met Prince Harry in 2019 at a charity event in London. She attended Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in 2013, Shafiroff said: “But the Queen’s funeral is a harder invitation to procure.”

“Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II was a great role model for all people around the world. Her 70 years of service was extraordinary,” Shafiroff said. “We need more role models such as she.”

Everyone in the bar stood when the national anthem was sung in the abbey, and a few sniffs could be heard as the coffin was hauled back to the gun carriage.

Tracey Langton, who is from Nottingham, was on holiday in New York with three friends. They entered the bar wearing union flags stuck in their hair, but removed them for the service.

“We thought it was just a bit of respect, to take them out of your hair while the funeral’s on,” Langton said. One of her friends added that the flags had been blocking the TV.

The group had researched online where they could watch the service, and arrived at the Churchill bright and early. Langton said she was glad they came.

“I feel very proud, because it’s only the British can do pomp and ceremony like we do,” she said.

“We just wanted to pay our respects, and be with like-minded people that want to say goodbye to the Queen.

“And it’s part of history. We will remember where we were when we watched the funeral – it’s something to tell the grandchildren.”

Published by anthonyhayble

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