United Kingdom: The last goodbye of a country united by the duel of the queen | International


The last goodbye before the new beginning. A human tide has collapsed on Monday in central London, which has become the scene of a national communion on the occasion of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. They went out into the street to say goodbye to the monarch with whom they have grown up on the television in her living room, on the stamps, on the banknotes. The woman who managed to make each other feel part of the same national project and who now unites them again in mourning. It has been ten days that have changed the country. That they have restored the national pride and international stature that have been weakened in recent times. The United Kingdom has once again become the center of a world that has celebrated its most illustrious and admired figure. It has been a kind of balsamic truce whose final point has been the burial of the queen in the chapel of St. George in Windsor.

Sitting on a bench in Hyde Park, surrounded by a crowd, Rebecca, who came from Bournemouth (in the south of the country) for the occasion, reflects on how they got here: “Very hard things have happened to us lately. The queen’s death has come after Brexit, the pandemic, in the midst of the inflation crisis. But as a nation we always come together; It’s the British way.” At his side, a man he has just met continues: “Yes, the queen’s death has brought us together, but once this is over, the problems will still be there,” fears Samuel Anderson, owner of a semiconductor factory in Belfast. and that he has flown from Arizona (USA) to be at the funeral today. The unit has also been projected abroad and the world has watched with fascination the exquisite workings of the machinery of protocol and British tradition at its best. Gone are the rain of regrets that nothing works in this country. “It’s okay to feel pride after being the laughing stock of half the world,” believes James Bauer-Doodson, an electrician from Leeds.

In the queue of a van selling coffee and scones, Stewart Richards, dressed in an impeccable plaid suit, also alludes to the UK’s international image, tarnished by a tortuous divorce from the EU and the series of political scandals that culminated in Boris Johnson’s departure as Prime Minister. “We had always been very respected, but in recent times he has been embarrassing. If only we could always be like this, in peace…”. And he continues: “We have a new king and a new prime minister. A line has been drawn and we start again, with a new image before the world”, reflects this 53-year-old man, who works in the protocol of Parliament.

Not far from there, hundreds of people sitting on the ground did not take their eyes off the giant screens on which the funeral and funeral procession were projected live. There were people of all ages. With tracksuit and suit jacket. All willing to live this historical moment that they knew would not be repeated throughout their lives. They wanted to participate in this collective ritual and contribute to writing the history of this country. “It’s about absorbing, being aware of what has happened. To share it with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with,” says Jordan Wright, a very young film director dressed in black and with a pearl necklace. There is a silence in the crowd. The coffin has just left Westminster Hall on its way to the abbey and the cell phones go off. No one wants to miss that moment.

A group of people gather in Hyde Park to watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II live. Lewis JOLY (AP)

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Restaurants, schools, shops, health services… all have closed today. The day of the Queen’s funeral had been declared a national holiday. The extreme calm that is felt in the neighborhoods of London contrasts with the intensity of emotions and the formidable logistical deployment that the burial in London has entailed. 10,000 agents deployed in an operation of enormous scale and complexity. Hours before the funeral, all the accesses to the funeral procession route were fenced off and the police and an army of volunteers channeled the human rivers.

The people, patient, did not protest despite the queues, the crowds and the endless detours on foot to which they were subjected. His determination to live this historical moment resisted any setback. Thousands of people have traveled at night to get to one of the events in the British capital. Others have camped on the asphalt in the heart of the city to be in the front row of the parades.

And, above all, the tail. Because that desire to be together and at the same time to be part of history crystallized in the queue that formed to access the burning chapel like nowhere else. It remained standing for five days and their corresponding nights until half past six on Monday morning. It lasted for kilometers and forced the thousands of people who paraded through it to wait for more than ten hours. The television, which did not stop connecting live – there were special envoys at the beginning and at the end of the queue – exerted a knock-on effect: families who had not planned to go ended up embarking for London in the middle of the night. Standing up all night became a challenge, an unforgettable adventure. Having been in the queue is something that they will tell their grandchildren about and will pass from generation to generation. Proof of this is the approximately one million people who have passed through London these days to witness the funeral ceremonies.

In their homes, thousands of people followed the silent parade of the burning chapel live, lost in thought. Others connected to the YouTube channel in which the authorities reported the length of the queue and the hours of waiting. Because it has been a week of ceremonies with the maximum pomp and splendor of the British tradition, but at the same time very contemporary. Everything has been broadcast live on television, radio and social networks. Those of the British royal house running at full throttle.

At times, there has been a certain feeling of catharsis. There are those who these days have mourned their dead during the pandemic. They couldn’t watch or bury them as they would have liked and now the queen’s mourning, the images of the coffin and the goodbye made those emotions find unexpected outlets. There were also those who recognized that she surprised herself saddened. That she hadn’t imagined they would feel this way, but suddenly they had the feeling that a member of her family had died. That when watching on television broadcasting every moment of the duel on a loop, they ended up succumbing to the national mood. But the weariness of those who consider the ceremonies and the outlay they require to be excessive has also transcended. Of those who want to get back to normality as soon as possible. Or those who protested on the radio because Monday, a national holiday, forced them to cancel their medical appointments in a country with star-length waiting lists.

From Tuesday all that will be part of the past. It is impossible to guess to what extent national reconciliation has permeated and will last over time or be ephemeral. On the fringes of the funeral procession, Vince Hutchins, an agricultural expert who has come with his son from the north to London to see the funeral procession, does not harbor much hope: “The truce will not last even a week. Everything will be forgotten and soon we will be back to before. To the strikes and the anger. He will see.”

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