Nation begins period of mourning for its ‘rock’ the Queen

·5-min read

The Queen will be commemorated by pomp and ceremony as the nation begins a period of mourning to mark the death of its former monarch.

Gun salutes will ring out in the capital and bells will toll across the country, with churches, chapels and cathedrals encouraged by the Church of England to open for prayers or a special service for mourners.

The Queen’s son and successor King Charles III spoke of his grief soon after Buckingham Palace announced the death of the 96-year-old monarch, who died “peacefully” on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral.

Flowers at the gates of Balmoral in Scotland
Flowers at the gates of Balmoral in Scotland (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Charles will now turn his mind to matters of state as he begins his first full day as the nation’s new monarch having spent much of his 73 years in preparation for the role.

Tributes have flooded in from around the globe, hailing the Queen’s unwavering commitment to serving her country and the Commonwealth.

King Charles III acceded to the throne immediately on the death of Elizabeth II, at the age of 96 in the sanctuary of Balmoral Castle.

One of the first acts of the new monarch – whose chosen title was confirmed by Prime Minister Liz Truss – was to speak of his grief and highlight the “respect and deep affection” in which the Queen was “so widely held”.

World leaders, celebrities and ordinary people – gathered at the gates of Buckingham Palace, Balmoral and Windsor Castle – all paid tribute, with US president Joe Biden describing her as “a stateswoman of unmatched dignity”.

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The nation’s new monarch King Charles III (Matthew Horwood/PA)

Liz Truss – just a few days into her role – heralded the late monarch’s “great legacy” outside Downing Street on Thursday as news of the end of the New Elizabethan Era became a reality.

“Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built. Our country has grown and flourished under her reign,” she said.

“Britain is the great country it is today because of her.”

Charles, whose wife Camilla is now Queen, said in a written statement: “The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family.

“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother.

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Charles and the Queen at Balmoral (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.

“During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which The Queen was so widely held.”

Buckingham Palace made the official announcement at 6.30pm on Thursday with a brief 26-word statement saying: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.

“The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

The new King and Queen – Charles and Camilla – will return to London on Friday, and the new monarch is expected to address the nation on television on Friday evening.

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Camilla and Charles are due to travel from Balmoral to London on Friday (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Gun salutes – one round for every year of the Queen’s life – will be fired in central London on Friday and the new monarch will hold his first audience with the Prime Minister.

The PM and senior ministers will attend a public service of remembrance at St Paul’s in central London.

On Saturday morning, an Accession Council – the formal proclamation of Charles as King – will take place at St James’s Palace in London.

The first public proclamation of the new sovereign will then be read in the open air from the Friary Court balcony at St James’s Palace by the Garter King of Arms.

Charles will hold audiences, and the media will be briefed by the Earl Marshal, who is in charge of the accession and the Queen’s funeral, on the coming days.

After the Queen’s health worsened, the royal family – including the Queen’s four children – Charles, the Princess of Royal, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex – and grandsons the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex – cleared their diaries and rushed to be by her bedside on Thursday.

Royal doctors had recommended she remain under medical supervision, with the Palace issuing an unusually detailed update earlier in the day, saying royal doctors were concerned for her health.

The Duchess of Sussex, whose troubled relationship with the monarchy has long been documented, remained down south after initially planning to accompany Harry to Scotland.

The Duke of Sussex at Aberdeen Airport as he travels to London
The Duke of Sussex at Aberdeen Airport as he travels to London (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge, as Kate’s title is now, stayed in Windsor – less than a 10-minute walk from Meghan’s Frogmore Cottage residence – with her children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis having had their first full day at school.

Behind the scenes, the long-held London Bridge plans for the Queen’s death are being rapidly put into action, setting out the next 11 days according to a strict timetable which will feature a lying in state and then the solemnity and grandeur of a state funeral.

The arrangements have a more complex factor due to the Queen’s death being in Scotland – and have triggered Operation Unicorn – the contingency plans in case of such an event.

Members of the royal family will be expected in the coming days to hold a poignant vigil around the Queen’s coffin in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, and the Queen’s coffin will have to be transported by RAF plane back to London.

She is expected to lie in state in a few days’ time in London, with her funeral held in Westminster Abbey in central London, most likely on Monday September 19.