'You have to admire her': Visitors gather in London to pay respects to the Queen

·3 min read

LONDON — Tributes in the form of flowers, notes, stuffed animals grew outside London's Buckingham Palace on Friday as mourning for Queen Elizabeth II entered its second day, drawing visitors from around the world who were touched in some way by her 70-year reign.

A stuffed Paddington Bear, cards, pictures and handwritten notes were among the tokens that were piling up at the base of trees that line the road to the palace, where thousands of people had gathered to pay their respects as of Friday afternoon.

Canadian Peter Crooks, who was in London on vacation with his family, was among the visitors at the scene. He said he was honoured to pay his respects despite the sad occasion.

"I grew up with her, and she was something special to us as Canadians," Crooks said. "It's amazing the number of people and it's amazing to be here and be part of this."

Mary Louise Crooks, also travelling with the group of Canadians from near Thunder Bay, Ont., said she admired the Queen's life as a hard-working woman who made sacrifices in the course of her duties.

"She devoted her entire life to being Queen and probably gave up a regular life to do it. You have to admire her," she said.

Handwritten notes piled outside the palace also spoke to the Queen's extensive legacy.

"Rest in peace dear lady," one note read. "Britain will never be the same."

Visitors who hailed from around the world carried bouquets to lay in nearby parks.

News footage showed similar scenes unfolding outside other royal residences across the U.K., including Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where the Queen was photographed meeting the new prime minister this week.

Royal residences are to be closed to the public until after the Queen's funeral but the British Royal Family has invited people to bring tributes in the meantime.

In London, a large crowd gathered at Hyde Park as the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired a royal salute in the Queen's honour with 96 shots – one for each year of her life.

Not long after, mourners caught a glimpse of King Charles III, the Queen's heir and the kingdom's new monarch.

A small cheer went up from the people who lined the barricades along the road to the palace as the new King passed in a black car with his wife.

Outside the palace gates, the King passed through the crowd and exchanged brief greetings and handshakes with people who appeared eager to snap photos of the new sovereign.

It was unclear as of Friday exactly how long the royal mourning period would last.

A statement from Royal Family said official mourning would be observed until seven days after the Queen's funeral, for which an official date had not been set by late afternoon.

Flags at royal residences were lowered after the Queen's death was announced on Thursday, and are to remain at half-mast until the morning after the final mourning day, the statement said.

That ceremonial gesture was replicated in other commonwealth countries, including Canada, which saw flags lowered to mark her death. Ottawa said it was lowering flags at all government buildings in Canada and abroad.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2022.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press