Sombre mood reigns in London, beyond as UK mourns Queen Elizabeth

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Britain has begun a 10-day mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II, with bells tolling around the country and 96 gun salutes planned in London – one for each year of the late monarch’s life.

Hundreds of people arrived overnight to leave flowers outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, the monarch’s London home, or simply to pause and reflect.

Some people wept when officials carried a notice confirming the queen’s death to the wrought-iron gates on Thursday.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from outside Buckingham Palace, said: “It is going to take a long time for this news to sink in … But on this first full day of mourning, crowds are again gathering outside Buckingham Palace as they will at other royal sites.

“The sombre reality of it all reflected very much on the nation’s newspapers this morning. These very heavy commemorative editions [were printed]. The Sun says ‘We loved you Ma’am’. The Daily Mail says ‘Our hearts are broken’,” he said.

In Balmoral, Scotland, people have also been paying tributes at the castle where the queen passed away.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson, reporting from outside Balmoral Castle, said: “They have been carrying flowers and personal notes. One of the notes read: ‘Thank you for your service, your dedication … you have been a source of inspiration and a calming figure.’”

A person reacts near floral tributes by an entrance to Balmoral Castle [Russell Cheyne/Reuters]

Everyday politics were put on hold, with MPs set to pay tribute to the monarch in parliament over two days, starting at noon.

Many sporting and cultural events were cancelled as a mark of respect, and some businesses – including Selfridges department store and the Legoland amusement park – shut their doors.

On his first full day of duties on Friday, King Charles III, Britain’s new king, prepared to meet with Prime Minister Liz Truss and address his nation.

He spent much of his 73 years preparing for the role, taking the throne in an era of uncertainty for both his country and the monarchy itself.

Truss and other senior ministers are expected to attend a remembrance service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Friday.

Charles, who became the monarch immediately upon his mother’s death, will then be formally proclaimed king at a special ceremony on Saturday.

After a vigil in Edinburgh, the queen’s coffin will be brought to London, and she will lie in state for several days before her funeral in Westminster Abbey.

‘God save the King’

As the second Elizabethan Age came to a close on Thursday, the BBC played the national anthem, God Save the Queen, over a portrait of the monarch in full regalia as her death was announced.

The flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-mast. And in the one of the first of many shifts to come, the anthem played on Friday was God Save the King.

The effect of Elizabeth’s loss will be huge and unpredictable for Britain. She helped stabilise and modernise the monarchy across decades of enormous social change, but its relevance in the 21st century has often been called into question.

The public’s abiding affection for the queen had helped sustain support for the monarchy during the family’s scandals, but Charles is nowhere near as popular.

Mariam Sherwani, 31, Londoner, said: “It’s the queen, she looks like my grandma. She kind of feels like that as well. My mum’s first thing was, you know, Charles can never replace her, you know, and that makes sense.

“On the other hand as tenants living together, my flatmates were saying this is going to affect the way we live. Economically. It’s already tough, it’s going to get tougher. It just feels really weird,” she added.

Charles called his mother’s death “a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family”, adding: “I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”

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