WINDSOR | Bouquet of roses and condolence cards in hand, Vivian Bjorkenstamn is about to enter the grounds of Windsor Castle, where the public can now gather in front of the tomb of Elizabeth II.
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“She is part of our DNA, she will be sorely missed,” she confides, coming from Toronto to “pay tribute” to the sovereign, who was also head of state of Canada, one of her 15 kingdoms to his death.
Between subjects very attached to the monarch and tourists simply lucky to have reserved tickets on this specific date, hundreds of people crowded Thursday in front of the gates of the queen’s favorite castle, about forty kilometers west of London, which had been closed since his death.
In the queue, impatient visitors exchange their anecdotes about the monarch. “She had a presence”, “she gave the impression of knowing you”, says Julie Davies, who recounts having met her 40 years earlier during the inauguration of the hospital where she worked.
” I cried “
Accompanied by her husband Allan, she came from the Liverpool region to pray in front of the final resting place of Elizabeth II, buried in the George VI Memorial, named after her father. A moment they will remember “all their lives”.
Like millions of Britons, the 60-year-old couple followed the lavish funeral on television. “All of a sudden, when you actually see the castle, everything comes to life,” Julie explains, visibly moved.
Inside the castle, a long line crosses the park to the Saint-Georges chapel. It takes almost an hour. “A trifle” compared to the ten hours of waiting endured by thousands of anonymous people to gather in front of the coffin of the queen before the burial, underlines a couple from the region.
For them, it’s more about seeing “with their own eyes” a page of UK history.
For a few seconds, in front of the tomb, the murmurs disappear.
Elizabeth II’s name is engraved in gold letters on the black marble headstone, alongside those of her husband Prince Philip, who died in 2021, and her parents King George VI and Queen Mother Elizabeth.
The ashes of Princess Margaret, the monarch’s sister, also rest in the George VI Memorial.
“Seeing the Queen again alongside Philip, with her parents, was very beautiful, very moving. I cried, ”says Tracey Fletcher, who came from London with her best friend to say goodbye to the queen.
” Goosebumps ”
Like most Brits, “she’s everything you’ve ever known, she’s always been there,” she insists.
The two friends confide that they will return on pilgrimage to the castle, which welcomes around 1.5 million visitors each year.
“I feel really privileged,” continues Tracey, very happy to have been among the first people to see the royal tomb. The “best way” to say “one last goodbye” to their beloved queen.
Terence Tan, a tourist from Singapore, enjoys simply being there “at the right time”, completely by chance, but delighted to witness a “once in a lifetime” event.
Amy Schrader and her sister Sarah Exner, from Washington, bought their tickets as soon as the castle’s reopening date was announced. Hard-earned tickets, with a lot of “determination, stubbornness”, they laugh, delighted.
Amy feels “infinitely honoured” to be one of the first people to pay tribute to the Queen: “It’s so unique, I get goosebumps just thinking about it”.
In Windsor, moved visitors crowd in front of the tomb of Elizabeth II