Before arriving in London, my view of the British monarchy was, admittedly, skewed. As an American, Kings and Queens, tiaras and ball gowns, coronations and curtseys were a mythical reality for me. I understood that the British monarchy still existed, however, I did not comprehend how the monarchy ruled within the Parliamentary government, nor how locals felt by not electing their heads of state. However, soon my view of the monarchy would be irrevocably changed.
Arriving in London and preparing for my courses, I began my exciting adventure of exploring the city. One night after a day in London, I noticed on television Queen Elizabeth and below it the subheading “1926-2022”. Realizing that the Queen died, I was confused. Coming from an eight-year elected presidency and thrust into a lifelong monarchy, I had no idea how to feel or react. Her death felt foreign to me. However, my reaction was only minuscule to that of the United Kingdom.
London’s reaction to the Queen’s untimely death was swift. Every storefront showcased pictures of Queen Elizabeth, and walking through London, I felt as if I was in a museum solely dedicated to her memory. There seemed to be a dark cloud hanging over London after the Queen’s death. Even as a foreigner, I could feel the weight of what was happening within the nation, however, I did not have full cognizance. It was not until the Queen’s funeral that I could begin to paint the picture of her cultural significance.
For the Queen’s funeral, I headed to the streets of London where thousands of citizens gathered to watch the procession. While awaiting the Queen, I began speaking to locals about their perception of the monarchy, the Queen, and the changes in the country due to her death. Speaking to one woman, she explained that the Queen’s son, King Charles III, would ascend the throne and that all of the British pounds would now depict him. Another woman, hearing the conversation, described how the Queen would be present for Parliamentary meetings every week to ensure the prosperity of the nation, however, she did not have the power to make governmental decisions but served as a symbol and leader for the monarchy. She also told me how much she admired the Queen’s tenacity throughout her seventy-year reign and respected her charity work.
Experiencing the locals’ perspective of the monarchy added color to my painting of the Queen and made me feel a sense of pride and admiration. Therefore, when the two-minute silence to honor the Queen began, I fell into contemplative silence and began to grasp the gravity of losing a leader that had served not just for eight years but for seventy years, a lifetime! I no longer felt alienated from experiencing the Queen’s death and felt the shock, sadness, and uncertainty that many locals felt, and we all assured each other that everything would be okay.
My experience after the Queen’s passing immersed me into British viewpoints and culture and, rather than maintaining my American perspective, exposed me to the sentiments and outlooks of British locals. With my first broadened horizon, I cannot wait to see and experience more sunsets abroad!