By the dozens, then the hundreds, then the thousands, Britons from all walks of life converged on the ornate gates of Buckingham Palace in central London, first in fearful anticipation, then in mourning for the only monarch that virtually any of them had ever known.
Some wept. Some clasped hands. Others gazed around somberly, lost in their own thoughts.
Even before the formal announcement late Thursday afternoon of Queen Elizabeth II’s death at 96, as the day’s last light was vanishing amid bursts of rain, crowds had begun to form outside the palace, the official residence of British monarchs since the 19th century.
“It’s a somber moment,” said Jeffrey Julien, 57, a Londoner who watched the British flag being lowered to half-staff to mark Elizabeth’s death. “She is one public person in this country who has been present on TV, in news, for my entire life. She was the constant.”
As word spread earlier in the day that members of the royal family were hurrying to the queen’s side at her summer retreat of Balmoral Castle in Scotland, crowds in the capital broke into a rendition of “God Save the Queen.”
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