Thousands of people gathered at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, with many of them placing bouquets at the wrought iron gates to mourn the death of the Queen.
The atmosphere was sombre and the crowds remarkably quiet, save for infrequent bursts of applause and sporadic renditions of God Save the Queen.
As night fell there were hundreds of bunches of flowers and rows of flickering candles as crowds remained outside the royal residence, with many huddled under umbrellas and tearfully consoling one another.
Dozens of police officers lined the gates while mourners draped a huge union flag across the Victoria memorial opposite.
Among the crowd in the early evening was David Horrocks, who was born in 1959. The Queen had been the only monarch he has ever known.
“She has been so strong, she’s seen a lot of adversity with what she’s seen in the country,” he said. “She has proved to be a very strong character, someone to look up to.”
Horrocks had come after the news to pay respects for his father, a royalist who was a member of the Royal British Legion and who had met the Queen.
“I’m hoping that she has actually helped to build a legacy that will actually remain, but of course, it depends very much on – is Prince Charles the person to actually do that? I hope he is. We’ll find out.”
The feeling of loss was palpable as the crowd continued to swell despite a light rain. For many, it was a moment to reflect on the Queen’s extraordinarily long tenure, while others spoke wearily of what the loss portends for a new government and head of state.
Linda Hlonjwa, visiting from South Africa, was saddened by the news, but noted her country’s colonial past that has yet to be reckoned with. “Things are changing at home. We’re learning a lot.”
But it is not a good moment for Britain, said Hlonjwa. “She just welcomed the new prime minister two days ago, and now she passes away. It’s a lot of change, I hope they can just sustain what she started.”
Maura Ford was making her way through the crowd with a bouquet in hand to pay her respects. “Two days before she died, she brought in a new prime minister. And she did not let up. And she kept her vow of being a servant to all the people of Britain and the Commonwealth,” said Ford tearfully.
With a new government in place, Ford, who is British-American, hopes its members will fulfil their promises, but said it is up to people to help others during this period.
“I think that we’re going to all have to put some stoic nature in our lives and help out other people as much as we can. And conserve ourselves, because this is not going to be easy for everybody,” she said.
Ed, who did not wish to give his surname, was one of several people placing their bouquets at the gates. The surrounding crowd were silent enough that the sound of squeaking bike tyres could be heard as cyclists passed nearby.
“It’s not unexpected,” said Ed. “But I remember that as I was growing up, my mum used to stand up every time the Queen was speaking. So I thought she would appreciate this.”
Growing up in Hong Kong, Ed belonged to a scout group which used to swear allegiance to the Queen. “So she was the Queen to us, there was just one.”
Fighting back tears, Ed said he felt emotional standing outside the palace gates.
“There has been ups, lots of ups and downs,” he said. “But through all the turmoil, all the changes that we have experienced, she’s like one constant that you can rely on. So I thank her for that.”