A hush descends

In 1997, when Diana, Princess of Wales, died, I went into Central London to witness the outpouring of grief that the UK experienced. London had never been so quiet.

Earlier today, after the Queen’s death yesterday, I went to Buckingham Palace to join thousands of other people who were there to pay their respects, cover the event for the media, watch what was going on, or perhaps catch a glimpse of the new King. It was a sombre affair but unlike 1997, this was a new generation — equipped with their mobile phones, taking selfies and other photos.

Despite the changes between 1997 and 2022, people were still respectful. Many came to lay flowers outside the Palace. I was struck by the diversity: young and old, different ethnic origins, locals and tourists — all united by the Queen’s death.

When I walked along The Mall towards the Palace, I noticed some of the media were quite far from the Palace. I wondered why they weren’t closer. When I got close to the Palace I realised why: there was no mobile phone signal because everyone was sending photos to friends!

The Queen’s husband died last year, about 18 months ago. Prior to her loss, she seemed in good health. Of course, few people knew what her health was really like because public figures don’t reveal ill-health unless it’s unavoidable. However, since Prince Philip died, her deterioration has been noticeable. They were married for 73 years — and the loss of one was bound to take its toll on the other.

The media were everywhere. I was fascinated how bare the setup was for some reporters. There was usually a camera operator and presenter. However, sometimes, I saw a lone presenter with their mobile phone on a tripod and lamp to illuminate their face. For the large media broadcasters, there were marquees set up, facing the Palace. Many reporters followed the “Zoom dress code”: smart on top, jeans/trainers on the lower half! (I saw later, at home, that Channel 4, a British TV channel, were broadcasting from one of the large tents.)

As I started making my way back to the tube station, the police started clearing the centre of The Mall, asking people to walk on the pavements. I wondered what was going on. Before I had time to think, the new King, Charles, and Camilla, the Queen Consort, came by in their car! It all happened so quickly but I did get a photo. That was lucky.

When I got home, I heard the King’s first speech. In it, he announced there would be a new Prince and Princess of Wales and that his wife would be known as the Queen Consort. This took me back to 1997. If Prince Charles and Diana had remained married (a big if), she would now be Queen — such are the vicissitudes of life.

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