World mourns ‘Elizabeth the Steadfast’

UNITED Kingdom (AFP) —Leaders from every corner of the globe briefly united Thursday in homage to Queen Elizabeth II, after the world’s longest-serving monarch died at her Scottish home at age 96.

Tributes poured in — from countries she had ruled over to those she had been at war with, from tiny territories to the mightiest governments on the planet, and from centuries-old institutions to nations that had not yet been born when she took the throne.

Global tributes to The Queen Elizabeth, who had ruled the United Kingdom since 1952 and was also head of state in 14 Commonwealth countries around the world, were led by the Commonwealth, the association of countries that were previously part of the British empire as well as its remaining overseas territories.

South Asia, where Britain was the colonial power until just before Elizabeth’s reign began, paved the way, with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he was “pained” by her death.

In the southern hemisphere, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa described how he and The Queen had reminisced together about Nelson Mandela, while Kenya’s president-elect William Ruto hailed her “admirable” leadership of the Commonwealth.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to her “timeless decency” and said her death marked the “end of an era”.

On the other side of the world, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Elizabeth, who as queen was Canada’s head of state, was a “constant presence in our lives, and her service to Canadians will forever remain an important part of our country’s history”.

The smallest Commonwealth members also paid tribute, with David Burt, premier of tiny British territory Bermuda, hailing her “life of undimmed duty”.

US President Joe Biden called The Queen the first British monarch to make a personal connection with people around the world, as he ordered flags at the White House and Government buildings flown at half-staff in her honour.

“Queen Elizabeth II was a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States. She helped make our relationship special,” he said.

Others who have taken a less friendly view of Britain also sent tributes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolence to King Charles III, wishing the new monarch “courage and resilience” after his mother’s passing, even as Britain leads the West in imposing sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

While Germany, which in The Queen’s lifetime went from Britain’s greatest enemy to a powerful ally, hailed her as a “symbol of reconciliation” after two world wars.

“Her commitment to German-British reconciliation after the horrors of World War II will remain unforgotten,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Argentina, which fought and lost a bitter war with Britain over the Falkland Islands in 1982, expressed its “regret” over Elizabeth’s passing. In a terse statement from the foreign ministry, the Government offered its sorrow and said it “accompanies the British people and her family in this moment of grief”.

At the United Nations, the Security Council held a minute of silence.

Queen Elizabeth had been “widely admired for her grace, dignity and dedication around the world. She was a reassuring presence throughout decades of sweeping change,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

European Union (EU) leaders expressed regret at the death of The Queen, who was Britain’s head of state throughout its entire EU membership and eventual departure.

“Once called ‘Elizabeth the Steadfast’, she never failed to show us the importance of lasting values in a modern world,” said EU council president Charles Michel.

Ireland’s President Michael Higgins called Queen Elizabeth II “a remarkable friend” who had “great impact on the bonds of mutual understanding between our two peoples”.

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, who supports Scotland’s independence from the rest of Britain, called her death “a profoundly sad moment for the UK, the Commonwealth and the world”.

The eldest of The Queen’s four children, Charles, Prince of Wales, who at 73 was the heir apparent in British history, became king immediately on Thursday.

Royal officials confirmed he is now known as King Charles III — the first king of that name to sit on the throne since 1685.

Hundreds of flowers and flickering candles were left at the gates of Buckingham Palace in central London, as billboards lit up in tribute across the capital with images of the queen.

In his first words as monarch, Charles called her death “a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family”.

“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother,” he added in a statement, signed ‘His Majesty the King’.

“I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth and by countless people around the world.”

Buckingham Palace announced The Queen’s death in a short statement, triggering 10 days of national mourning and a global outpouring of tributes to her long life and record-breaking reign.

“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” said the statement issued at 6:30 pm.

“The King (Charles) and The Queen Consort (Camilla) will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

From the steps of 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Liz Truss, who learned of the death two hours before it was announced, mourned “the passing of the second Elizabethan age” nearly 500 years after the first.

“God save the king,” she concluded, in words not uttered in Britain since 1952.

Elizabeth came to the throne aged just 25 in 1952 in the exhausted aftermath of World War II, joining a world stage dominated by political figures from China’s Mao Zedong to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and US President Harry Truman.

Her tenure saw the last vestiges of Britain’s vast empire crumble. At home more recently, Brexit divided her kingdom, and her family endured a series of scandals.

But throughout, she remained popular and was queen and head of state not just of the United Kingdom but 14 former British colonies, including Australia and Canada. New Zealand proclaimed Charles its new king.

She was also head of the 56-nation Commonwealth, which takes in a quarter of humanity, and supreme governor of the Church of England, the mother church of the worldwide Anglican communion.

But questions will be asked about whether the golden age of the British monarchy has now passed and how an ancient institution can remain viable in the modern era.

Debate swirls over whether Charles will command the same respect or reign in his mother’s shadow.

Under leaden skies at Buckingham Palace, emotional crowds sang a forlorn God Save the Queen
— the national anthem which now becomes God Save the King
— as news of her death filtered through.

“I know she is 96, but there is still a sense of shock,” tearful Londoner Joshua Ellis, 24, told AFP. “You could always look to the queen, on a sense of stability.”

Charles’ coronation, an elaborate ritual steeped in tradition and history, will take place in the same historic surroundings, as it has for centuries, on a date to be fixed.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was for most of her subjects the only monarch they have ever known — an immutable figurehead on stamps, banknotes and coins.

Diminutive in stature yet an icon of popular culture, she was at the centre of it all, instantly recognisable in her brightly coloured suits and matching hat, with pearls, gloves and a handbag.

During her reign, the royals went from stiff, remote figures to tabloid fodder and were then popularised anew in television dramas such as The Crown, watched by tens of millions worldwide.

Her time on the throne spanned an era of remarkable change, from the Cold War to the 9/11 attacks, from climate change to coronavirus, “snail mail” and steam ships to e-mail and space exploration.

She came to be seen as the living embodiment of post-war Britain and a link between the modern era and a bygone age.

When The Queen was crowned in 1953, Britain was a predominantly white, Christian country of 50 million people.

At her death, the population had swollen to 66 million and more classed themselves as British Asian, black British or of mixed heritage.

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