In the Wake of a Queen Departed

On Monday evening, 19 September 2022, Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest at Windsor Castle after her funeral at Westminster Abbey earlier that day. The funeral service was watched by tens of millions of people in Great Britain, and tens or perhaps hundreds of millions more elsewhere in the world.

George and I were in Oxford that day. Oxford is just a little more than 50 miles northwest of London, but that morning it felt worlds away. While hordes of people lined the streets of London all along Elizabeth’s funeral procession route, Oxford was uncharacteristically quiet. Just about every store and restaurant was closed out of respect for the Queen (as was the case nearly everywhere in England). Our hotel still served us breakfast. And we passed a handful of open coffee shops as we wandered the streets of Oxford. But with just about all other retail establishments shuttered for the day, there was little else to do but wander the streets.

A usually very busy spot in Oxford on the morning of the Queen’s funeral.
Not much doing here, either.

Later in the day, after the funeral was over, people trickled out into the streets. A few cafes opened, and some of the restaurants and pubs started preparing to welcome evening customers. Even so, the city center never really woke up that Monday, and the outskirts of town remained fast asleep.

By mid-afternoon, some tourists could be seen wandering around Radcliffe Square.
But Oxford’s colleges, such as Christ Church above, which are generally open for visitors at least part of each day, remained closed that Monday.
Even the University Church kept its doors shut.

The following day we departed from Oxford, drove back to Heathrow to drop off our rental car, and then caught a ride into London for the last few days of our trip. One day after the funeral, London was more or less back to normal – with a few notable exceptions. The most obvious was that Buckingham Palace remained closed, as did all the roads leading to it – the Mall, Constitution Hill, and Birdcage Walk.

On any ordinary day it would be impossible to snap a pic of Buckingham Palace looking this deserted.
Queen Victoria’s Memorial usually attracts mobs of admirers.
A rare glimpse from Buckingham Palace down an unoccupied Mall.
There were plenty of people like us hanging around the Palace, taking in the historical moment. There was just no way to get near the main attractions.
Westminster Abbey was also off-limits.

In various parks around London, flower memorials spoke to the city’s outpouring of affection and grief for their deceased Queen.

One of many flower memorials in Green Park, just north of the Palace.
People of all ages left cards, letters, and symbolic objects as well as heaps of flowers. But messages from schoolchildren seemed the most voluminous.

As I mentioned in some of the earlier Bit of England posts, Elizabeth’s passing didn’t seem to have as deep an effect on some parts of the nation as we had imagined. But in London, the sense of loss, of awe, of history in the making, was inescapable. We felt privileged to be there.

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  1. JoAnn Antoszewski

    Just a neat blog and I loved the tributes

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Joan Gavin

    Thanks for this! It made me feel as if I was a small part of the celebration of the Queen’s life.

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      That’s how we felt too!


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