After a week of church services, coffin processions, gun salutes and other official mourning ceremonies for Queen Elizabeth, Avena Madeo has had enough.
Ms. Madeo runs a street food outlet in London’s Petticoat Lane and she rolled her eyes on Thursday when asked about the Queen’s long farewell, which continues until her funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday.
“It’s too much,” she said as she prepared a jerk chicken wrap for a customer. No one is talking about the war in Ukraine anymore or the soaring cost of living or energy shortages, she added. “It has shut out everything else. And do you know how much they spent on this?”
Bashi Abdi nodded in agreement as he waited for a box of asun lamb. He stopped watching the television coverage days ago and he’s ambivalent about the monarchy in general. His main complaint was that the Queen’s death had led to the postponement of soccer matches. “I just hope the football comes back to the way it was,” said the diehard Arsenal fan. “That’s one thing you look forward to on the weekend.”
Their views reflect a sharp divide that’s developed in London and across Britain since the Queen died on Sept. 8. While millions of people have been glued to their television sets or waited in line for hours to catch a glimpse of the Queen’s casket, many others have shrugged off the occasion or even railed against the 10-day period of mourning.
“All of a sudden their grief is greater than anyone else’s grief,” said Craig Alldrett as he served coffee in a café in London’s south end on Thursday.
“It’s not just propaganda for the monarchy, it’s propaganda for the British establishment,” added one the café’s patrons Ben Morgan who also had little time for Elizabeth’s successor, King Charles. All of it is an effort to build a “national mythology around the monarchy” and paint a “positive image of Charles because he’s not the same as Elizabeth.”
The decision by the government to declare Monday a national holiday in honour of the royal funeral has had serious consequences for Charlotte Rushton. She had a 20-week pregnancy scan scheduled for that day and it has now been cancelled. “I was really quite upset,” said Ms. Rushton who lives in Littlehampton, near Brighton. It was the last scan before her due date and she was already worried about it.
The inconveniences caused by the official mourning only highlight the disconnect between the monarchy and its subjects, she added. Many of her friends were initially sentimental about the Queen in the aftermath of her death, but that has changed as the interruptions to daily life increased. “It’s really disillusioned them further about the Royal Family and what the point of them is,” Ms. Rushton said.
In parts of central London the mood was much different.
Ben Nicholson and his fiancée Siobhan Harkness, who are from Workington in northern England, waited nine hours to get into Westminster Hall on Thursday to pay their respects to the Queen. The queue stretched for eight kilometres at times and officials have estimated that more than 700,000 people are expected to pass through the hall by Monday morning when the Queen’s lying in state ends.
“It’s worth it to be here and be part of our nation’s history,” said Mr. Nicholson, 29, who bowed at the coffin. “She dedicated all of her life to the service of the country and the least we can do is say thank you.” He acknowledged that some people might be tired of all the media attention, but he said they should recognize this “as a moment that will last a lifetime and that will be passed down to our children.”
Farkhanda Ahmed felt the same way as she walked slowly in line with her mother, Shakeela Ahmed. The Queen “reigned for such a long time in Britain and I think we need to say thank you and appreciate that,” said Ms. Ahmed.
But for Amanda Tapp the sight of so many people lining up to see a coffin was hard to fathom.
Ms. Tapp also stopped watching the unrelenting television broadcasts days ago and she just happened to be walking by Westminster Hall on Thursday when she paused to marvel at the line. “I watched television the first day, when she died, but not since then,” she said as she leaned against a police fence to get a look at the mourners. “Thank God for Netflix,” she added with a laugh. “You can go and find a series if you really can’t cope with anymore coffins being dragged through the streets.”
Back in Petticoat Lane, Ben Hidalgo and his sister, Annie, also couldn’t understand the outpouring of grief. “I think it gives people something to look at because she was an icon of British culture,” said Mr. Hidalgo, 22, who is studying finance at King’s College London. He too was no longer following the various events and ceremonies, and he was debating whether to tune into the funeral on Monday.
Ms. Hidalgo, 20, said she was surprised to see her mother crying at the news of the Queen’s death. “It was just so nostalgic for her,” she said. When asked if she shed a tear, Ms. Hidalgo, who is also attending King’s College, laughed and shook her head. “I don’t really agree with the fact that we have a monarchy,” she said. “I just think it’s a bit old-fashioned and unfair.”