Community remembers Queen Elizabeth II fondly, some with anecdotes of meeting Her Majesty personally

Shefali Saxena Wednesday 14th September 2022 06:52 EDT

On the 8th of September, there were double rainbows in the sky overarching the mighty Buckingham Palace. Countless people stood behind the barricades in front of both the Royal properties, singing Britain’s national anthem, only this time - in honour of the newly proclaimed King Charles III. Thousands of flowers and bouquets outlined the gates and boundary walls of both Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.  A patron also left a pack of marmalade sandwiches among the flowers, labelled, ‘for later’, revisiting the Paddington Bear's connection to Queen Elizabeth II that was solidified during the queen's Platinum Jubilee when the pair took part in a skit broadcast to the nation before a concert at Buckingham Palace to mark her 70 years on the throne. Heartbreakingly, the longest reigning monarch, the Queen of England was no more. 

The Queen’s mortal remains now lie at the Palace of Westminster and her funeral will take place on Monday 19th September in Westminster Abbey at 11 am BST.  At 8 pm on Sunday, September 18, the night before the State Funeral, there will be a one-minute silence where the public is invited to come together and observe a national moment of reflection to mourn and reflect on the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth II.

 People wanting to pay their final respects to the Queen as she lies in state at the Palace of Westminster need to be prepared for a long wait and forget about trying to take a selfie with her coffin, according to the guidelines. 

 The government has published guidelines for people wishing to file past the late queen's closed coffin as it lies in state at the Palace of Westminster from 5 pm  BST Wednesday until 6:30 am BST on September 19. Visitors will have to pass through airport-style security and can only bring one small bag with one zipper opening. Larger bags can be stowed at a special facility. Food items or liquids, flowers and candles are also banned. Filming, photography, and use of mobile phones or other handheld devices in the security search area or within the Palace of Westminster are not permitted. More than 1,000 dedicated volunteers, stewards and Metropolitan Police officers will be on hand to assist members of the public wanting to pay their respects and keep them safe.  The rules were made public a day after thousands of people lined roads and bridges Sunday as a hearse carried the queen's coffin across the Scottish countryside from her beloved Balmoral Castle to Edinburgh. It is feared that up to 650,000 mourners will be waiting in 35-hour queues to see Queen's coffin.

 Royal family reunited by grief 

 Following her demise, Prince Charles, the Queen’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales has been proclaimed the new King Charles III and head of state for 14 Commonwealth realms.  His wife, the former Duchess of Cornwall is now the Queen Consort. King Charles III passed the title of Prince of Wales to his son Prince Wiliam during his first address to the nation. Extending an olive branch towards his younger son Prince Harry, the King said, “I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.” 

While the King mourned the passing of a “cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother”, Prince William and Harry published their heartfelt messages on the sad demise of their grandmother. In a viral video online, Princess of Wales was seen telling a commoner that Prince George also mourns the death of his ‘Gan-Gan’ as he fondly addressed the late Queen but is happy that she has joined his great-grandpa Prince Philip in heaven. 

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry and the newly appointed Prince and Princess of Wales were seen greeting and shaking hands with the wellwishers outside Windsor Castle, reading messages for the Queen and condolences for the Royal family, putting an end to speculations about the rift in the Royal family, reuniting the family in grief.

 Champion of Diversity 

The Queen was always a champion of the ethnic minorities, a recent example of which was her message on Christmas 2020, amid the Coronvirus pandemic, where she not only thanked the healthcare workers but also talked about the end of darkness, citing the festivals of India.  

The late Queen had said, “Every year, we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood - light brings hope. For Christians, Jesus is ‘the light of the world’, but we can’t celebrate his birth today in quite the usual way.

“People of all faiths have been unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals, such as Passover, Easter, Eid and Vaisakhi. But we need life to go on. Last month, fireworks lit up the sky around Windsor, as Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, providing joyous moments of hope and unity - despite social distancing.”

Following the Queen’s shocking demise, the community came forward to offer condolences to the Royal family and also shared their experiences of meeting the Queen in her lifetime. Some were fortunate to meet her on multiple occasions when they were awarded the Queen’s birthday honours titles and among many who sent Asian Voice, their memories of the Queen, one of them, was in fact, her neighbour. Not to forget Ugandan Asians, who grieve the death of the monarch who warmly welcomed them in the UK during the Ugandan Exodus. 

In his tribute to the Queen, Lord Jitesh Gadhia, Chair of The British Asian Trust, said, “The British Indian communities join the nation in grief and in expressing our heartfelt thanks to The Queen for her lifetime of service and duty for others. Indeed, these values of sewa and dharma are hugely admired and coveted in our own culture and scriptures. 

“The Queen was also devoted to The Commonwealth, an association which expanded significantly during her reign, and now encompasses a unique family of 56 nations, united by common values and shared ideals. Those of us who have settled in the United Kingdom from Commonwealth countries have especially appreciated this connection and affection from our monarch. 

 “I know from my own personal experience that The Queen’s connectivity with the Indian subcontinent was palpable. And as Chair of The British Asian Trust, I am confident that these connections will be continued, and enhanced further, by King Charles III - who maintains a deep and abiding interest in all the countries of South Asia. 

 “As the new King assumes his responsibilities, and builds on his mother’s legacy, we offer his Majesty, The Queen Consort and the Royal family, our full and loyal support. Long live the King.”

 Paying tribute to the Queen, two artists Jignesh and Yash Patel (of Indian origin) from west London are making a giant mural of the departed monarch. The mural will reportedly be visible from a distance in Hounslow area of West London. According to Times of India, a group called Indian Diaspora in UK has raised donations of over £1,000 to support the artists. 

Ugandan President salutes the late Queen for her contribution to the Commonwealth 

 The Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa was supposed to depart by air to the UK to take part in the 50 years commemoration of the expulsion of our Indians by Idi Amin in 1972 on the 9th of September, 2022, at 10 am. However, at 2030 hours, it was announced (East African time) from London that Her Majesty the Queen had died. His immediate reaction was to cancel the trip. 

 “I did not think it appropriate to continue with the trip given this loss to the UK and the Commonwealth. Fortunately, when I consulted more people, including our Asian organisers in the UK, everybody agreed with my instinctive initial reaction. The function was postponed to a future date to be agreed on. Instead, the celebratory meeting on Sunday by our Indians in their Temple in London will be a prayer meeting where the Ugandan High Commissioner to the UK, will represent me. Although Her Majesty was 96 years of age, her death was a shock to Maama Janet, the other Ugandans and myself. After all, only a few days ago, we had seen her receiving the new UK Prime Minister, Liz Truss (Rt. Hon.) and had defeated corona some months ago,” the Ugandan President said in an official statement. 

 He further explained that in her long reign of 70 years on the throne, the late Queen witnessed the huge metamorphosis of the political landscape in the world such as the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the Independence of the former colonies of Britain. 

Sharing the story of his first meeting with the Queen, he said, “I first interacted with her personally in 1987, a good 35 years ago, when she received me at Buckingham Palace, on my way to the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting in Vancouver, Canada. That meeting was attended by some of the iconic commonwealth leaders such as: Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir Mohamad, Daniel Arap Moi, Brian Mulroney, Margaret Thatcher, Robert Mugabe, Rajiv Gandhi, etc. She, of course, opened our Conference and, in her use of the soft power she possessed, forced the late Mzee Arap Moi and myself to sit on the same dinner table with her presiding in spite of the tension that existed between Kenya and us at that time.”

“Ever since 1952, I have been following her leadership journey through the media initially and, later on, through direct interaction in CHOGM meetings. My grandmother, Rusi Bakyira, an Aunt to my mother, was the first to show me her picture in 1952, saying: Omugabekazi omusya, n’akaishikyi kato (the new Queen is a young girl). In spite of differences in colour and race, you can always tell people’s different ages. During the 2007 CHOGM in Uganda, we were happy to host the top leaders of the British Royal family. These were: Her Majesty the Queen, her husband 4 Prince Phillip and Prince Charles. Prince Charles visited Jinja and was cheered all the way and Prince Phillip visited the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Her Majesty was welcomed rapturously between Entebbe and Kampala although it was late in the evening. I salute her contribution to the Commonwealth.”

The unexpected news of the monarch’s ill health came only three days after she was last seen in a photograph in her drawing room in Balmoral, appointing the 15th Prime Minister of the UK, photographed with Liz Truss, UK’s third woman Prime Minister. 

Speaking outside Downing Street, Prime Minister Liz Truss addressed the nation and said, "we are all devastated" at the news of the Queen's death, which is a "huge shock to the nation and the world".

She described the Queen as "a rock on which modern Britain was built", adding: "Britain is the great country it is today because of her." She said the Queen was a personal inspiration to her as well as many Britons. "Her devotion to duty is an example to us all." Liz Truss and several senior ministers attended a public service of remembrance at St Paul's Cathedral on Friday.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said, “Keir Starmer: "As our great Elizabethan era comes to an end, we will honour the late Queen’s memory by keeping alive the values of public service she embodied. For seventy years, Queen Elizabeth II stood as the head of our country. But, in spirit, she stood amongst us." 

Former leadership candidate and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak also posted a tweet: “Thank you. For a lifetime of service to our country, for showing us what duty means and for always putting the country and commonwealth first.  There will never be another like Queen Elizabeth II.”

"This is our country's saddest day. "In the hearts of every one of us there is an ache at the passing of our Queen,” former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. 

Avnish Goyal CBE, Chairman, Hallmark Care Homes told the newsweekly. ‘I was honoured to meet Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2006 at a reception in recognition of services to the community. I was immediately touched by how dedicated Her Majesty was to charity work and good causes. I was also fortunate to visit Buckingham Palace more recently and meet the late Prince Philip, who I equally admired for his extensive charity work with Outward Bound Trust. Her Majesty was a remarkable monarch, who served her country for 70 years with dedication and devotion. I was humbled to be awarded a CBE in 2022 in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours list and to also be featured in ‘Her Majesty the Queen: The Official Platinum Jubilee Pageant Commemorative Album’. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will be greatly missed by everyone across the world.” 

Shailesh Vara MP said: “On a personal note, I was fortunate to meet Her Majesty on several occasions. I will treasure my last meeting with her at Windsor Castle in July of this year when I was sworn into the Privy Council and received from her the Seals of Office for Northern Ireland.”

Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said: “The BMA offers its deepest and most sincere condolences to the Royal Family on the death of Her Majesty the Queen. Many will not have known life without Her Majesty as our Head of State, and during her 70-year reign, she was a dedicated public servant and much-respected figure. During the stewardship of her nation, there has been a substantial social and political change around the world.  Her role in this will never be forgotten.”

Pranav Bhanot MBE, a lawyer from Chigwell, Essex met the Queen in 2012 at an interfaith event at Lambeth Palace. He wrote about it in a publication, saying, The Queen really championed diversity. It was very surreal meeting her – I just froze. She was shorter than I expected but had a commanding but friendly presence. She was incredibly easy to talk to and the twinkle in her eye when she smiled is a sight I’ll never forget.”

The Queen’s neighbour, Vijay Goel, Senior Partner, Singhania & Co. told Asian Voice, “My most sincere condolences to the family of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, following her passing, and may her soul rest in peace. She will be missed by people all over the world. I have very fond memories of her, she was in fact my neighbour in London. I saw her on many occasions in her car near my place, but I had the real privilege to meet her in person along with the Duke of Edinburgh. When I met her with my wife Poonam Goel, I was mesmerized by her personality, her humbleness and her inquisitiveness. I shook hands with her and she asked me about what I do. I told her about my Law firm, Singhania and Co and my involvement in investment promotions between India and UK by bringing Indian clients to invest in the UK and taking British companies to invest in India. I also shared about my various roles and being the founding member of the Indo-European Business forum. I also told the Queen that we are her neighbours and she thanked me for my work. Duke of Edinburgh was a bit humorous and asked me about membership and the type of members.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “The nation and the world mourn today in recognition of the extraordinary service of our Queen – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  She served for 70 years with unrivalled grace, dignity and purpose.

“Throughout a period of unprecedented transformation, she was a source of great stability, inspiring hope during the most testing of times and exemplifying the best of what it means to be British. I’m proud to have served as Mayor of London while Queen Elizabeth II was our monarch.  I know Londoners, and people across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, are immensely proud and grateful for what she achieved for us all over so many years. I offer my condolences to the Royal Family at this difficult time."

Following the State Funeral, the Coffin will travel in Procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch. The funeral will be followed by a committal service in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, her final resting place. The Queen will be buried next to her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip.

 World leaders to attend the Queen’s funeral

 The White House confirmed that President Joe Biden has officially accepted an invitation to the state funeral and will be attending with first lady Jill Biden. Russian President Vladimir Putin will be one of the highest-profile absences at the funeral.

Some of the other leaders who have confirmed – through public statements or in multiple media reports – they plan to attend are Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Belgium's King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German President Frank-Walker Steinmeier, Israeli Prime Minister Isaac Herzog, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesingh among others. There is so far no confirmation on whether India’s PM Narendra Modi will take part in the Queen’s funeral or not. 

Change in currency on the cards

 For months to come, currency bearing the Queen's portrait will continue to be minted and printed into 2023, while the official portrait is being readied. There will be a gradual replacement of older cash in circulation. Post offices and banks will follow the same replacement process where they use older coins and notes that needed to be brought out of circulation over many years. Currently, there are 4.5billion sterling notes in circulation featuring the Queen's portrait, worth a combined £80billion. However, Scottish and Northern Irish banks do not depict the monarch.

READ MORE MESSAGES FROM BRITISH ASIANS HERE: https://www.asian-voice.com/News/UK/Community-shares-their-memories-of-the-late-Queen

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