(3 of 8)
Great & Humble. In King George's island kingdom and in the far reaches of his still vast dominions, there was a feeling of individual loss in the passing of this simple, decent man whose spare, frail person had embodied such personal endurance, such symbolic might. Far beyond the limits of his Commonwealth, in lands that offer Britain no more than grudging respect, great men and humble men paused to acknowledge the death of the British King.
In Rome, the Soviet standard atop the Russian embassy on Janiculum Hill beat all other official flags, including even the British, to half-staff. In Cairo, where charred and blackened ruins stand in silent testimony to Egypt's hatred of all things British, King Farouk declared a 14-day period of public mourning for the dead sovereign. In India, whose republican government no longer recognizes the Crown, bazaars were closed and a national eleven-day period of mourning was proclaimed. In Dublin, a little Irish lady stood crying on a street corner as she read of the British King's death, while the Republic's President Sean O'Kelly made plans to attend the funeral of the man whose crown was a symbol of his nation's traditional oppression.
From Paris, Stockholm, Oslo, Rio, Copenhagen, Washington, New York, The Hague and other great cities of the world, official messages of sympathy poured in to the bereaved royal family. Salutes of 56 guns (one for each year of the dead King's life) boomed from Tower Hill, and from the gun turrets of British warships on most of the seven seas. In Melbourne, Australia, a group of bellringers in St. Paul's Cathedral heard the news just as they were practicing a merry peal of welcome to Elizabeth and Philip; the bell-ringers set their bells tolling mournfully instead.
"The Queen's Keys." But even as the shocking news interrupted the smooth flow of past into future, a new present was making itself felt. The King was dead, but the Crown remained, and it must be fitted promptly to a new head. In London's High Court, King's Counselor Harold Shepherd had just finished cross-examining a defendant when the news came. The court adjourned. Ten minutes later, the lawyer resumed the floor as Queen's Counselor. Painters at another London court set to work painting out the sign "King's Bench" and replacing it with "Queen's Bench." "Who goes there?" sang out the sentries in a traditional nightly ritual at the Tower of London. "The Queen's Keys," came the new answer. There were a multitude of adjustments to be made in a nation where everything is run in the name of the sovereign. Six months hence, for instance, a new coinage would appear bearing a likeness of the Queen, facing, in accordance with tradition, in the opposite direction from her predecessor. But first, there was the complicated procedure of establishing without question the sovereign's identity and right to sit on the throne.