Foreign News: Elizabeth II

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 8)

At 5:30 p.m., Elizabeth took a last walk around the grounds with Philip, then climbed into a car for the drive to Nanyuki Airport. A Dakota flew the royal couple to Uganda, where the same four-engined Argonaut that brought them from London was waiting to carry them home again. A few minutes after the first takeoff, the plane's pilot picked up a radio message of condolence from Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Then, at last, Britain's Queen broke down in sobs.

Reassuring Farewell. The great city which would be her capital awaited the new Queen's arrival in stunned silence. "I've never seen Piccadilly Circus so quiet," said a London doorman. Only four months ago, King George's people had worried through his terrible operation and his slow recovery. Then they had seen him, a week ago, in newsreels and newsphotos, bareheaded and seemingly hale, waving a cheery farewell to his daughter at London airport. Despite his still haggard features, they had felt a surge of relief at the apparent improvement in his health. The royal tour itself was reassuring : the Princess would never have undertaken so long a trip if her father were not well on the road to recovery. But Elizabeth could know the truth no more than they.

Lowered Flags. As the news of the King's death spread in ever-widening circles out of London, many met it in bewilderment or plain disbelief. " 'Ere now, don't you go spreading rumors about like that," said a burly policeman at Sandringham's gate to an early-bird reporter. Even after the rumor became an official bulletin, announced by the BBC and newspaper extras, some at first refused to believe it. "After all," argued an indignant Londoner, "Mr. Churchill didn't announce it." "It can't be true," cried an old lady at the black banner headlines on a London news stall. "It can't be true."

But true it was, and gradually the realization settled on Britain's capital. Silence, broken only by the subdued march of traffic and the dismal tolling of church bells, took over. Union Jacks fluttered to half-staff. Shops and factories all over the nation closed down. The BBC canceled all remaining programs after its initial bulletin. Cinemas and theaters called off their shows. The stock market closed for the day. At Lloyd's, the famed Lutine Bell, historic herald of momentous news, clanged once, and all business ceased. Even London's famous burlesque house, Windmill Theatre, which boasts of never having closed even during the Battle of Britain, shut its doors.

Many Londoners instinctively headed for Buckingham Palace, to stand for hours in a cold drizzle of rain, despite the fact that none of the royal family was in residence there. Others gathered outside 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's house, outside Clarence House, Elizabeth and Philip's home, outside Queen Mary's Marlborough House and dark, rambling St. James's Palace, where the new Queen's accession would be proclaimed. They were not waiting for a show; no pageantry or display was expected that night. They just felt that was the place to be.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8