Queen Elizabeth II’s death has sent shockwaves through Greater Victoria and the rest of Vancouver Island.
News of the longest-serving British monarch’s death was announced by Buckingham Palace on social media at 10:30 a.m. Thursday (Sept. 8). She was 96.
The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 8, 2022
The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/VfxpXro22W
Flags across the region were quickly lowered to mark the death of the Canadian head of state who celebrated her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year – marking 70 years on the throne.
“Her presence touched entire generations of Canadian families, who watched her grow from the teenage Princess who trained as a mechanic with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during WWII, to the young Queen who charmed crowds on her many tours throughout the country, to a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother many times over,” wrote B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin in a statement.
“Her unwavering service to the people of the Commonwealth earned Her Majesty the respect and admiration of Canadians. She, in turn, loved Canada dearly, and travelled here on more occasions than any other country in the world. Over the course of her 22 visits to Canada, she came to British Columbia seven times, visiting communities throughout the province from Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert.”
The Canadian flag will be flown at half-mast on all City facilities until further notice to mark the passing of Her Majesty the Queen. The flag will remain at half-mast until sunset on the day of the funeral and memorial service. pic.twitter.com/hwjCJ5xdCh— City of Victoria (@CityOfVictoria) September 8, 2022
The Queen served as a patron to many Canadian organizations, including the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria. She was also hosted at Government House in Victoria on several occasions, including in 1994, when she officially dedicated the newly revived gardens of the estate.
“The impact of the reign of Her Majesty cannot be understated; the passing of this queen represents the end of an era defined by its longevity and her ceaseless service,” Austin wrote.
She was predeceased by her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died on April 9, 2021.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps also issued a statement Thursday. “Her incredible life was defined by her dedication to serving the people. We will remember the Queen for her selflessness and compassion. Our thoughts and most sincere condolences are with the members of the Royal Family during this difficult time.”
Kenny Podmore, Sidney’s town crier, delivered a proclamation from the balcony of the Legislative Assembly during Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Victoria in October 2002, then watched her walk past him in person. “Have I shook the Queen’s hands? No, I haven’t,” he said. “Have I been in her company? Yes, I have.”
After delivering the proclamation, Podmore received an invitation to be in a lineup. Ultimately, Podmore found himself an estimated 10 to 12 feet away from the Queen.
“I was nervous … I knew I wasn’t going to meet her, but you never know. She could have stopped. She didn’t on this occasion, but it was just a lovely feeling to be there about 12 feet away from the Queen of the Commonwealth,” he said. “She was just so elegant.”
Podmore said he remembers that moment whenever he’s near the legislature. “Of course, it will be strange now when I walk past there, but all wonderful, wonderful memories.”
They currently exist with a profound sense of sadness. “Even though it was expected at some time, I was stunned,” said Podmore. “It’s very, very, very, very sad. It has been expected for some time, but now that it has happened, it has really hit home. She has been a most amazing lady. There is nobody like her. There will never be anybody like her again.”
Podmore said the Queen’s legacy lies in holding the monarchy together during its turbulent times in the later decades of the 20th century. “Obviously, we don’t know deep down how it affected her, but she just put on an amazing persona.”
Many have considered the Queen as a personified form of social glue within the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth that had emerged out of the former British colonial empire and there are questions about the stability of the United Kingdom and the future of the monarchy with her passing.
Looking ahead, Podmore is not sure what will happen to the U.K. “As I keep saying, there is nobody like her but it’s going to be tough,” he said. As for the future of the monarchy, Podmore strikes a pessimistic tone. “The British monarchy will never be the British monarchy that we have known … I really don’t think that they (the current generation) can turn it around. I hope I am wrong.”
Local MP Elizabeth May said in an interview with Black Press Media that Queen Elizabeth II lived what she called an “extraordinary life of duty and service,” which saw her deal with countless unexpected events beyond her control, starting with the abdication of her uncle, which made her beloved father king, only then to follow him at the mere age of 25. “As a human being, there are few people who are as admirable as our late Queen. She was extraordinary.”
As the longest-reigning British monarch with nearly 71 years of service, Queen Elizabeth was a constant global presence. “I’m sure her death is touching millions of people around the world, who feel they have lost a family member,” said May.
While May never met the Queen, she has met now King Charles III in October 1991 during a royal visit to Canada. “I had a couple of really good, long conversations with now our King Charles III,” she said.
At the legislature, staff worked quickly to place a black cloth above the Queen’s portrait in the Hall of Honour, and black ribbons on the B.C. and Canada flags surrounding it. Visitors took photos with the portrait, with some seeming to pause for an extra moment to reflect on the day’s news.
For some, it hit close to home, even though they were thousands of kilometres away from theirs.
“Today is the saddest day for us, finding out her gracious Queen passed away,” said Jai Hans, who was visiting Victoria on a cruise ship and lives in the U.K. “It’s a day we are never going to forget really.”
“She was deeply loved and she will be deeply missed,” added Andrew Cohen, who was travelling with Hans. “I was very saddened when I heard the news on the BBC before we left the ship. I’ve grown up with her being there like a mother. It’s deeply saddening.”
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