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A brokenhearted Chelsea pensioner who once cooked for the Queen joined crowds gathered at Buckingham Palace to mourn Queen Elizabeth II yesterday as people from all over the world came to pay tribute to the beloved monarch.
Archie Ferguson, 84, was brought to tears after arriving at the palace to pay his respects as the death of the Queen reminded him of his wife’s 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s.
He said he was ‘glad’ that she had passed away having been able to carry out her duties so recently, and did not suffer during a long battle with a serious illness.
People from all generations and walks of life descended on the palace to leave floral tributes, light candles and simply be together as they looked for reassurance following the monarch’s loss.
A queue to pass by the palace gates and pay tribute to the Queen extended several hundred metres up the road, and mourners were spotted crying, hugging one another or even just watching on the momentous occasion.
Chelsea Pensioner Mr Ferguson said he’s feeling all the ‘ups and downs’ of losing a Queen he knew personally and cherished.
He served in the military for 23 years and travelled all over the world, catering for the armed forces in Germany, the Middle East, Cyprus, Kenya and Singapore.
He told MailOnline Queen Elizabeth always appeared interested and well researched when she came to visit the Royal Chelsea Hospital, his home.
‘She’s beautiful,’ he said through tears. ‘I think my favourite memory was coming to the garden party here. I cooked supper for her… It was good.’
Archie Ferguson, 84, served in the armed forces for 23 years and even once cooked dinner for the Queen
Mourners laid hundreds of bouquets at royal locations around the UK, including at Windsor Castle (pictured)
King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla arrived at Buckingham Palace yesterday
Many people left handwritten messages or cards alongside their floral tributes
The Chelsea Pensioner was deeply touched by the thousands who gathered to pay tribute to the Queen, saying: ‘This is real. This is spontaneous’
Maurine Nicholson, 70, originally travelled to London to see an ABBA concert with her family
Rebecca Harris, 32, said the Queen was a ‘great head of state’ who represented ‘dignity and class’
Queen Elizabeth II pictured in 1951, just a year before she ascended to the throne
King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort, were pictured leaving Balmoral this morning as the couple return to London
Piles of flowers, cards and personal messages are surrounding the front of Buckingham Palace today
People from around the world visited the palace today to mark the historic occasion
Mr Ferguson said he recently experienced the slow decline of his wife’s health as an Alzheimer’s sufferer and nursed her for 10 years, so took comfort in the apparent swiftness of the Queen’s death.
The ‘peaceful’ death of Queen Elizabeth II was announced at 6.30pm last night, after doctors had initially expressed ‘concern’ for her health.
Ms Ferguson said: ‘For someone to die quickly, it’s brilliant.
‘She was introduced to the new prime minister a couple of days ago and was fully with it… [so] I was glad for her. It was obvious she was getting near the end of her journey here.’
Mr Ferguson was at home at the Royal Chelsea Hospital with his friend, Alan, when they first learned the Queen was unwell and followed the updates for hours until the announcement of her death.
They instantly knew the palace was where they wanted to be.
‘I’m feeling up and down,’ he said, tearing up again. ‘It’s sad. It’s a very precious place to come to. The nation wants to be here.’
He also marvelled at the moving scenes as thousands arrived outside the palace.
‘We usually get paraded and directed. This is real. This is just spontaneous.’
While the grounds were teeming with people, there was a knowing silence among mourners as they placed bouquets of flowers and handwritten notes at the gates of the palace.
Messages of support and condolences were pinned to the flowers, reflecting on the Monarch’s ‘dedication, dignity’ and legacy as a symbol of hope and stability in uncertain times.
A child’s drawing of the Queen wearing her crown was tucked among the handwritten cards and flowers, as was a Ukrainian flag.
Multiple generations came together to mourn the Queen’s loss. Maurine Nicholson, 70, travelled down to London with her family from Nottingham and Yorkshire yesterday to watch ABBA’s reunion concert.
Stood outside Buckingham Palace’s main gates, she said she was left ‘shocked’ by the news.
‘It’s very sad. It’s come so quick.
‘We came down yesterday for the Abba concert and then when she died it was definitely sad.
Police officers at Buckingham Palace were clearly affected by the monarch’s death
Flowers are left by the official communication of the Queen’s death yesterday at Buckingham Palace
Mourners took a quiet moment for themselves at the palace gates early this morning
Floral tributes and a corgi are left outside Balmoral following the death of the Queen, which was announced yesterday
Mourners came to lay flowers and leave messages of sympathy on the Long Walk outside Windsor Castle from early this morning
‘We felt as if we had to pay our respects.’
Ms Nicholson had not even turned one when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, but her love of the monarch was clear: ‘I’m a big royalist. She meant stability, someone to look up to, aspire to.’
She even met the Queen during celebrations for her Silver Jubilee, when Ms Nicholson was 25.
‘I only met her once on a walkabout. She came over to me and spoke to me and she was just a normal person. It was so lovely.
‘You wouldn’t think she was the Queen. She was amazing. I was giving some flowers to her actually and we spoke about the flowers. It was amazing.’
Her daughter Rebecca Harris, 32, was equally upset by the tragic news: ‘It’s a shock and it’s sad, she’s always been there hasn’t she.
‘She just held herself with so much dignity and class, and I just don’t think you see that anymore.
‘She was a great head of state.’
Ms Harris described how the four of them were preparing to leave for the ABBA concert when they heard the news: ‘We were all in the room and we were about to leave.
‘We all just talk a moment. We actually did a little toast to her. What a great Queen. We were all a bit emotional.’
The family said a minute’s silence was also held at the concert in memory of the monarch’s life.
Buckingham Palace today asked emotional well-wishers to redirect floral tributes to Green Park and Hyde Park instead, while local florists sold out of bouquets as tens of thousands flocked to pay their respects.
Tearful mourners, many dressed all in black, congregated beside hundreds of colourful bouquets and messages at the central London palace, which had been left overnight and early in the morning.
A large Union flag in tones of black and grey has been pinned to the right flank of the gates, while police officers kept a crowd back from the main gates further to the left.
25-year-old Madison Mussio from Ontario, Canada, broke down in tears as she approached Buckingham Palace on the Mall.
Dressed all in black and carrying flowers, she told MailOnline that four generations of her family have known her as their head of state.
She studied law and moved to the UK recently, and felt as if she had to pay her respects on behalf of her whole family.
‘It was extremely important to come to say goodbye to the Queen. She was a symbol of tradition and a symbol of love.
‘She’s almost like a part of the family to us.
‘I’m representing my family, I was in the area so I thought I should come. It’s so sad.
She was loved by everyone.
‘We all loved her.’
Floral tributes are filling up the grounds outside Buckingham Palace, with many leaving candles, balloons or personal cards to the family too.
One tribute read: ‘HM Queen Elizabeth II. Thank you for being our strength.’ Another simply said: ‘We will miss you.’
Anu, who recently moved from the West Coast of America to the UK, was in disbelief that the Queen had passed away.
‘She’s just been a constant,’ she said. ‘Even those of us who haven’t lived here or aren’t British, it seems like the end of an era.
‘It’s a poignant moment from our collective history and I wanted to be here.’
She was deeply moved by the number of people in the crowd. Tearing up, she said: ‘Look around you at the amount of people, the silence.
‘You can almost feel the weight of this moment here. You can’t be in London and not have some way to commemorate it .
‘It’s very powerful. I can only imagine what this means to the people who have always lived in the United Kingdom. I feel such a sense of loss. That’s her legacy.’
A man pauses next to flowers and tributes to Queen Elizabeth II outside Buckingham Palace this morning
A woman appears emotional as members of the public leave flowers and tributes outside Buckingham Palace this morning
A person carries floral tribute in front of Buckingham Palace this morning, following the passing of Queen Elizabeth yesterday
She described the palace as a ‘visually powerful place to be’, adding: ‘It felt right to just be part of this memorial here. It’s something extraordinary.
‘There’s such a sombreness here, it’s so sombre and poignant. It’s really remarkable to be here and celebrate this woman who has touched so many hearts across countries, across borders.
She saw some of the greatest advances probably in humanity, the highs, the lows, to be the constant through all of that I think it’s pretty remarkable.
‘People have come from all over the world, different walks of life, and we’re all here.’
To some, the Queen was more than just a figurehead: she was an ‘icon’.
Anna Vince-Jillings, 22, said: ‘I think its quite important to pay our respects to the Queen.
‘She was an icon. She ruled 70 years, with 15 Prime Ministers.
‘She was a part of England.’
She described babysitting at the time the news broke, and trying to explain what had happened to the children, aged five and seven.
‘I was looking after some kids at the time. I said to them, ‘The Queen’s just passed away.’
‘We watched a tribute to the Queen together. The five-year-old said: ‘I want a Queen.’
‘But the boy, who is seven, was more like: ‘Let’s have a King.’
Bruce and Donna Jeffery, both 71, arrived in London from Ontario, Canada, to news of the Queen’s passing. Even though they’re not British, they wanted to pay their respects as citizens of a Commonwealth country.
The couple are celebrating their own 50th wedding anniversary today and have spent two years trying to travel to the UK amid the Covid pandemic. They never imagined they’d be standing at the palace gates during such a momentous part of history.
‘We weren’t here for the Jubilee, we watched it on the TV… It’s very sombering this, very different,’ they said as they looked around at the crowds gathered at the palace.
An emotional King Charles III emerged for the first time today as Britain’s new monarch as he left Balmoral to address the nation just hours after the death of his beloved mother.
Both the King and his Queen Consort Camilla were visibly upset as they left the Scottish estate on a poignant journey to London just before 11.30am this morning.
Charles and his wife stayed at Balmoral overnight after racing up to be at the bedside of the Queen, whose death was announced to the nation yesterday evening.
Dressed in his mourning clothes of a black suit and tie, looking sombre, the grief-stricken King Charles boarded a plane from Aberdeen Airport to the capital, which took off at 12.30pm.
This afternoon, he will meet Prime Minister Liz Truss before making a televised statement to the nation at 6pm.
Charles has already turned his hand to his duties as monarch despite his grief. He gave the order that a period of ‘Royal Mourning’ for the Queen will be observed from now until seven days after her funeral.
Royal Mourning will be observed by members of the royal family, royal household staff and representatives of the royal Household on official duties, together with troops committed to ceremonial duties.
Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace said today that the King will be proclaimed at the Accession Council at 10am on Saturday in the State Apartments of St James’s Palace. It will be televised for the first time in history.
Members of the royal family had made the urgent dash to be with the frail monarch as her health failed yesterday.
Prince William – now using the title of the Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge – left Balmoral just before 1pm and is travelling back to Windsor to be with his family ahead of the Accession Council, Kensington Palace said.
Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, still remain at the estate.
A Buckingham Palace source told MailOnline: ‘King Charles must return to London to attend to matters of state. But the other senior royal will spend a day of quiet reflection at Balmoral Castle.’
Charles and Camilla were driven away from the estate this morning in a grey Audi saloon and followed by their protection team in a Land Rover.
He yesterday paid tribute to the Queen, describing her as a ‘cherished Sovereign and much-loved Mother’ as he was confirmed as Britain’s new monarch.
He will now be known by the regnal name of King Charles III, Clarence House has confirmed.