Hi everyone! My name is Helen and I’m a Chapman University film student studying abroad at the University of Roehampton in London through ISA.
I’ll get to London in a minute, but first I have to start at the beginning: September 8. That’s the date I was due to depart for London. If you’ve been following any sort of world news, you will probably recognize that date. Yep, I left for London on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.
It was a tense morning as I finished up some last-minute packing while watching the news. At this point in the day, it had been announced that the Queen was ill and members of the Royal Family were heading up to Balmoral.
My Aunt Laura invited me over for a send-off lunch. She had decorated the patio with Union Jack flags and we drank tea and listened to British music.
As we were finishing up, my dad called to tell us the news that the Queen had died.
Arrival in London
My flight left O’Hare around 9 pm that night. I was traveling with my friend Natalie, another Chapman film student (and ISA vlogger!!). We got to Heathrow at 10:15 AM London time. All of the screens in the airport and tube stations displayed messages of mourning for the Queen. Almost every shop window had a sign with her picture on it.
After getting settled at our hotel, the first thing we did was walk over to Buckingham Palace. The streets surrounding the area were all closed. The crowd was enormous, and mourners were leaving flowers and notes on the front gates.
As we were walking towards the palace to get a closer look, Natalie and I accidentally ended up at the front of a crowd that was queueing up behind the barrier next to the gates.
Police officers made a pathway for a car to enter; about half an hour later, it left the palace. The windows were shaded so we couldn’t see who was inside, but we found out later that it was new Prime Minister Liz Truss arriving for her first audience with the new King Charles III.
The next morning, Natalie and I woke up early to board a train to Edinburgh from King’s Cross. When we arrived in Edinburgh, we found out that the streets there were closed as well, as the Queen’s body would be arriving in the city the following day.
The Royal Mile is the street that runs from Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament building all the way up to Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill. It’s a popular spot if you’re shopping for a cashmere scarf or a kilt. But while we were there, a lot of the shops were closed for the weekend due to Her Majesty’s passing.
On our second day in Edinburgh, the Queen’s casket was scheduled to arrive. When we went out to get our morning coffee, people were already queueing up to pay their respects.
That afternoon, Natalie and I headed back over to the Royal Mile and stood packed into the crowd for a little over an hour.
The Queen’s hearse drove from the top of the Mile near the castle all the way down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where she was kept overnight.
There would be a procession back up the street to the castle the following day, but we would be leaving early in the morning.
Traveling through Scotland and England
After Edinburgh, the Queen and I went our separate ways for a few days. She was taken to London to lie in state in Westminster Hall, while we headed to Glasgow and then Windermere, a town in England’s Lake District.
During our travels around the United Kingdom in the next few days, we were constantly reminded of how important the Queen was to her country.
Every shop had a display or a sign dedicated to her.
Churches were open for people to come in and mourn.
Every flag was at half mast.
Settling in at Roehampton
Finally, on the 14th of September, Natalie and I returned to London. The train was packed with people chatting about the Queen. It seemed as if everyone was heading down to London to pay their respects to Her Majesty.
That was the weekend of the infamous queue: people waited up to 30 hours for a quick walkthrough to glimpse the Queen’s casket in Westminster Hall. Suddenly Natalie and I felt like the hour and a half we waited in that crowd in Edinburgh was nothing.
I did not go into central London during my first weekend at Roehampton, as the crowds were massive, but I was able to participate in other ways. Roehampton held a memorial event in the Queen’s Building, a building which was named after Her Majesty.
At the very end, a man stood up and placed a little Paddington Bear next to the portrait of the Queen. Tears were shed.
Remembering Her Majesty the Queen
Monday, September 19th, was the date of the funeral. It was declared a bank holiday, and most places closed down for the day. I watched the funeral broadcast from my accommodation (aka my dorm room) while drinking my tea.
During my first week abroad, my host country was mourning the loss of a great leader. But it was also an exciting time to be a part of such a significant event in history. It’s no secret that the monarchy is a controversial institution, but after traveling around the UK this week, I could tell that Queen Elizabeth II herself has made a huge impact on not only her own nation but on the world. After all, she was the longest reigning monarch in British history, spending 70 years on the throne.
If you’ve read this far, thank you!! I’m glad you found it interesting. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos as well. Until next time!!