Queen Elizabeth mourned globally as stabilizing force in tumultuous age

The death of Queen Elizabeth II prompted an outpouring of condolences from global leaders, many noting that her long reign provided constancy to a world beset by wars, a pandemic and other crises.

US President Joe Biden said she “defined an era.”

“In a world of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons,” Biden said in a written statement. “The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement and the forward march of human dignity.”

Biden last met with Elizabeth in June 2021, when she hosted him at Windsor Castle during his visit to the UK for the Group of Seven Summit in Cornwall.

Elizabeth, 96, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, died at her estate in Balmoral, Scotland on the afternoon of Sept. 8, according to a statement from Buckingham Palace. She had celebrated her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, marking 70 years of service.

In London, newly elected Prime Minister Liz Truss announced that the crown had passed to the queen’s eldest son, King Charles III. He will be formally proclaimed king Friday in a ceremony dating back hundreds of years.

Europe mourns

“Her Majesty the Queen has embodied the continuity and the unity of the British Nation for more than 70 years,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet. “I keep the memory of a friend of France, a queen of heart that has marked her country and her century forever.”

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said she “guaranteed stability in time of crisis and was able to keep alive the value of tradition in a society in constant and profound evolution.”

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin paid tribute to the monarch’s role in securing peace in Northern Ireland, saying her “commitment to and support for the Good Friday Agreement, reconciliation and mutual understanding was critical to advancing positive relations on these islands and is deeply appreciated by the Irish people.”

Boris Johnson, Truss’s predecessor, called Thursday Britain’s “saddest day.”

“In the hearts of every one of us, there is an ache at the passing of our Queen, a deep and personal sense of loss—far more intense, perhaps than we expected,” Johnson said.

Flags are already flying at half mast as the country embarks on a period of national mourning.

In London, some theater shows canceled evening productions, while the city’s famous Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew said it would be closed Friday. A planned strike by postal workers for Friday was called off as the UK heads into a 10-day mourning period. British television networks switched programming to tributes to the Queen.

A ‘special relationship’

In the US, flags were ordered flown at half-staff. The New York Stock Exchange observed a moment of silence.

“Melania and I will always cherish our time together with the Queen, and never forget her majesty’s generous friendship, great wisdom, and wonderful sense of humor,” former president Donald Trump said in a statement.

Another former US president, Barack Obama, noted that she’d worked with 15 prime ministers “and countless foreign heads of state.”

“She listened deeply, thought strategically, and was responsible for considerable diplomatic achievements,” Obama said in a statement. “And yet, she wore her lofty titles with a light touch—as willing to act in a comic sketch for the London Olympics as she was to record steadying messages for the people of the UK during the Covid-19 lockdowns.”

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with the Queen at Windsor Castle last year, said that “with her death, an era comes to an end.”

“There are no words that can even come close to paying tribute to the exceptional importance of this Queen, her sense of duty, moral integrity, devotion and dignity over seven decades for the UK, for Europe and for the world,” Merkel was quoted as saying in a statement carried in German media.

“I will never forget the honor that I was able to meet her several times and that she received me one last time at the end of my term of office last year,” Merkel added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose war-torn nation has benefited from significant British aid in its conflict with Russia, tweeted that his nation extended “sincere condolences to the @RoyalFamily, the entire United Kingdom and the Commonwealth over this irreparable loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently lashed out at the UK for supporting Ukraine. But the Kremlin’s official Telegram channel said Thursday that Putin had sent condolences to King Charles, saying his mother “rightfully enjoyed the love and respect of her subjects, as well as authority on the world stage.”

Chinese state media said President Xi Jinping sent a condolence message to King Charles, noting the Queen was the first British monarch to visit China. Xi placed high importance on the China-UK relationship and was willing to work with King Charles to develop those ties, state-run CCTV said.

The Commonwealth

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recalled the Queen’s work with the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of over 50 member states of which many used to be part of the British Empire.

From India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet the Queen “personified dignity and decency in public life.”

Several hours before her death, Modi renamed a boulevard in New Delhi built in honor of the Queen’s grandfather George V—Emperor of India at the time, calling it a symbol of colonialism.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “in a complicated world, her steady grace and resolve brought comfort and strength to us all.”

“She was one of my favorite people in the world, and I will miss her so,” Trudeau, the 12th Canadian leader to serve during her reign, said during a retreat with his cabinet members in Vancouver.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern learned of the Queen’s death at about 4:50 a.m. Friday in Wellington when a police officer shone a torch into her room to wake her.

“Just the night prior I had been reading some of the news about her state of health,” Ardern told a news conference. “So when that torchlight came into my room I knew immediately what it meant.”

Australia announced its parliament would be suspended for 15 days. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to the “special place in her heart” the Queen reserved for his country as the only ruling sovereign to ever visit the Commonwealth nation—starting with her first trip in 1954, just eight months after her coronation.

“This time of mourning will pass but the deep respect and warm regard in which Australians always held Her Majesty will never fade,” Albanese said. “There is comfort to be found in Her Majesty’s own words: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

With assistance from Elizabeth Fournier, Mark Niquette, Neil Callanan, Matthew Brockett, Phila Siu, Martine Paris, Rosalind Mathieson, Frank Connelly, Jordan Fabian, Richard Bravo, Brian Platt, Ranjeetha Pakiam, Muneeza Naqvi and Iain Rogers/Bloomberg.

Image credits: AP/Alberto Pezzali

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