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Saying goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II who reigned for more than 70 years

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

King Charles III is Great Britain's new monarch. This after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died yesterday at her Balmoral estate in Scotland. She was 96. Elizabeth was the longest-serving monarch in British history. She was on the throne for 70 years. Here she is a few years before she became queen in 1952.

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QUEEN ELIZABETH II: I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

MARTINEZ: She remained on the throne amid a period of profound change in Britain. Britain's new prime minister, Liz Truss, paid tribute to her last night.

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PRIME MINISTER LIZ TRUSS: Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built. Our country has grown and flourished under her reign.

MARTINEZ: For more, we're joined by reporter Willem Marx in London. What's happening today and the rest of the week, as the country moves forward without Queen Elizabeth?

WILLEM MARX: Well, A, King Charles spent the night at Balmoral up in Scotland, where his mother passed away yesterday. He's returning to London, and we expect to hear from him publicly later today. We've heard some bells ringing out at churches across the country over the last hour or two. There'll be some gun salutes, some military tattoos, as it were. And then there's a 10-day mourning period across the entire country. With the royal family, that means no public engagements beyond those related to the queen's death and the new king's proclamation. And publicly, the palaces belonging to the royal family will also be closed. Really, a very powerful moment of private mourning for them.

MARTINEZ: I know the British public opinion about the monarchy is always up and down, it seems, but not about the queen. How's her death being received right now?

MARX: Well, you're right there. Public opinion about the institution of the monarchy has waxed and waned over the years, but to be clear, the popularity of the queen herself was, in poll after poll, for at least the last decade and a half, consistently high. And so as a consequence, the people I've been speaking to this morning here outside Buckingham Palace have been overwhelmingly upset by her death. Here's one mourner I spoke to called Cally Franklin.

And why have you come down here this morning?

CALLY FRANKLIN: You know, we all feel - we all say we want to share the moment with the rest of the nation. And, yeah, she was a great queen for all of us - to show our respect, basically.

MARX: Here's another man, Nick Draper. I asked him a similar question.

NICK DRAPER: Just thought it was worthwhile. It's a weird day for everyone, kind of been feeling emotional on the way here, but don't really know what to do with it, so I thought I'd come to walk past, see everybody and hope that sort of, I don't know, English spirit sort of lifts everyone a little bit, I guess. You're never going to get a queen like that again. Obviously, King Charles will - I mean, it even feels weird saying that. King Charles will be amazing, I'm sure, but it's just going to be a different ballgame entirely.

MARX: And, you know, A, there are very few people in Britain alive today who've outlived the queen. You know, she passed away at 96 yesterday. But there are also very few people who have lived at a time when she's not been their monarch, and so that constancy, that stability so many people I spoke to referred to has suddenly vanished.

MARTINEZ: And the queen - her eyes just saw a lot in her lifetime. She experienced World War II, the Cold War, the invention of the internet, massive social, technological and political change. How was she able to stay so relevant?

MARX: Well, in some ways, it was her ubiquity, day in, day out, for decades. She would attend events of cultural or social significance to the nation. She obviously retained a constitutional role in the country's politics as well. She'd be there at the state opening of Parliament each year. She had weekly meetings with prime ministers of the day. Remember; she met 15 of them, starting with Winston Churchill, ending with Liz Truss just this week. She often appeared on televisions at Christmastime, speaking about hope and kindness.

And of course, you may remember a couple of her more mischievous kind of appearances, either alongside an animated Paddington Bear, as recently as this summer - that went viral - or alongside Daniel Craig, the actor, in a "James Bond" scene as part of the London Olympics opening ceremonies, in which she seemed to parachute into the main stadium for those Olympics from a helicopter. Time and again, people who've worked with her, met her, have spoken about this sense of humor, A.

MARTINEZ: That's reporter Willem Marx in London. Willem, thank you very much.

MARX: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martinez
Willem Marx