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Aussies in London soak up history in the making

Many of the 100,000 Australians based in the UK will bear witness to history as they soak up the atmosphere of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

September 19, 2022
By Katelyn Catanzariti
19 September 2022

Aussies in the UK – whether staunch republicans or heartbroken monarchists – are getting the opportunity to bear witness to history in the making.

Nearly 100,000 Australians live in the UK, so it’s fair to assume there might plenty in the crowd of more than a million expected to catch a glimpse of the Queen’s funeral procession.

Or they’re just soaking up the atmosphere at an event unlikely to be surpassed for grandeur, pomp and ceremony.

At the very least, they’ll tune in to the live broadcasts at one of the many viewing screens at parks, squares, cathedrals and cinemas across the country.

“I certainly wouldn’t class myself as a monarchist but in saying that, being over here you can’t help but get swept up in all the emotion,” Craig Condon, visiting from Canberra, said.

The 58-year-old and his partner spent six hours queuing to see the Queen lying in state last week – an experience he has described as “once-in-a-lifetime”.

“It’s just incredible how they do things here. You try and compare Australia or what Canberra does and it just pales into insignificance,” he said.

“It’s a moment in history. It will never happen again in my lifetime.”

The couple are going to Hyde Park with friends on Monday to watch the funeral on a big screen.

Born in Melbourne, Margaret John, 76, has lived in the UK for more than 40 years but always considered herself a republican – until now.

”We are going to open, perhaps a better bottle of wine than usual and raise our glasses to the end of a reign that will remain in our memories for the rest of our lives.”

Australian-born UK resident Margaret John

“I have been dazzled by the extraordinary history of it all,” she said.

“Watching the ceremonies unfold, one by one, I was bowled over by the sheer dignity of it: the precision, the attention to detail, the strength of the family.

“And so, on Monday, we will be in front of the box watching the greatest funeral we will ever get to see. We are going to open, perhaps a better bottle of wine than usual and raise our glasses to the end of a reign that will remain in our memories for the rest of our lives.”

Neighbours Natasha McDowell, 45, and Nathan Milner, 41 – both from Sydney originally – live a stone’s throw from the Long Walk in Windsor where the Queen will be driven up before reaching her final resting place.

“I’m sure when she passes me by I will shed tears.”

Former Sydneysider Tamara Kertesz

With phenomenal numbers expected to visit the town, set amongst hectares of royal parkland, both seem nervous about venturing out.

“But this is history in the making and it would be terrible to not pay our respects to an amazing person,” McDowell said.

Sydneysider-turned-Windsor resident, Tamara Kertesz, 49, intends on making the most of her location.

“I plan to arrive at the Long Walk in the early hours, before sunrise,” she said.

“I’m sure when she passes me by I will shed tears.”

Surprised by reactions

London-dweller David Kirkby, 58, originally from Sydney, said he was surprised by his reaction to the outpouring of emotion he has witnessed in the 10 days since the Queen died.

“Do I follow the royal family closely? No. But this is a historical moment. It’s quite extraordinary,” Kirkby said, adding that he plans to watch the funeral from home.

“We are witnessing history unfold. It’s a reflective moment, a respectful moment and a global moment and a point in history I will always remember.”

Katrina Chapman, 39, from Sydney, is not a fan of the royal family at all – she is unimpressed with the country’s imperialist past.

But even she went to Buckingham Palace last week to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.

“I was curious about that – just to go and see the madness,” she said.

“But I’m not fussed about the funeral.”

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