Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
It’s hard to see the grass in London’s Green Park these days, both because the grounds are piled high with flowers for Queen Elizabeth and full of visitors who have dropped by to see them.
British officials have encouraged the public to leave floral tributes in two dedicated royal parks, with Green Park being the prime location for laying flowers near Buckingham Palace. The park is also the final destination for tributes left elsewhere in the city that park workers brought over.
Mourners and other visitors did not disappoint. They have carefully placed bouquets of flowers, stuffed Paddington bears, drawings of corgis, handwritten letters, painted pebbles, flags, posters, photographs and other tokens of appreciation on the ground in rows and stacks – filling the park with color and turning it into an attraction for themselves. Huge crowds poured in and out of the park on Saturday, causing such a chaotic traffic jam that some people thought the area had been closed.
Within the tribute area, however, was a quieter scene of reflection and admiration. Many people came with generations of their families to lay flowers and enjoy the scenery, both for its vastness and for the tiny details underfoot: thank you cards left open, a jam jar under a stuffed bear, children’s drawings on crisp white paper in front of you Sea of green stalks.
People took photos of the scene and their loved ones posing in it, and walked around the park pointing to their favorite flowers and cards. Some have visited several times over the past week, while others have traveled from out of town just to see the tributes, such as Shaun and Tracey Dunmall, who took the train from Kent.
“[We’re here to] look at the flowers,” Tracey explained. “It’s the only thing people can do for her, isn’t it?”
A woman named Fabi, who visited the park with her 21-year-old daughter, said the scene was sad on a “human level”, even for the thousands of mourners who had never met the Queen.
“I suppose it reminds you of the people you lost and overall it’s nice to see people come out and pay their respects,” she said.
Many in the crowd took their time looking for the perfect spot to place their flowers.
For Ellie Bunn, 26, that meant finding an area with fresh flowers and a bit of sunlight. She was there with her mum and aunts to see the tributes for the first time – but was still thinking of her walk where she saw King Charles’ motorcade head towards Buckingham Palace. She said she was too impressed to pull out her phone in time to take a picture.
Joanna and Ben Ibbotson happily let their 4-year-old daughter Alice lay down her flowers – she scattered them one at a time in different places – and the card she signed herself to practice her penmanship on the train journey.
Like everyone else NPR spoke to at the park, they said they were most moved by the handwritten tributes from young children.
Graham Monks, a sergeant major in the British Army, was a striking figure in his military uniform and carried a long wooden cane known as a pace stick. He’s one of thousands of soldiers in London supporting funeral procedures and finally got a chance to stop by to see the tributes on his way after a 14-hour shift. He was there for about five minutes and had already lost count of how many people had asked him to pose for photos with them. Seeing uniformed soldiers in public is a rare sight in Britain, he explained, as is a royal funeral.
Monks described children’s notes to the Queen as particularly “heartbreaking” and specifically mentioned a card asking the Queen to say hello to the writer’s nonnie in heaven.
“People write a nice long essay, a long story, but actually it’s the little ones from the kids that really come home and give you goosebumps and a lump in your throat,” he said.
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