A place in the front row of history.
This is how CSB and SJU students studying in London this semester describe the opportunity to attend events surrounding the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III. to be present.
The Queen – whose reign lasted over 70 years, the longest of any British monarch – died on September 8, sparking a ten-day mourning period that preceded her funeral on Monday September 19 at London’s Westminster Abbey.
“It was incredibly interesting to be able to be in London at such a historic time,” said Lauren Pfeffer, a junior at the College of Saint Benedict, a chief accountant who is on CSB and SJU’s UK-London program, via email. “We had only been in London for a little over a week when the Queen died, so we were still adjusting to life (here) when all of this started.
“It was incredibly cool to see the impact the Queen has had not just on the country but on the whole world and to see what she does to honor and celebrate her.”
Pfeffer and fellow CSB juniors Anna Stuckmayer, Maia Reuter and Isabella Bovee were able to attend a number of events – including standing outside Buckingham Palace on the night of the Queen’s death and attending the welcoming of the new King on September 14 part. 10 and stood outside the funeral itself and watched the procession.
“On the night of her death we went to Buckingham Palace to see how everyone was reacting to the news,” Stuckmayer said via email. “I will never forget being there at night. Shortly after the news became known, numerous people had gathered in front of the palace. Despite the crowds, it was eerily quiet.
“We were also able to see a 21-gun salute to King Charles when we visited Stonehenge. That was interesting to see and we didn’t know it was going to happen until we got there. Finally, we were able to personally observe the funeral procession. We even spotted a few members of the royal family!”
The four were even interviewed by Twin Cities television network KMSP (FOX 9) and shared their experiences with audiences at home.
“Honestly it’s a super overwhelming time because we’ve only been here a few weeks,” Reuter, a communications major, said via email. “We’re still trying to adjust to being in London and then we live through the story.”
Bovee said that being present at the funeral was particularly noticeable.
“I was shocked by how grand and massive the event was,” the global corporate governance major said via email. “With hundreds of thousands of people lining up to watch and an hour long funeral, two minutes of silence across the city and an hour long procession with so many royal guards, military personnel, the royal family, the coffin and bands playing a procession Music and so many other people that mattered to the royals.
“It really was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.”
All four students said they had definitely sensed a sense of loss while traveling around London over the past two weeks.
“There are memorials and tributes to the Queen all over the city,” Bovee said. “Your picture can be seen almost everywhere. Last Thursday I happened to walk through Green Park. The city has transformed the park into a floral tribute to the Queen, and the sheer number of gifts, flowers and letters left in her honor was overwhelming. There were hundreds of piles of bouquets and drawings and cards and all sorts of other things to honor her and it was incredibly moving to see.”
“It’s hard to tell how much the mood in London has changed since the Queen’s death, considering we were only here a week before it happened,” added Stuckmayer, a primary school teacher. “We didn’t have much time to experience and get to know London. On the day of her death, however, the mood was noticeably different. Being at Buckingham Palace was surreal considering the number of people gathered to quietly pay their respects to the Queen.
“You can tell that while most people didn’t know the Queen personally, her death affected everyone.”
Each student said it was a moment they will not soon forget.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to study abroad at such a historic moment,” said Stuckmayer. “Even though we’ve only been here for three weeks, this has been (already) such a valuable learning experience.”
“It’s crazy to think that this is something that will probably be written about in history books and taught in history classes for years to come,” Bovee added. “My own children and grandchildren will know about this. It’s honestly hard to process what a monumental moment this is on top of all the other incredible things that just studying abroad allows me to experience.”