Flowers and flags as public flocks to honour to Prince Philip

Individuals and groups of people, many families with young children, gathered to see the formal announcement pinned to the gates of the 94-year-old monarch's central London home.

An ardent British royals fan lays a floral tribute at the front of Buckingham Palace in central London on 9 April 2021 after the announcement of the death of Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP

WINDSOR - Crowds of well-wishers flocked to Queen Elizabeth II's Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle homes on Friday after news of her husband Prince Philip's death was announced.

Individuals and groups of people, many families with young children, gathered to see the formal announcement pinned to the gates of the 94-year-old monarch's central London home.

Single daffodils were threaded through the black railings of Buckingham Palace. Others left bouquets of flowers and Union Jack flags on the pavement, as bright spring sunshine turned to clouds overhead.

As the news spread, the mood was sombre, with only the sound of muted conversation, and the hum of passing traffic breaking the silence. Some members of the public looked visibly moved.

"He was a figure of history," Sarah Allison, 31, who travelled to the palace with her four-year-old daughter, told AFP.

"It's really a sad day. He lived an amazing and varied life, and it's such a loss to his family and his wife, because they were inseparable."

GALLERY: Royal reflections, a look at the life of Prince Philip

Buckingham Palace - a central London landmark - became one of the focal points for public mourning after the death of Diana, princess of Wales, in 1997.

Nearby Clarence House, just a short distance up The Mall, was also thronged with well-wishers when the queen's mother, also called Queen Elizabeth, died aged 101 in 2002.

Chris Green, a local government officer, came straight down when he heard the news.

"I was local and I came here when the Queen Mother and Diana died so I came here for a quiet thought and to pay my respects," the 57-year-old said.

'EPITOME OF SERVICE'

It was a similar scene outside Windsor Castle, west of the capital, where the Queen and Philip have stayed during the coronavirus lockdown, and where the prince spent his final moments.

Despite calls to stay away due to lockdown rules, a steady stream of people, mainly elderly couples and families, came to pay their respects during the afternoon.

They filled the lawn in front of the castle with bouquets, drawings, words of condolence, balloons and other signs offering support to the family.

"Dear Queen Elizabeth, I'm sorry about Prince Philip," said one card, written in child's handwriting, surrounded by hearts.

"It was really a shock this morning, and it made our hearts ache for the Queen," said Karen Llewellyn, a Frenchwoman married to a Welshman, who came to the castle with daughter, Emilie.

"We all have this thought for the Queen who will be alone without her pillar," she added, while daughter Emilie said she "made a little prayer" after hearing the news.

Christine Playle, 75, said the prince represented "stability" for generations of Britons.

"I'm really old and I've never known my life without him," she said.

"He's been such a loyal husband to the Queen. He's always been there, one pace behind, supporting her, and it's just very sad."

Outside Buckingham Palace, uniformed and mounted police walked through the groups of people, quietly reminding well-wishers about social distancing rules to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

COVID restrictions, which are gradually being lifted across the country, meant crowds were thinner than would normally be expected for such a major royal event.

But some people still felt duty bound to pay their formal respects.

"It's an honour to be here for Prince Philip," said one woman, who gave her name as Sandra.

"He is the epitome of service and commitment to his country. He was an important world figure and it's nice to see so many people have come out.

"He was the patriarch of one of the strongest families in the world. I think this is a pivotal moment for the royal family. The Queen has relied on him and I don't think they will have realised the size of this loss."

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