Church bells and 96 gunshots mark Queen Elizabeth's death

Mourning in Wakefield, Yorkshire, is typical of cities across the UK

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Queen Elizabeth II dies — follow the latest news as the world mourns

Ninety-six gunshots sounded across the UK on Friday in a ceremonial “death salute” marking each year of the life of Queen Elizabeth II.

Given that the queen was the oldest monarch in British history, it was the longest salute so far. Shots were fired from Hyde Park and the Tower of London in the capital, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland and Cardiff Castle in Wales, as well as the Channel Islands and Gibraltar.

A similar tribute was paid in Dubai.

Church bells also rang throughout the nation after the Church of England wrote to its dioceses to encourage them to do so and to remain open for prayer and special services.

In the city of Wakefield, Yorkshire, people glanced at their watches as the bells began to peel, unusually, at 1.50pm to commemorate the life of the queen.

Members of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery during the gun salute at London's Hyde Park to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II. PA

Muslims and Christians embraced on the steps of the cathedral, wiping away tears in united grief for the “mother of the nation” who many had never met.

“I feel like I have lost a grandmother,” property director Majid Sadiq told The National.

“When I heard the news I went to tell my mum and she just burst into tears. She is like the grandma we never had. I feel like I have lost a member of my own family.”

Bishop of Wakefield Reverend Simon Cowling laid out two books of condolences at the cathedral entrance as hundreds of people filed throughout the day through the ornate doors to share their memories of the monarch they loved.

A picture of the queen was displayed by the altar, surrounded by dozens of bundles of flowers and heartfelt tributes.

“She visited our city in 2005 to hand out the Maundy money,” Rev Cowling said. “It was such an honour. She had this amazing gift of being able to connect with people. Everyone loved her.”

As he knelt to light a candle in the monarch’s memory, Robert Cunliffe, 32, wiped a tear from his eye.

“She was the mother of the nation,” he said.

Robert Cunliffe has paid his respects to the queen at Wakefield Cathedral. Photo: Nicky Harley /The National

“I met her twice, in Wakefield and London. She grabbed my hand and told me to follow my faith. She was an amazing lady.”

For Janet, 64, from Castleford, it was the queen’s cheekiness that she will remember.

“My friend and I travelled here to pay our respects,” she said.

“I loved her sense of humour and the cheeky twinkle in her eye. She was just phenomenal. I wanted to light a candle to honour her, there will never be anyone like her again.”

Her friend Maggie, 57, from Pontefract, was still in shock.

As the bells echoed across the city, the ladies put down their cups of tea and looked solemnly towards them.

“I’m still in disbelief; it doesn’t feel real,” Maggie said.

“My favourite memory of her was when she knighted Sir Captain Tom [a charity fund-raiser aged 100] in his garden. You could see the mutual respect between them. I just feel so emotional.”

Community support worker Shabaan Saleem, 19, said the Muslim community had been hard hit by the queen's death.

“I burst into tears when I heard the news,” he said.

“The queen was an iconic figure across the world and for us nationally. She has shown support for all our communities. I was devastated when I heard the news. She has been such an important figure in all our lives. She has made such a difference around the world. She has united Great Britain and done so much good for our nation.

“For the Muslim community, she was amazing. After terror attacks, she [did] not blame the Muslim community but instead stood by us. We are all in grief today.”

Shabaan Saleem lit a candle and wrote in the book of condolence at Wakefield Cathedral to thank the queen for her support of the Muslim community. Nicky Harley /The National

For a place nicknamed the Merrie city, on Friday there was little laughter in Wakefield as the community joined people across the country in shared grief and shock.

“It truly is the ended of an era,” Mr Sadiq said.

Queen Elizabeth timeline — in pictures

Updated: September 12, 2022, 4:31 PM
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