In Hyde Park, where the public had been invited to watch the proceedings on giant screens, the field was like a sombre festival ground. On the perimeter, food trucks sold German sausages, coffee, doughnuts, and ice cream. Thousands of people were seated cross-legged on the grass, watching as Prince George and little Princess Charlotte, second and third in line for the throne, entered Westminster Abbey. Some had come with picnics, folding chairs, and blankets; others looked as if they’d stumbled through on their morning run. About fifteen hundred portable toilets had been set up, a cleaner named Sandra O’Brien, from Essex, told me. She was making the rounds with a spray bottle and plastic gloves. “This is not my normal job,” she said. Usually, she works in the Bank of England’s Printing Works, where banknotes featuring the Queen’s portrait are printed. “The notes’ll be changing, to Prince Charles—well, King Charles,” O’Brien said.
Toward the back of the screening area, a family was laying out a flag that read “Coventry,” their home town. By the food carts, a woman was carrying a large fish and chips. Another, clutching a sausage, and wrapped in a Platinum Jubilee banner, had stopped to take a photo of police officers on horseback. The sound of bagpipes came through the speakers. Alec Kwakye and Jessica McGann, a couple in their twenties, who had driven from Sheffield, were seated on the grass. McGann said that, when she’d heard the news of the Queen’s passing, she cried “for, like, two days.” “She’s all we’ve ever known, really,” she continued. “She makes me think of my own nan.” Kwakye grew up in London, but his family is from Ghana. “Even when I went back home, you still hear about her,” he said. McGann added, “I think the Royal Family is what makes me British.”