ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Condolences poured in from around the world and locally after the death Thursday of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
The owners of Kings Head British Pub off U.S. 1 near St. Augustine and patrons told News4JAX that they are in shock.
Some of them have ties to the United Kingdom while others grew up there, but they all agree that the queen’s reign is one to be celebrated and remembered forever.
John and Rachel Scott lived in the U.K. for six years.
“We couldn’t believe how one person could bring an entire kingdom and then a commonwealth and a lot of the world together,” said John Scott. “For us, we just said, ‘Go buy some flowers and go to the British Consulate. Oh, wait, there’s not one around here, but the closest thing to the British Consulate might be the Kings Head Pub.’”
The queen’s 70-year reign astounded and inspired people everywhere.
“She just had this strength, this mother strength and grit that you tapped into,” Rachel Scott said.
Ann Dyke and her daughter, Elaine Frew, run the St. Johns County pub. They said that when they learned earlier Thursday that the queen’s health was being questioned by doctors, a voice in the back of their heads said they knew something was going to happen.
After learning of her death, they are flying their flag at half-staff to show respect for their home county. They also put a black shroud over the queen’s photo.
“She has been the guiding light, if you like, the hand on the rudder to keep us all going in the right direction,” said Frew, who’s the head chef at Kings Head British Pub.
They talked about how they only hope her family continues the legacy.
”I’ve only ever known her as queen. And then, of course, her father, George VI, and Queen Elizabeth, her mother, they were wonderful during World War II,” said Dyke, the owner of Kings Head British Pub. “I remember them going through the bombings in London, and Elizabeth was only a little girl, but she went into the Army and she did her little bit, she drove ambulances and she can change stuff in engines and whatnot. I remember one time she got stuck in the Highlands and she just got out lifted the lid and did what she needed to do for her car and carry on her way.”
Dyke and Frew said the queen’s impact will never die.
“We will remember her forever. The work that she’s done and the legacy she leaves behind. Like mother said, she has these wonderful grandchildren, William and Kate, and she has coached them. They will be very professional and with the same undaunting spirit that the queen had. Very little phased her,” Frew said. “I always love to see her on the balcony with the family around her. She just rose to that occasion, and you could see that she really appreciated the people that were in front of Buckingham Palace. She appreciated the love of her people and she had it.”
The owners of the popular pub said they’ve been getting calls left and right. The pub will be open Thursday night and is expecting a large crowd of people to toast the queen. The owners want people to come by and share their favorite memories of the queen.
The pub will be closed on the day the queen will be buried.
“I just hope that you know everything carries on the way she would want it to. I’m sure everyone would do the very best,” Dyke said. “But I know at this very moment, I’m beginning to choke up, but the whole of England is in mourning. The trains have stopped, the shops have shut, offices have closed down, and we will be closed on Sept. 18, the day of her funeral.”
Virginia Levry, who was born in Great Britain but now lives in St. Augustine, says the queen’s passing will have a ripple effect on countries across the globe.
“The queen, not just for England, represented stability around the whole world,” Levry said. “And everything seems to be crumbling. We’ve got so many problems with the economies, not just here, but in England and everywhere. And she was always looked on as a force of power.”
Iris Davis, 78, was born in Ireland, but her family moved to England when she was still a child and Elizabeth took the throne.
“I remember her coronation to this day. I was 9 years old,” Davis recalled. “And I remember listening to it on the radio. We didn’t have a TV but we heard every word on the radio.”
Davis says when Elizabeth took the throne, she instantly become a female role model for so many little girls growing up in the UK.
“And that’s exactly what she was. I don’t think there was a woman on this planet who was admired more than the queen,” Davis said.
Danijella Dragas was born and raised in London and spent most of her life there before moving to the U.S. at age 30. Elizabeth has been the monarch she’s identified with all her life.
She said she and the rest of the U.K. will now have to get used to Charles as the new king.
“It’s the normal succession because he is the next in line, a male heir to the throne, which he has prepared for years, but this will be the first time it’s happened in my lifetime,” Dragas said.
“I think he’s got his work cut out for him because of what happened with Princess Di(ana),” Levry said. “She was so popular. And I think the queen did a good job of trying to knit that together.”
“Hopefully he has good instructions from his mother,” Davis said. “He’s learned well under her tutelage and her example and I think he will be a fine king.”
Queen dies at residence in Scotland
Buckingham Palace said the queen died at age 96 at Balmoral Castle, her summer residence in Scotland, where members of the royal family had rushed to her side after her health took a turn for the worse.
A link to the almost-vanished generation that fought World War II, she was the only monarch most Britons have ever known.
Her 73-year-old son Prince Charles automatically became king and will be known as King Charles III, his office announced. Charles’ second wife, Camilla, will be known as the Queen Consort.
The BBC played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” over a portrait of her in full regalia as her death was announced, and the flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-staff as the second Elizabethan age came to a close.
The impact of her loss will be huge and unpredictable, both for the nation and for the monarchy, an institution she helped stabilize and modernize across decades of enormous social change and family scandals.
Since Feb. 6, 1952, Elizabeth reigned over a Britain that rebuilt from a ruinous war and lost its empire; joined the European Union and then left it; and made the painful transition into the 21st century. She endured through 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Truss — a fixed point and a reassuring presence even for those who ignored or loathed the monarchy.
She became less visible in her final years as age and frailty curtailed public appearances, and she used a cane after the April 2021 death of Philip, her husband of 73 years. She was hospitalized for a night for tests later that year.
But she remained firmly in control of the monarchy and at the center of national life as Britain celebrated her Platinum Jubilee in June. That same month, she became the second-longest-reigning monarch in history, behind 17th century French King Louis XIV, who took the throne at age 4.
In 1947, almost five years before becoming queen, the 21-year-old Elizabeth promised the people of Britain and the Commonwealth that “my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”
It was a promise she kept across more than seven decades.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in London on April 21, 1926, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. She was not born to be queen -- her father’s elder brother, Prince Edward, was destined for the crown, to be followed by any children he had.
But in 1936, when she was 10, Edward VIII abdicated to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, and Elizabeth’s father became King George VI.
Princess Margaret recalled asking her sister whether this meant that Elizabeth would one day be queen. “‘Yes, I suppose it does,’” Margaret quoted her as saying. “She didn’t mention it again.”
Elizabeth was barely in her teens when Britain went to war with Germany in 1939. Elizabeth and Margaret lived mostly at Windsor Castle, spending many nights in an underground bomb shelter. Eager to help the war effort, the heir to the throne joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945, learning to drive and service heavy vehicles.
On the night the war ended in Europe, May 8, 1945, she and Margaret mingled, unrecognized, with celebrating crowds in London. She later called it “one of the most memorable nights of my life.”
At Westminster Abbey in 1947 she married Royal Navy officer Philip Mountbatten, a prince of Greece and Denmark whom she had first met in 1939 when she was 13 and he 18.
Their first child, Prince Charles, was born on Nov. 14, 1948. He was followed by Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960, and Prince Edward in 1964. Besides those children, she is survived by eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
In February 1952, George VI died after years of ill health at age 56. Elizabeth, visiting Kenya, was told she was now queen.
“In a way I didn’t have an apprenticeship,” Elizabeth told the BBC in 1992. “My father died much too young, and so it was all a very sudden kind of taking on, and making the best job you can.”
Her coronation came over a year later at Westminster Abbey, a spectacle seen by millions through the new medium of television.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s first reaction was that the new queen was “only a child,” but he was won over within days and became an ardent admirer.
She held weekly private meetings with her prime ministers, and they generally found her well-informed, inquisitive and up to date.
Her views in those meetings became a subject of speculation and fertile ground for dramatists like Peter Morgan, author of the play “The Audience” and hit TV series “The Crown.” Those semi-fictionalized accounts were the product of an era of declining deference and rising celebrity, when the royal family’s troubles became public property.
Early in her reign, Princess Margaret provoked a national controversy through her romance with a divorced man. In 1992, during what the queen called the “annus horribilis,” Princess Anne was divorced, Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated, and so did Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah. That was also the year Windsor Castle was seriously damaged by fire.
The public split of Charles and Diana was followed by the shock of her death in a Paris car crash in 1997. For once, the queen appeared out of step amid unprecedented public mourning, failing to make a public show of grief that was seen by many as unfeeling. After several days, she made a televised address to the nation.
The dent in her popularity was brief. She was by now a sort of national grandmother, with a stern gaze and a kind smile.
She was arguably the most famous person in the world. But her inner life and opinions remained mostly an enigma. The public saw only glimpses of her personality -- her joy watching horse races at Royal Ascot, or her pleasure in the companionship of her beloved Welsh corgi dogs.
In 2015, she overtook her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years, seven months and two days to become the longest serving monarch in British history, and she kept working into her 10th decade. The loss of Philip at age 99 in 2021 was a heavy blow.
And the family troubles kept coming. Her son, Prince Andrew, was entangled in the sordid tale of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, an American businessman who had been a friend. The queen’s grandson Prince Harry walked away from Britain and royal duties after marrying American actress Meghan Markle in 2018.
As the queen entered her mid-90s, she had what the palace called “mobility issues.” In May, she asked Charles to stand in for her at the State Opening of Parliament, one of the monarch’s key constitutional duties.
On Sept. 6, she presided at a ceremony at Balmoral Castle to accept the resignation of Boris Johnson as prime minister and appoint Truss as his successor.
As Britons endured loss, isolation and uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic, she made a rare video address in 2020 that urged people to stick together, summoning the spirit of World War II and echoing Vera Lynn’s wartime anthem, “We’ll Meet Again.”
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again,” she said.