Tehkummah’s Esther Anstice recalls Queen Elizabeth II and reactions in London

Tehkummah’s Esther Anstice, left, meets Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the Royal Family on the occasion of the Queen’s 90th birthday.

LONDON, ENGLAND—Esther Anstice, formerly of Tehkummah, has a unique vantage point on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascension of Charles III to the throne as the deputy head virger at St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral located on the highest point in London, England and the site of numerous historical events, including the funeral services for Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

As a member of the cathedral staff for several years now, Ms. Anstice has met Queen Elizabeth II and the new king, then Prince of Wales, along with much of the royal family during the course of her duties at one of the most visible physical landmarks in the city.

The Expositor contacted Ms. Anstice on Saturday to elicit her take on the passing of the Queen and mood on the street in England.

“On some levels not a lot has changed,” she said, but added that “lots of shops are closed and many things have been cancelled out of respect during the 12 days of mourning.”

As for individual reactions, she described them as “mixed.”

“Not because people didn’t care,” she said, “but we are acknowledging the new King as well.” The Queen’s passing was not as much of a shock or surprise, noted Ms. Anstice, given that Her Royal Majesty was 96 years old. “But it is also very sad. She was the only monarch that most of us have ever had. It’s a big thing.”

St. Paul’s plays a very important role in the lives of Londoners, explained Ms. Anstice. As the home church for the Diocese of London, it is where many of the faithful turn for solace and reflection during times like these. “Not only for the people who live here, but for people all over the world.”

That was reflected in the congregation when St. Paul’s opened for a service of prayer and reflection for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at 6 pm on Friday, September 9.

“This is a very large church, but there were only so many seats (2,000) available for the public,” said Ms. Anstice. “People were queued outside from around 11 am and included many tourists from around the world who happened to be in London when the news came of the Queen’s passing.” The service was broadcast live on BBC1, Britain’s national broadcaster.

The broadcast took place following His Majesty King Charles III’s address to the nation, which was relayed over loudspeakers at the cathedral prior to the service.

“This was not a service for the great and the good,” noted Ms. Anstice, “although the prime minister and some cabinet ministers were there.” Instead, most of the pews were filled with commoners, many from countries all across the globe. “It was a very memorable day and I was blessed to be a part of it.”

Ms. Anstice met the Queen just a few months into her employment at St. Paul’s, being part of a reception line that included the cathedral staff during a service on Her Majesty’s 90th birthday.

“I met all of the Royal Family that day,” she said. “She was just 90 years old and there was something very comfortable about her. Her majesty had a way of putting us at ease.” For the 15 seconds that they talked, Ms. Anstice shared that Her Majesty was very much in the moment and focussed on the young assistant virger in front of her. “I was introduced by the deputy head virger and was just eight months into the position at that time,” recalled Ms. Anstice. “She said, ‘This must all be very new to you. It’s a pleasure for me to be here as well. Thank you.’ It was all over so quickly, that’s the best I can recall of our conversation,” laughed Ms. Anstice. “It was a very interesting sort of day.”

One of the striking things Ms. Anstice noticed at the Friday service was the diversity of the crowd in attendance, particularly the number of younger people. “Of course, if you are standing in line from 11 am to get tickets to get in you would likely be a bit younger,” she said.

As for her personal feelings on the passage of the Queen, Ms. Anstice said that she hoped she “was comfortable and surrounded by her family. I understand she went quietly and peacefully.”