Queen Elizabeth II: Durham Cathedral opens book of condolence – BBC

By Duncan Leatherdale
BBC News online

Durham Cathedral is one of hundreds of locations across the UK to open a book of condolence for Queen Elizabeth II. As the cathedral's bell tolled 96 times to mark each year of the Queen's life, the BBC joined the queue of mourners inside.
Dozens of people have signed the book by the time I get to it.
It has only been open a couple of hours but already the outpouring of emotional messages is in full flow.
I queued for more than 40 minutes, which somehow feels fitting as I recall reading the Queen would often stand for lengthy periods of time waiting to greet a guest or dignitary.
Her photo, in a plain black frame, stands beside a pot of pens and flickering candle on the desk in the cathedral's North Transept, illuminated from above by the soft colours of an enormous stained glass window.
Some have spent several minutes composing long, heartfelt messages – for others a simple sentence has sufficed.
One woman wiped away a tear as she left the book, others have been distinctly misty-eyed.
The cathedral is usually calm and quiet, but there seems an extra atmosphere of sombreness today.
"It does feel different today," says Linda Palmer, one of several purple-garbed Welcome Stewards stationed around the cathedral to greet visitors and answer queries.
"Just quieter, more reflective," she says, adding: "I don't think you normally see as many people sitting in the pews, just taking a moment to themselves.
"It feels more like a Good Friday than a regular day.
"We are a proper church today."
The cathedral is a tourist attraction as well as a working church, but the line between those functions seems more blurred than usual today.
People are still walking around taking pictures, but many are simply sitting while others are lighting memorial candles.
It is Clare Reid's first day as a Welcome Steward and there is nowhere she says she would rather be.
"I felt I wanted to be somewhere," she said, adding: "It is lovely to see so many people in here, to chat to and hear about different experiences of the Queen.
"One young man told me he moved to this country because of the Queen and what she represented."
Phil Mirley and Rebecca Herbert, a couple from Carrville on the outskirts of the city, have come to the cathedral to sign the book.
Rebecca is five weeks away from having the couple's first child together.
Both are already parents, but as Phil says, their latest will be the "first to be born under a king".
"This is such a big moment in history," he says, with Rebecca adding: "A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence."
Both wanted to show their respects having been "inspired" by the Queen and the way she led her 96-year-long life.
"She was such a great queen and a bedrock of the United Kingdom," Phil says, while Rebecca admires her achievements as a "wife and mother".
Though they say they are sad at the loss of the Queen, they are hopeful for what King Charles III can bring, especially in the battle against climate change which the new monarch has spoken out about previously.
"I think he will be great," Phil says, while Rebecca adds: "He will do his mam proud."
Friends Pam Bayliss and Virginia Fowler have come from Newcastle and Whitley Bay respectively for a trip to the cathedral.
They were coming to Durham anyway, but with last night's news they said it felt even more important to visit.
"I felt as if I needed to show some tribute," Pam says, adding: "It's so sad. For many people of my generation she is the only monarch we have known, she has been there all of our lives."
Virginia nods in agreement, adding: "Everybody has already used all the superlatives about her, she was so dignified, respectful and so well-loved.
"I don't think we will ever see someone like her again."
Like many of those I spoke to, they just seemed a bit stunned by what has happened.
Another woman, who asked only to be referred to as Gill, says: "We all knew this day would come and yet it's a surprise at how deep the impact has been.
"It sounds daft but you just always thought she would be there.
"It's like losing one of your own family."
The construction of Durham Cathedral began in 1093, meaning King Charles III is the 42nd monarch in its history.
But it will take some time before we are used to calling him King, Pam says.
"Saying 'king' instead of 'queen', it just feels so weird," she says.
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