The Queen and Prince Philip honored Chicago with a visit more than 60 years ago
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Her majesty's 70 year reign is now suddenly a memory. And for Queen Elizabeth II's country men and women half a world away- her outsized absence is unfamiliar.
The Royal Family announced Thursday afternoon that the Queen "died peacefully at Balmoral," at the age of 96.
She passed at 6:30 p.m. London time.
It's hard to completely understand what this loss means to so many people, with emotion on display as people walk by the British consulate in Chicago.
The loss of Queen Elizabeth II is felt all across the world and the news is tough to swallow for many England natives living in Chicago, now mourning thousands of miles away from home.
We spoke to two England natives, who explained to us in tears, how the Queen has always united so many people.
"She's always comported herself so well and everyone adores her. It's just a sad day for England," said Trisha Ferguson, England native living in Chicago
"Everyone from home is messaging me saying, 'have you seen?' It's just very surreal to not be there with all my friends," said Amber Buchanan, a fellow England native living in Chicago. "Everyone I know is going to London now to stand by the castle and pay their respects."
Most living Brits can't remember a world without a queen Elizabeth.
"My whole existence as a British person has been with the queen as head of state. It's very strange to think she's gone," said British national, Steven Kessel. "She just seems invincible."
"When something happened in the world and she spoke, you just listened. You took it and you felt it, and you appreciated and respected her on a level that you respect you mom and your grandma. It was nice," said Scotish national, Bobi Anderson.
The Queen was an icon for so many people. Buchanan said that's especially true for her and the women in her life who saw the Queen as a role model.
"I think, in a way, it was empowering having a woman to be in charge," Buchanan said. "She's such a kind person. Everything you see, she's so friendly and I'm sure King Charles will be the same but I just don't feel like it's the same."
Now with King Charles III set to take his reign, many are wondering what that means for the monarch's future.
"The best parts of her was that she was kind of apolitical. Whatever government and changes came in, she was our stabilizer," said Fred, who traveled to U.S.
"She had a wonderful life. She was great and fabulous," Ferguson added.
Those people we spoke to are now trying to find different ways to honor the Queen. Some say that could be with flowers or a visit to the local pubs here in Chicago that feel a bit more like home.
A symbol of strength and resolve for generations, Queen Elizabeth was iconic.
And as our cousins across the Atlantic mourn, we remember the great grandmother, the matriarch and the monarch who made that meaningful and whirlwind trip to Chicago.
On July 6th, 1959, the Queen and Prince Philip made their way to a the jetty, crossing from Buckingham Fountain, receiving a royal welcome complete with roses and lending a monarch's moniker to the space known ever since as Queen's Landing.
"I'm 13 years old. You see the Queen of England arriving and her husband, the Prince," said John Daley, Cook County Commissioner.
The Cook County commissioner was there with his family and father Mayor Richard J. Daley.
"Unbelievable reception she received that day," he added.
The Queen traveled in an open air motorcade down Michigan Avenue, with tens of thousands lining up to catch a glimpse. Many more were along State Street, right where our ABC 7 Studios now sits, to watch her royal highness take in the city sites and add even more international legitimacy to the third coast.
"She put Chicago on the map. And then after her, all dignitaries who came to the United States wanted to make sure they came to the city of Chicago," Daley said.
A young commissioner, Daley even met the queen that evening.
"I found her to be just a nice individual. A human individual who cared about her family. Asked questions about our family. What our ages was," he said.
While her trip was short - less than 24 hours - University of Chicago Professor of History Steven Pincus said simply, her presence spoke volumes.
"Coming to Chicago in the 1960s meant Chicago was on the stage, certainly with New York, but with Paris, London, Moscow, Berlin. It was a world city," Pincus said.
Now, Chicago is a city that thrives today as it remembers a royal with resolve.
"The fact that a monarch came -- of all the Midwest cities -- she chose Chicago, says a lot," Daley said.
Commissioner Daley said the Queen was incredibly caring during their short meeting and that she is a shining example of public service.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker is among many in the U.S. who are not only mourning her, but also remembering her life and legacy after 70 years on the throne.
"I join the world in mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II. For over seven decades she led with grace and was an inspiration for many," Pritzker said in a tweet.
In a new proclamation, President Biden has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until "until sunset, on the day of interment," he announced.
"As a mark of respect for the memory of Queen Elizabeth II, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment," the proclamation reads.
"Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era," the also said in a statement. "Queen Elizabeth II led always with grace, an unwavering commitment to duty, and the incomparable power of her example. She was a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock Alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States. She helped make our relationship special. The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement and the forward march of human dignity. Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world."
Former President Donald Trump posted a statement on his Truth Social platform that said in part:
"Melania and I are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Together with our family and fellow Americans, we send our sincere condolences to the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom during this time of great sorrow and grief. Queen Elizabeth's historic and remarkable reign left a tremendous legacy of peace and prosperity for Great Britain. Her leadership and enduring diplomacy secured and advanced alliances with the United States and countries around the world."
The Obamas released a statement marking the Queen's passing saying in part:
"Michelle and I were lucky enough to come to know Her Majesty, and she meant a great deal to us. Back when we were just beginning to navigate life as President and First Lady, she welcomed us to the world stage with open arms and extraordinary generosity. Time and again, we were struck by her warmth, the way she put people at ease, and how she brought her considerable humor and charm to moments of great pomp and circumstance... Like so many, Michelle and I are grateful to have witnessed Her Majesty's dedicated leadership, and we are awed by her legacy of tireless, dignified public service. Our thoughts are with her family and the people of the United Kingdom at this difficult time."
Former President Bill Clinton also expressed his condolences following the news.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the Royal Family and all the people Her Majesty inspired throughout her lifetime of service," he said in a tweet along with a longer statement.
Former President George W. Bush said the Queen "was a woman of great intellect, charm, and wit." He added that "spending time at Buckingham Palace, and having tea with Her Majesty - and her Corgis - is among our fondest memories of the presidency."
Earlier in the day Thursday, doctors had expressed concern over her health and that she had been placed under medical supervision.
Now, her eldest son, 73-year-old Prince Charles, becomes the King of England immediately upon his mother's death.
Her death comes roughly a year after the death of her husband Prince Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, who died at the age of 99 on April 9, 2021, in Windsor Castle.