For Australians, Too, It’s the End of an Era

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The death of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, has reverberated around the world. Amid the outpouring of grief on social media and in news coverage, her passing inevitably renewed questions about the monarchy’s role, including in Commonwealth countries, like Australia, where she was the head of state.

Australians have responded to the news in a variety of ways. Lawmakers sent messages of condolences, and news channels looked back on her visits to Australia. Some aspects of the mourning process here — like suspending Parliament for 15 days — have come under scrutiny.

In Melbourne, where I spent the morning talking to residents, reactions ranged from grief and a profound sense of loss to apathy.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Lisa Tinsay, 24, who was dressed in black to mark the occasion. She had considered the queen a feminist hero, she said.

“I don’t really feel anything,” said Charlotte Terrell, 23, her co-worker at a marketing agency. “I don’t think it affects us that much.”

Some Key Moments in Queen Elizabeth’s Reign

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Becoming queen. Following the death of King George VI, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary ascended to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, at age 25. The coronation of the newly minted Queen Elizabeth II took place on June 2 the following year.

A historic visit. On May 18, 1965, Elizabeth arrived in Bonn on the first state visit by a British monarch to Germany in more than 50 years. The trip formally sealed the reconciliation between the two nations following the world wars.

First grandchild. In 1977, the queen stepped into the role of grandmother for the first time, after Princess Anne gave birth to a son, Peter. Elizabeth’s four children have given her a total of eight grandchildren, who have been followed by several great-grandchildren.

Princess Diana’s death. In a rare televised broadcast ahead of Diana’s funeral in 1997, Queen Elizabeth remembered the Princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris at age 36, as “an exceptional and gifted human being.”

Golden jubilee. In 2002, celebrations to mark Elizabeth II’s 50 years as queen culminated in a star-studded concert at Buckingham Palace in the presence of 12,000 cheering guests, with an estimated one million more watching on giant screens set up around London.

A trip to Ireland. In May 2011, the queen visited the Irish Republic, whose troubled relationship with the British monarchy spanned centuries. The trip, infused with powerful symbols of reconciliation, is considered one of the most politically freighted trips of Elizabeth’s reign.

Breaking a record. As of 5:30 p.m. British time on Sept. 9, 2015, Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother. Elizabeth was 89 at the time, and had ruled for 23,226 days, 16 hours and about 30 minutes.

Marking 70 years of marriage. On Nov. 20, 2017, the queen and Prince Philip celebrated their 70th anniversary, becoming the longest-married couple in royal history. The two wed in 1947, as the country and the world was still reeling from the atrocities of World War II.

Losing her spouse. In 2021, Queen Elizabeth II bade farewell to Prince Philip, who died on April 9. An image of the queen grieving alone at the funeral amid coronavirus restrictions struck a chord with viewers at home following the event.

For some, Elizabeth’s death marked the closing of a long, familiar chapter.

“The queen was crowned the year I was born,” said Marion Robinson, 69. “She was there our whole lives.”

“I think she represented stability,” she added. “I felt safe.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever have the security again that we had with her,” said Carole Kelly, 73. She has fond memories of seeing the queen from afar on one of her visits to Brisbane.

“I was there waving my flag,” she said. “It was a bit magical. You know — wow, the queen!”

For many Australians, the queen is inseparable from their own lives, said Mark McKenna, a historian at the University of Sydney.

“For a lot of people, she’s the only queen they’ve ever known,” he said. “She’s the only monarch who’s been there every day of their lives. A lot of their affection for her is tied up with their own memories — often sentimental — about their own youth and their own memories of Australia at another time.”

She embodies memories of what many think of as a calmer era, said Cindy McCreery, another University of Sydney historian. She added: “I think there’s a lot of nostalgia that may not actually represent the difficulties of the past.”

Some Australians were surprised by their own reactions to the news.

Michael Beattie, 44, wants Australia to become a republic and never thought he had particularly strong affection for the queen. But when he saw the headlines this morning, he walked into the room of his partner, who had also just seen the news. At a loss, they looked at each other and hugged.

“It was so weird,” he said with a small laugh. “There’s something in the psyche,” he added. “It’s about acknowledging that, too — whether you agree with the monarchy or not, something has ended.”

Still, he said, he hopes that the queen’s passing will encourage Australians to reconsider the monarchy’s role and how we can come into our own as a nation.

“There is sadness, but I also think it’s time to move on as well,” he said.

Now for this week’s stories:

Australia and New Zealand

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands in 2019. He said the postponement of national elections “does not in any way inhibit or prohibit the right to vote.”Credit…Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press
  • Solomon Islands’ Leader, a Friend of China, Gets an Election Delayed. The prime minister claims the country can’t afford to hold national elections next year. His opponents see a power grab linked to Beijing’s influence.

  • Archie Roach, Who Lived and Sang the Aboriginal Blues, Dies at 66. His song “Took the Children Away,” inspired by his childhood, shook Australians into confronting a grim era when their government tore apart Aboriginal families.

Around The Times

Flowers in memory of Queen Elizabeth II outside the British Embassy in Washington on Thursday.Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times
  • A Global Outpouring of Grief Mixes With Criticism of the Monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II was remembered by ordinary Britons, world leaders and other royals for her grace, humor and longevity. Others had more conflicted views of the monarchy.

  • A Kick at the Door, a Knife in the Hand: The Saskatchewan Murders. As investigators pore over a sprawling and complex trail of crimes, a clearer picture is emerging of the stabbing rampage on an Indigenous reserve in Canada.

  • An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy.“I won, and I didn’t break any rules,” the artwork’s creator says.

  • The Hunt for Big Hail. Hailstones of record size are falling left and right, and hailstorm damage is growing. But there is surprisingly little research to explain why.

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