The nation is in mourning following the death of its longest-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
She has been head of state for life for a huge percentage of people living in the United Kingdom since she ascended the throne on 6 February 1952.
Her 70-year reign represents the present age for millions of people, having grown up and lived their lives with her always there, as a constant presence.
Flags on public buildings followed the lead of royal residences at half-mast shortly after 6.30pm.
People have laid flowers outside the royal residences in tribute to the 96-year-old as they came to say ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’.
At Windsor, where a rainbow appeared as his news the death of the monarch announced, the crowds outside the castle were so great that staff members had difficulty getting through the main entrance.
A local Marks & Spencer kept its doors open late to allow mourners to buy bouquets, with one well-wisher reflecting on the likely thoughts of many when he said he felt “special” to gather with hundreds of others in the city the Queen called home her.
Dozens of colorful bunches of flowers were placed at the wrought iron gates of Buckingham Palace and a crowd of at least 1,000 gathered within minutes of the announcement, prompting Royal Parks staff to start building metal barrier pens to control the public.
A series of spontaneous cheers and a rendition of the National Anthem went through the crowd, remembering a head of state they had nothing but respect for, and many wept as the Union Flag was lowered over the building.
Many people left notes, including one that read: “We had you longer than you deserved.”
Hundreds clamored to catch a glimpse of the plaque announcing the monarch’s death, which officials unveiled at the gates outside the palace.
One of those outside, Christine Evans, 68, from Shropshire, said the Queen was a “wonderful” leader who would be “sorely missed by us all”.
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Outside Buckingham Palace, Mrs Evans said: “I am proud to be here and see all this support and how much the Queen is loved by all these people.
“He will be greatly missed by all of us.”
Another mourner in the crowd outside the palace, Annette German, added that the Queen “stayed out of all the arguments” in politics and “never made a mistake”.
Hundreds took to the pavements passing nearby Green Park on their way to join the crowds gathering outside the palace.
Others visited Sandringham House on the Queen’s Norfolk estate, where they laid flowers at the gates of Norwich.
Some were visibly upset as they approached the iron gate and security officials closed the road to traffic to ensure the growing crowds could gather safely.
At Hillsborough Castle, the monarch’s official residence in Northern Ireland, a stream of visitors paid their respects at the gates.
Others chose to visit churches across the country, many of which had opened their doors to allow people to mark her death.
Denis Edwards, as he mourned in Birmingham city center cathedral, said it was a “sad day for the family, a sad day for the country”.
He added: “Rest in peace, Queen Elizabeth, 70 years, seven more than (Queen) Victoria. Well done”.
It came as churches were told to ring their bells across England on Friday to mark the Queen’s death.
The House of Commons has announced it will meet at noon on Friday to allow MPs to pay tribute to the Queen in a sitting that will last until 10pm.
He added that there will also be a rare Saturday sitting when senior MPs will be sworn in by King Charles III from 2pm, with tributes continuing again until 10pm.
Across the country, online advertising warehouses were transformed into tributes to Her Majesty, with pictures from her life and the dates of her reign, with the bright signs of Piccadilly Circus among them.
Similar messages were displayed on screens at football stadiums, where minutes of silence were also observed, with matches against West Ham, Arsenal and Manchester United among those paying tribute.
A meeting of governing bodies across a range of sports is understood to be scheduled for Friday morning, where officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will set out government guidelines on the official mourning period.
Television networks changed their schedules to allow for a series of programs to mark Her Majesty’s life, with many of the national networks showing wall-to-wall coverage of the event.
Newspapers also produced commemorative editions, marking the death and life of the monarch.
Theaters across the country had to dim their lights, observe a minute’s silence, play the national anthem and open books of condolence before performances as a mark of respect, said a statement from the Society of London Theater (SOLT) and the UK Theatre.
A long line of black cabs lined the mall under dark and rainy skies to pay their respects, with one of the cabbies, Michael Ackerman, explaining that she was “the only woman we’ve ever known, our constant in our lives us and in our lives. showing our respect”.
The Mercury Prize ceremony, scheduled for Thursday night, has been postponed.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of which the Queen was patron, said it would create a new medal to be awarded in the sovereign’s name as a tribute to her.
A series of strikes planned for the next few days have been called off, including industrial action by TSSA, RMT and Royal Mail workers.
At Balmoral Castle, where the Queen died, police removed barriers blocking the gates to allow the public to lay flowers after earlier barring them as members of the royal family arrived.
One message read: “I love you Queen. I will miss you. Tilly, 4.”