Australia’s political leaders have laid wreaths at the Federal Parliament Saturday following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. She was Australia’s head of state under the country’s constitutional monarchy.
Queen Elizabeth had an affinity with Australia. She visited 16 times during her long reign, traveling to every state and territory. On a tour in 2000, she said she felt part of Australia, which she described as a “rugged, honest, creative land”.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday recalled the “sympathy and personal kindness she extended to Australians afflicted by tragedy and disaster,” including floods and bushfires.
Albanese said there was mutual respect.
“It was clear Her Majesty had a special place in our hearts and we in hers,” he said. “Australian hearts go out to the people of the United Kingdom who mourn today knowing they will feel they have lost part of what makes their nation whole. There is comfort to be found in Her Majesty’s own words, ‘grief is the price we pay for love.’”
In 1954, she became the first reigning British monarch to visit Australia. It is estimated that about 70% of the population turned out to see her.
In Australia, her popularity has endured, and her death has saddened many people.
“Yes, sad news. Sad news. She has been part of our lives forever. A sad day for everyone and respects will be paid,” said one man.
“Very sad day. Rest in peace. To the royal family my condolences. She was one hell of a lady,” added a woman.
“Yes, it is devastating. It is a big change for the monarch and everything, yes,” said another.
“She was very stoic. She did everything that she thought was right,” said a third woman.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country wanted to share its “thanks for an incredible woman who we were lucky enough to call our queen.”
Elizabeth became the first reigning monarch to visit Australia and New Zealand. Both former British colonies are constitutional monarchies, and Elizabeth was their head of state.
Officials from both will attend her funeral in the U.K., now scheduled for September 19.
All public buildings in New Zealand will fly flags at half-staff. Flags have also been lowered across Australia, including on the Sydney Harbor Bridge and state and federal parliaments.
The monarch’s image was also portrayed on the famous sails of the Sydney Opera House, which she officially opened in 1973.