Queen Elizabeth II only visited Florence once during her reign. A grainy black-and-white photograph shows the monarch under the Loggia dei Lanzi. To her right stands a smiling Prince Philip and to her left Giorgio La Pira, Mayor of Florence at the time; behind them are two throne-like chairs, upholstered in velvet and adorned with tassels. The image dates to May 7, 1961, as evidenced by the sovereign’s signature in a visitors’ book at the Palazzo Vecchio. As a princess, she spent a fortnight in Italy in 1951, visiting Florence following a papal visit and horse riding near Rome.
Mourning a monarch in a country other than that of one’s birth is an inexplicable feeling. Her Majesty may have reached the fine old age of 96 and the news was not wholly unexpected, but this morning Brits and members of the Commonwealth, wherever we are, feel like we have lost part of our identity, a pillar of our existence. Queen Elizabeth II was a guiding star, an “ever-fixed mark”, to quote Shakespeare, the nation’s “strength and stay”, in the Queen’s own tribute to her husband, Prince Philip, on their golden wedding anniversary. She was the nation’s grandmother, the highlight of our Christmases when everything would stop at 3pm to watch her festive address.
Church services + condolences books
In Florence, our community is standing side by side to mourn the loss of a global figure of immense consequence. At noon today, St. James Episcopal Church held a simple thanksgiving service with short readings and the sharing of thoughts. Sitting in the chapel in the company of fellow grievers proved cathartic as the midday sun filtered through the stained-glass window and Reverend Richard Easterling paid tribute to the Queen’s “leadership and strength”. The decision to hold the low-key requiem came late last night as solace for the church’s constituents.
St. Mark’s English Church remains “open for private prayer and reflection”, as well as the possibility to light a candle and leave a message in a book of condolences. (Opening times cannot be confirmed due to the need for people to supervise the church.) St. Mark’s is holding a short commemoration service at 11am on Wednesday, September 14, and will hold a service of Holy Eucharist in memory of the Queen at 10.30am on Sunday, September 18. All are welcome.
With King Charles III as long-term patron, The British Institute fulfils its role as a home-away-from-home for many Brits, providing much more than language learning courses. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We extend our heartfelt condolences to our patron His Majesty King Charles III and all of the Royal Family at this time of grief,” was the message published on social media by The British Institute. Books of condolence have been placed in the British Institute Library (lungarno Guicciardini, 9 – open Monday to Friday 2.30-6.30pm), and at the new language centre (viale Mazzini 10 – open Monday to Friday 9am-7pm). The books will be sent to King Charles III. On Wednesday, September 14, at 6pm, a 50-minute documentary Queen Elizabeth II: a Life of Service will be shown, followed by a toast in the Queen’s memory. All welcome; free admission. Beforehand between 4 and 5pm, tea and cake will be served in the library as part of the British Institute’s tribute to the Queen. The British Institute is holding a live stream of the funeral of Her Majesty The Queen in the Sala Ferragamo of the British Institute of Florence Library on Monday, September 19. Doors open 11.30am, all welcome, no charge.
The British Embassy in Rome has opened a condolences book to the public, which will be open by the Ceremonial Gate (via XX Settembre 80) from 12.30 to 5pm today and 10am to 5pm on Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 18. Flowers may be laid, but no bulky items. If you would like to send your condolences and are unable to sign the condolence book in person, you could do so online.
Tributes from Florence
“On behalf of Florence, with memories of the longstanding friendship between the Royal Family and our city, I offer my deepest condolences for the passing of Queen Elizabeth II,” wrote Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella.
Singer-songwriter Sting, who has a house in the Valdarno countryside, commented on Instagram: “I had a quiet weep for the Queen, I am sad for my country and what it has lost.”
Marquess Bona Frescobaldi, whose winery has had close ties to the British royal family for centuries, commented to press agency Adnkronos: “She ruled with a unique style, always proving herself as being equipped to handle her incredible position. Our family also feels great pain, we will miss her very much.”
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant presence in the life of every British person over 70 years old, which is the length of time she reigned as our Queen,” comments Rev. Chris Williams, Chaplain at St. Mark’s, Florence and Holy Cross, Bologna. “The doors of St. Mark’s English Church in Florence have been opened since the news of the Queen’s death was announced. We have had an estimated 150 people coming in each day, to sit and reflect, pray, light a candle and write in the Book of Condolence. What has been particularly moving is the love shown for the Queen by all nationalities, not just British or Commonwealth subjects. Some of the comments in the book are clearly heartfelt. The Queen was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and had a strong personal faith which, by her own admission in her annual Christmas broadcasts, sustained and kept her throughout the ups and downs of her very long reign. We now enter a new era without the Queen, an era in which we must get used to a new monarch: a King. Actually, on Sunday, September 11, I was one of the first Church of England priests to swear allegiance to Charles III at my licensing service. God save the King!“