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Queen Elizabeth II Remembered By Brits In Chicago: ‘I Felt A Bit Lost, Really’

One young Englishman was visiting Chicago when he got the news about the queen's death, while others who've lived here for years remembered their experience seeing or meeting the royal.

Fred Lynam, 23, from England said he felt a great sense of sadness to learn Queen Elizabeth II has passed while he was away from home.
Melody Mercado, Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Fred Lynam was touring the Art Institute of Chicago Thursday when he received a shocking text from back home in England: Queen Elizabeth II had died.

Elizabeth, the world’s longest-serving monarch, died Thursday after being on the throne nearly 71 years. She was 96.

“I didn’t really know what to do,” said Lynam, 23. “I sort of left the museum immediately and I felt a bit lost, really. … I kind of wanted to suddenly be home.”

Lynam, in the United States on vacation, left the museum and wandered the streets of Chicago, looking for a florist so he could leave flowers at the British Consulate, 625 N. Michigan Ave.

Though unsuccessful in the search for flowers, Lynam made his way to the consulate, looking for a sense of connection to his home. He has always told himself that when the queen did die, he would make the hour-long trek from his home to pay his respects in London, he said.

“I ended up wandering up to the British Consulate … wanting to be near something British in some sense, because I’m traveling alone at the moment. … It just feels very strange,” Lynam said.

Credit: Chicago Film Archives
Queen Elizabeth II during her only visit to Chicago during her reign, in 1959.

The queen died peacefully at Balmoral Castle, her estate in the Scottish Highlands, according to a statement from Buckingham Palace. Her eldest son succeeded her as King Charles III.

“It’s so bizarre to hear the words, ‘God save the King,'” Lynam said. “I’ve never heard it, only read it in history books.”

The queen visited Chicago once during a 1959 tour of the Great Lakes. The visit marked the first time a reigning British monarch visited Chicago — and the only time Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, stopped here.

LeRoy Blommaert, 83, was 20 years old when the queen made her stop in the Windy City. He remembers recovering from a surgery in the University of Chicago hospital and seeing the queen’s motorcade from a balcony above, he said.

“It was rather exciting — I urged my mother to do it. It’s something to see for history,” Blommaert said.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Queen Elizabeth II at the Museum of Science and Industry in 1959 during her lone trip to Chicago.

RELATED: Queen Elizabeth II In Chicago: Monarch’s Only Visit To City Was ‘Unforgettable,’ She Said

People lined the streets to get a view of the queen passing by the Museum Campus, Blommaert said.

The visit drew hundreds of thousands of people to the Downtown area to catch a glimpse of the queen. There was a 21-gun salute, fireworks and a massive dinner where the queen sported a jewel-studded tiara. She stopped by the Art Institute and Museum of Science and Industry.

Elizabeth said the day was “unforgettable,” while Phillip — who died in 2021 — said the city’s skyline was “the most beautiful he had ever seen,” according to the Tribune.

Tricia Furgusson, a Chicago resident and England native, has lived in the United States for about 50 years but said she felt a great wave of sadness upon hearing the news of the queen’s death.

While Furgusson acknowledged “some people have different thoughts on the monarch,” she said she’ll always remembering seeing the queen at an event when she was 10 years old, enthusiastically waving a flag as Queen Elizabeth passed by. Her father, a prisoner of war during World War II, met the queen at a garden party in the palace, she said.

“She’s been so regal … she’s mad adored by the British public,” Furgusson said. ” … I’ll probably lift a glass tonight.”

Lynam said he’s been in contact with family back in London, who joined thousands in England who have gathered to pay their respects. His sister shared a photo of a double rainbow that appeared over the palace shortly after the announcement of the queen’s death.

“For people in the United Kingdom … she’s a figure that so pressing in people’s lives, she’s a real sort of fountainhead of the nation,” Lynam said.

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