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Prince Charles Honors Queen Mother

April 1, 2002

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LONDON (AP) _ Prince Charles paid a moving public tribute to the Queen Mother Elizabeth on Monday, praising his late grandmother for her ``panache, style and unswerving dignity″ _ sentiments shared across Britain as people left teddy bears, candles and wreaths in her honor.

In a national broadcast, Charles spoke quietly and lovingly of the Queen Mother, saying she was ``an institution in her own right, a presence in the nation, at once indomitable, somehow timeless, able to span the generations; wise, loving, and an utterly irresistible mischievousness of spirit.″

The Queen Mother, widow of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II, died Saturday at age 101.

Charles said, ``Her heart belonged to this ancient land and its equally indomitable and humorous inhabitants, whom she served with panache, style and unswerving dignity for very nearly 80 years.″

The 53-year-old heir to the British throne only came close to losing his composure at the point when he described the Queen Mother’s humor.

``Above all, she saw the funny side of life and we laughed until we cried. Oh, how I shall miss her laugh and wonderful wisdom born of so much experience and an innate sensitivity to life,″ he said.

At noon, artillery pieces thundered the start of 41-gun salutes at a dozen locations around the country and in the colony of Gibraltar.

``She always had a smile for everyone,″ said Elizabeth Addley during a ceremony at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. ``She broke with tradition. While Queen Mary was rather more stiff and formal, she came along and was a breath of fresh air.″

The Queen Mother’s coffin rested in a small stone chapel at Windsor Castle, where family and staff could pay their respects before she is taken to lie in state in London before her funeral on April 9.

The long period before the funeral allows for the complex logistics of a large ceremonial funeral. King George VI died Feb. 6, 1952, and after lying in state in London he was laid to rest Feb. 15.

Although life went as normal in much of the country, with people enjoying the last day of the Easter holiday, hundreds of people showed up at royal locations such as Windsor Castle.

The Racing Post, a daily horse racing paper, covered its front page with a photo of the Queen Mother and the headline ``A sport in mourning.″ She was a trackside regular and successful horse breeder, and once said she read the Racing Post every morning.

At 15 racecourses in England, jockeys and spectators stood for a minute’s silence and the national anthem before racing began.

At soccer events and other sports events, similar gestures of respect were made before play began.

The public left more than 500 bouquets of flowers on a lawn outside St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. On one, young Chloe Bell left a card with a pencil drawing of a sad face with tears.

The public tributes at the site also included teddy bears, candles and wreaths of poppies.

At Stirling Castle, a Scottish venue for one of the 41-gun salutes, civil servant Robert McDonald, 35, said: ``I think of all the royal family, the Queen Mother is the one most people in Scotland would respect for her devotion to Scotland and the Scottish people.″

Everywhere, flags flew at half-staff, and thousands of admirers of the enduringly popular former queen signed condolence books that were opened Sunday at royal palaces and homes around the country.

Bright bouquets of spring flowers, with fond messages attached, were placed at St. James’s Palace and the adjacent Clarence House, which had been the Queen Mother’s London home since her husband’s death in 1952 and the accession of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

The monarch, who has lost her mother and her only sister, Princess Margaret, within seven weeks, led her family in prayer Sunday evening at Windsor chapel.

The Queen Mother’s coffin was carried to the chapel Sunday from her house in Windsor Great Park, where she first lived as Duchess of York before her husband was unexpectedly thrust onto the throne in 1936 by the abdication of his brother.

Estate workers and members of the Queen Mother’s staff took turns standing vigil by her coffin during the day Monday, while others sat silently.

The coffin will remain at the chapel until Tuesday, when it is moved to the Queen’s Chapel at St. James’s Palace. On Friday it will be moved to Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament to lie in state. There, the public will be able to pay their respects before the Westminster Abbey funeral service April 9.

The coffin will be driven to Windsor where the Queen Mother will be laid to rest alongside her husband at St. George’s Chapel.

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