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Queen Elizabeth II has been honored with a grand funeral

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to bring in another voice to our conversation and reflections, John Phipps. He's a reporter and critic who was one of the first to report on the many people - the crowds of people who descended upon Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle in the immediate hours and days after the queen's death was announced.

John, thanks so much for being with us.

JOHN PHIPPS: Morning.

MARTIN: So the news was announced, and you left. You grabbed your pen and your notebook or your computer, and you went out to talk to people. What did you hear?

PHIPPS: It was a very strange scene. People were flooding in from the moment I arrived, and people have been there all day in this rather morbid way, staring at the palace, waiting for a sign that something had happened. It was damp.

MARTIN: Because we knew she was ill. We had heard that. We should just say we knew - reports that she has - had been ill. And then it was this uncomfortable holding pattern for a while.

PHIPPS: Yeah. And the announcement was very obviously not we expect the queen to return to vigorous, ruddy health any time soon. It was clearly a preparation.

MARTIN: So what did people convey to you as they were, themselves, just coming to terms with the possibility that she was going to pass?

PHIPPS: I arrived just after the news had broken, so I wasn't there during the waiting period. But when I arrived - I mean, I've just heard your correspondent in Newcastle say that people tend to say the same things. And, you know, the language of monarchy is cliche. Its poetry is all image. We just saw that with this huge televised ceremony in this beautiful old church. That's how it communicates. So when you ask people, they find - why are you here; what did the queen mean to you? - they find themselves often at a bit of a loss. This thing about her being like a grandmother figure to the nation I hadn't really heard until the last few weeks. That's appeared more. People said they felt appropriate. Some people were there opportunistically to be a part of history.

The real sense you have was that whatever history was happening, people weren't exactly clear on what it was. People were standing around looking at each other, looking to each other for a sense of, well, what do we do? We knew we should be here, but what precisely is happening? And that was very interesting because I think what we've seen over the last 10 days is a huge effort to codify and narrativize what this means for the nation. And every media outlet on Earth has been pouring forth with their explanations. And there's been ceremonies. And there's been a kind of slow emergence of the figure of the king out of the enormity of the queen, who was more popular than the monarchy itself and had, to some extent, outgrown it. So it wouldn't - it didn't surprise me that there was a sense of anticlimax in the air at the time because the real show is on TV and is in the newspapers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.