Queen Elizabeth II mourned, celebrated by emigrants from Schuylkill County


September 20 — Jillian Weaver set her alarm clock for 4.30am on Monday to ensure she would be up in time to watch Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on TV.

In power for 70 years, Britain’s longest reigning monarch, the Queen died on September 8 at the age of 96. At the time of her death, she was the oldest monarch in the world.

The state funeral of the Queen of the United Kingdom and her Commonwealth realms was broadcast from 5:30 a.m. Monday to American audiences.

At 11:30 a.m., six hours into the show, Weaver was still glued to the television at her Pottsville home as Britain buried Elizabeth with all the regalia and pageantry befitting its beloved monarch .

“It’s beautiful,” said Weaver, 77, born in England. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

Fox News reported that the funeral, watched by 4.1 billion people worldwide, could potentially be the most-watched event in television history.

It was expected to exceed the number of people who saw the funerals of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Princess Diana, the Queen’s daughter-in-law.

PBS reported that 250,000 mourners, some queuing for 24 hours, viewed the coffin draped in the Queen’s flag as it lay in state at Westminster Hall before being moved to Westminster Abbey for funerals.

Michael Polak, who emigrated to America from England 50 years ago, cut the Union Jack down to half-staff outside his Wayne Twp. residence. He is impressed that the state police facility in the township has done the same.

Polak watched the funeral for about an hour before going to work at Recon Construction Services in York, where he is an executive. He recorded the rest of the service.

“The Queen is the head of the Church of England,” Polak said. “I was impressed that the service included Catholics, Methodists and clergy from many denominations.”

Noticing King Charles III’s eyes shining during the service for his mother, Polak also shed a tear as the voices of the Westminster Abbey choir echoed through the cavernous cathedral.

“She was the queen for the rest of us,” he said. “But for Charles, it was his mother.”

Weaver, who has been in mourning since the Queen’s death, said she was 8 years old in Ipswich, a port town in England, when Elizabeth was crowned on June 2, 1953.

“We didn’t have a television back then,” she recalls. “We watched his coronation on the news in a movie theater.”

Weaver found the queen’s crown, scepter and orb particularly moving. Symbols of his monarchy, they will sit on red cushions atop the altar in Westminster Abbey until the coronation of King Charles III next year.

Weaver met her husband, Victor Weaver, when he was stationed at a United States Air Force base in England in 1964. They married in England and then moved to the United States, but maintained ties with his homeland.

Weaver, who recently returned from an extended stay in England for her sister’s 80th birthday, was particularly proud of the respect shown to the Queen by the British people.

“I have never seen such dedication in my life,” she said, her voice filled with emotion. “It’s incredible.”

In a Facebook post to her family overseas, Weaver wrote: “To my British family, God bless the loss of Queen Elizabeth II. She will forever be remembered as a wonderful and magnificent monarch.”

Polak, 70, was born in England in 1952, the year Elizabeth II became queen following the death of her father, King George VI.

He brushes aside criticism from some quarters that it’s time for Britain to put the monarchy aside, saying he hopes it will continue to be the nation’s hallmark of heritage.

Noting that America has been a welcoming place for him, Polak celebrated the shared history of the United States and the United Kingdom.

The interest in the queen’s passing shown on this side of the pond, Polak said, underscores a widespread belief among many Americans that England is still considered the motherland.

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