Growing up in Los Angeles with a British father and Canadian mother, Alex Thomson saw Queen Elizabeth as a connection to his family history. He watched her annual addresses at Christmas, admiring her “constant duty” and how she embodied “what it means to be English.”
“She was always this present figure to me,” said Mr. Thomson, a 29-year-old lawyer now living in Washington. “She was a remarkable person who gave over 70 years of her life to her country.”
Mr. Thomson was one of a handful of mourners who came Monday morning to the Brighton, a British-themed sports bar on the Potomac waterfront, to watch the Queen’s funeral. The group was small, outnumbered by journalists and bar staff, who opened the place at 5:30 a.m. and served tea to the assembled.
Devin Henderson, a host at the Brighton, circulated with a book of condolences and passed out cards for people to fill out. The bar planned to send them to the Royal Family, he said.
“I grew up as a Disney kid, seeing kings, queens, princesses, princes – it seemed fantastical. But here, today, we still have those remnants of monarchy,” he said.
So it goes for many in the U.S., including in this city founded by and named for the man who led a successful rebellion against the British Crown. Despite breaking away from the empire almost 250 years ago, there’s a lingering fascination with the pomp and circumstance of the monarchy and the woman who represented its modern expression for most of living memory.
President Joe Biden has ordered flags at all U.S. government buildings and military bases to fly at half-mast until Monday night, and the District of Columbia government hung Union Jacks along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Neah Lekan said American interest in the institution largely stems from the fact it is so different from anything that exists on this side of the Atlantic. “In Britain, people have grown up with it, they’re used to it. Over here, we have such political divisions, the idea of a neutral head of state transcending politics – the idea of anything transcending politics – seems crazy,” he said.
Mr. Lekan, 22, is working on a PhD at Johns Hopkins University in cultural representations of the Crown during the Tudor and Stewart dynasties. He said his initial interest in the monarchy was inspired in large part by the Queen.
“She refashioned and reimagined what the Crown can mean,” said Mr. Lekan, who came down from Baltimore to watch the funeral at the Brighton. “It was the reimagination of the monarchy as a representation of the nation in the form of a neutral historical figure, who was Britannia.”