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Away from the mourning crowds, some Londoners say they hope the monarchy will change

Anjelo Disons poses for a picture after speaking about his views on the recent events surrounding the queen's death and the monarchy at the Peckham Festival in London.
Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Anjelo Disons poses for a picture after speaking about his views on the recent events surrounding the queen's death and the monarchy at the Peckham Festival in London.

LONDON — While London is full of huge crowds and long lines, many people are just fine to sit out the pomp, circumstance and commotion that's accompanying Queen Elizabeth II's funeral.

In the southeastern multicultural neighborhood of Peckham, it appeared many people were going about their Sunday as usual.

Many attendees at the Peckham Festival — a series of workshops, performances and exhibitions that wrapped up this year's edition on Sunday — said they mourned Elizabeth as a human being but not necessarily as a monarch, since they didn't feel emotionally connected to the institution.

People weren't planning their Mondays around the funeral (but said they might watch it on TV if convenient), and didn't feel they were missing out on anything by not lining up to visit the queen's coffin. As a woman named Hortence Mbyi put it, "I've just got things to do, don't I?"

Hortence Mbyi poses with her dog after speaking about her views on the recent events surrounding the queen's death and the monarchy at the Peckham Festival in London.
/ Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
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Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Hortence Mbyi poses with her dog after speaking about her views on the recent events surrounding the queen's death and the monarchy at the Peckham Festival in London.

"When you actually bring a personality to the queen, when I see that Elizabeth has died and she owned dogs and she had a family, that makes me feel sad because someone's granny's died, someone's mother died," she said. "But in terms of 'the Queen of England has died,' it doesn't do anything for me at all."

Mbyi says the royal family doesn't do much beyond serve as a tourist attraction — and doesn't do anything for her in particular, even though she pays taxes towards them. She's "waiting for the abolishment."

A woman named Kesta said that anyone's death is sad, but so is the symbol of what the queen represented. Many countries are still feeling the negative impact of the British Empire and the legacy of colonialism, which she finds impossible to separate from the monarchy itself.

Annie Garvey, Kesta and Nancy chat at the Peckham Festival in London.
/ Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
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Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Annie Garvey, Kesta and Nancy chat at the Peckham Festival in London.

"So ultimately, I don't feel sad about the death of a woman when a country is in a crisis, people want to heat their homes or feed their children," she added. "And I think there's a lot of other sad things going on right now. So, you know, I might watch [the funeral], but I don't feel any particular way about it."

Musician Anjelo Disons agrees that it's especially hard to see so much money directed toward the proceedings amidst the U.K.'s cost of living crisis. He acknowledges the significance of this historical moment, but also thinks it could be an opportunity to rethink and perhaps reform the British monarchy.

Sajida Khan, center wearing a headscarf, enjoys the musical entertainment at Peckham festival, where she spoke about her views on the recent events surrounding the queen's death and the monarchy.
/ Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
/
Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Sajida Khan, center wearing a headscarf, enjoys the musical entertainment at Peckham festival, where she spoke about her views on the recent events surrounding the queen's death and the monarchy.

Disons, who is wearing a necklace with an Africa-shaped pendant, notes the queen meant a lot to his mom, who is from Uganda.

"However, to me personally, I'd be telling fibs if I'm saying she meant the most to me. ... I think people are moving on to new ways of thinking and whether or not we need a monarchy," he said.

Sajida Khan, a retired teacher who emigrated from Pakistan some four decades ago, got choked up when trying to describe what the queen meant to her, describing her as a dutiful and graceful person who, like everyone, had ups and downs in her life. She's able to separate the queen from the darker parts of Britain's past.

Charlotte Urwin and James Waller walk next to wall art at the Peckham Festival in London.
/ Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
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Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Charlotte Urwin and James Waller walk next to wall art at the Peckham Festival in London.

"I don't see her in this light, that she was a cruel person or whatever has happened in the past or happening even now," she said. "I don't think she has anything to do with it. That is my understanding. I may be wrong."

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, says Khan, adding that she'd never convince her daughter to be a royalist or a monarchist. She personally would like to see William be king one day.

"And after that, maybe if it doesn't exist, then I won't be here to see."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.