FIRST year creative writing students at Harlow College decided to write individual stories about the Queen inspired by watching the crowds on television filing past her coffin at Westminster Hall.
They each picked on an individual person and then imagined what they might be thinking and where they had come from. Some of their stories are featured below.
Our students, who mainly range in age from 16 to 18 years, will get the opportunity to develop their skills at writing short stories, novels, plays, TV scripts and poetry during their two year diploma course. They will get visits during the year on zoom from writers who have succeeded in their field and will get advice on how to pitch and promote their work to publishers.
They will also feature some of their work in Spotlight.
Photo: some of the creative writing students whose work is featured here.
My final duty to Her Majesty
by Alex Perry
I stood, unshaking. My hands were placed firmly in front of me as I tried with every fibre of my being not to move a muscle. I was determined to protect Her Majesty even in death, so here I was guarding the oddly gorgeous coffin from the public’s curious fingertips. My eyes began to water a little, yet I could do nothing to fix this issue as I was instructed to remain motionless unless told otherwise. I tried to distract myself from the saddening thoughts that were clouding my mind – I had a wife to get back home to, waiting eagerly for me to tell her about my day. What had she cooked for my dinner tonight I wondered? Was she even home from work yet? Was she safe?
I cleared my throat, alarming an elderly woman in front of me who seemed to be captivated by the coffin. We locked eyes for a moment, green meeting blue, we could see that each other was on the verge of tears. She simply nodded at me as if she was trying to say, ‘I know how you feel, you’re doing great’.
It felt good to know that there were still members of the public out there who felt I, as an officer, was still doing a great deed for this country. This past year had been extremely difficult for the force with people calling us all sorts of vile names. It has disheartened me a little, I won’t lie. All I wanted to do was serve this country and do Her Majesty proud yet it seemed like the whole world was against me for wanting such a simple thing.
However, here it seemed like I was wanted, valued and appreciated. There were even a handful of people who would thank me for my services as they left Westminster Hall. All the previous negative emotion would fade as those few words were muttered to me. I turned to the next person and ushered them through to the exit of the hall; this is what I had been doing for the past four hours. Yes, it was laborious and extremely repetitive but it was worth it if it was for Her Majesty. Bless her, she had done so much for this country and yet she now she lay mere metres away from me, buried forever.
My eyes shifted from side to side, everybody was where they should be so that was comforting to know. Within another 20 minutes hundreds of people had passed me. I memorised their faces as best as I could. It gave me something to think about and to concentrate on, as well as know which of the public cared this much about Her Majesty.
I definitely need to sleep
By Emily Forsyth
I’ve been standing here for hours. It’s been the same all day, people coming in, paying their respects to Her Majesty and leaving. It’s quiet in here. I’m in a church – all four walls bleak and grey, people’s footsteps are the only noise disrupting the silence. It echoes in here. A baby cries, its mother shushes it and rocks it back an forth. That’s the most interesting thing that’s happened in the last two hours.
I’m not allowed to talk, I just have to stand here and wait until I can go home. There’s not much I can do but observe. There are lots of people, old, young, people in wheelchairs, people carrying big bags, people bowing, people dressed all in black, people crying. It’s all the same monotonous routine, they come in, they look and they leave.
The funeral preparations have been going on for days now. I’ve had to stand here and stare at the floor, the people, the walls, everyday and wonder how much longer I’ll have to stand here until I’ll get to sit down. My legs hurt, it’s hot in here, it’s quiet, the echoing footsteps ring in my ears, my uniform feels suffocating- I want to leave. But I can’t. I’m tired. How much longer will I have to stand here.
I’ve served the royal family for the past 20 years of my life. The bright red of my uniform compared with the cold, bleak, grey walls hurts my eyes. I think I need to sleep. No, I definitely need to sleep. Streams of people are still trickling in through the open doors, I think this day will never end.
Those we have lost
By Aaron Coombes
The room was large, it felt like the atmosphere was so thick that a single breath was too loud, that the emotions everyone was all feeling were too loud. We could only escape through quiet glances and the reassurance of a hand in our own. On any other day this would have been an honour. To see this great room, the majesty of the great stone walls and the intricacies in the ceiling, those great wooden beams that held so much sorrow, that they were the only thing supporting us, keeping everything upright and moving along despite the pain because one fact remains that we must always move on. The room itself was plain, all colour drained, apart from her coffin. As if all the colour had been drawn to one spot as though all the loss that surrounded this room was apart from where she lay. Drawn to, instead, rest atop a set of deep red velvet steps. The royal purple of the coffins cover sat in the middle of those steps: a great reminder of the one we have lost. Maybe if it had been any other day we would not have come, we did not know her but we did know her service and for that we respected her. But that alone for some, is not a reason enough to come. But my sister would disagree. In fact, it was because she too had passed: that we had come today. Maybe to be so sad for someone you don’t know is a problem, but we felt the grief of everyone here, everyone who has ever lost someone in their life. It hangs over you, so even in your happiest moments there’s something missing. Everyone had a blank face, a canvas of suppressed grief, so maybe everyone came here for someone else, someone other than the Queen. I believe that if we can all respect that grief we all hold onto then – it is okay. It is okay to come and pay respects to the Queen, it’s okay to spend half a day in London to feel alive with the rest of those who care enough to show that they understand what the family is going through. That behind the politics and the stress that she was a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister… So as we reach the end of the path, as we take those final steps, towards her coffin, we clasp our hands together and bow our heads and, feel alive, for those we have lost.
Rest in peace, the Queen.
By Scarlet Thorpe
I have been standing here for countless hours in order to pay my respects to our late Queen. I have known her to be in charge of our country my whole life. I’m holding in my tears as I admire the decorations that lay upon her coffin. The wreath of flowers sat beautifully in place, resting upon her coffin as well as her beautiful crown resting on a royal luxury purple throw. I remember all the things Queen Elizabeth has done for us. She ruled our country with pride and dignity. Tears begin to run down my face as I look back to her coffin. She would’ve loved it. I watch as crowds of people walk by her coffin to pay their respects also. It was a pleasure having her as Queen. I think to what the future holds having King Charles in charge as well as Camila as our queen consort. That upsets me. I wish her majesty could see the crowds of people queuing for eight hours and to see she made a positive impact in many people’s lives. I watch and hold my tears as the guards walk around her coffin. I see a different range of ages in the queue from babies to elderly people. I see people praying to her and saying goodbye. Finally, it’s time for me and the people near me to walk past her coffin.
Tears begin to fall down my face as I walk past her. I look down at my shoes and walk past admiring her 70-year service. I have now made it past the four-mile queue and countless hours of waiting. However, I would do it all over again. She made a massive impact on billions of people’s lives from all over the globe. She will be dearly missed. I look back and see the crowd of people slowly moving toward her coffin and tears falling from multiple people’s eyes. Rest in peace the Queen.
Goodbye is a Herculean task
By Megan Shepherd
The woman gripped the golden bannister, gazing at the decadence surrounding her. She was an older woman (though she wouldn’t class herself that way) but of all the sights she’d seen, this was by far the most grand. The sheer opulence of the flower-laden casket before her and the weight of finally being first in line to pay her respects had her shifting anxiously from one foot to the next. It seemed odd that, after saying goodbye to a figure as ever-present as Queen Elizabeth, she would return home for a cup of tea and dinner, discussing her day with her husband. It seemed so terribly mundane in the face of standing before someone so monumental.
She clutched her blue coat as a small procession of soldiers marched towards her. Or, rather, towards their Queen. Ruby red guards dutifully escorted their leaders, who themselves joined their ranks atop the raised platform, solemn as the passing clouds overhead. Passing the regular citizens, the guards climbed the steps of the platform, some with swords raised in pride, some held before them in respect. The woman realized it was a kind of changing, with the previous guards leaving their posts by the coffin. They left, and the opportunity arose.
Her purple wristband clanked against the bannister as she became the leader of her own procession. Surrounded by a great crowd of many other like-minded men and women, she prepared herself, sweeping away a few stray hairs and patiently shuffling forward. When it became her turn, her actions became stuttered. All she could do was stare at the woman she’d known all her life, laden in all her glory. Although it was a Herculean task, she bowed before the Queen, hoping the action could convey all the unspoken words and feelings she wished to. She stood once again and sighed, head held high. She felt satisfied. She had wished goodbye to Her Majesty.
Respect is earned
By Farrah Eva Emery
I walked silently down the steps, drowning in nerves. I wouldn’t normally do this but my dad wanted to and, since it was his birthday, this was the only thing he wanted to do. He’s 78 today and he can remember when she became the monarch. He was only eight at the time but he said he can remember some parts of it and that Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was beautiful. She used clothing rations to pay for her coronation gown as Word War Two had just ended and the economy wasn’t good which is amazing that even though she wasn’t official the Queen yet, she already was helping her people. We’ve been in the line for seven hours and 45 minutes so within the next 15 minutes we shall see Her Majesty. I can see her from here but we’re not in the room yet. A plum looking stand with four small steps are placed in the middle and there’s a taller stand which is where she lays.
I turn to my dad who is dressed in a plain white shirt and black trousers. His face looks a little plump but that’s because he’s been retired for the past five years now so he has plenty of time to just relax which is nice because he used to have so many worry lines from his job. His face looks lighter, it looks like he has life back into it again.
“Not long now” he says as he turns to me.
“Yes, dad I know. Why did you want to come and see her, it’s not like you knew her personally. I know its respectful but I’m just wondering why?”
He replies, “She’s all I’ve really ever known, she’s been in my life for 70 years and did a great job at ruling and protecting her country from war and lots of other things which not only I live in but my children do as well. My children have never had to worry about their safety in this country as they have never questioned about whether they would be in a war because she has always protected this country and as a result of that she protected my children. So, I want to bow in front of her to thank her for that by saying goodbye to Her Majesty.”
“Oh, I guess I never really thought about it like that” I nod towards the stand where the coffin is placed.
“What colour would you say that purple is because it not dark but it’s not light,” I ask.
“I would say it’s the colour of inside those amethyst crystals that Katie likes,” says dad.
“You have seen Katie’s crystals?” I look at him puzzled
“Yeah she showed me them the last time she was round at mine with Jonathan for a sleepover, she put them underneath her pillow, because she says they help with her dreams.”
“Oh okay, that quite cute actually” I lightly laugh.
I look at the queue in front of us and realise that we’re about to start walking. We nervously walk towards the coffin and I can feel multiple eyes on me, but I guess that’s expected because of security. We walk towards the steps, we stop and lean forward to pay respect to her and we walk away leaving her in peace.
By Ethan Epstein-deMello
Walking into the great Westminster Hall was a dream… to see the Queen lay at rest here is destiny.
I have always felt truly connected to the Queen; it may sound odd, but Her Majesty has had a much stronger presence than she will ever know in this world nor the next whatever it may be.
Her Majesty was a true inspiration. Not only for who she was, and what she had done… but for what she stood for. Queen for 70 years, a female leader – well beloved and cherished… and now for her to be gone.
I had queued for almost eight hours at this point, only to now be entering the Hall – but it was worth it. The title she can die with knowing that when she was crowned, she made the declaration to be ‘devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family’… and that she followed it through to the end.
If not an inspiration to anyone else – she was an inspiration to me.
The hall was large, an A-framed room with ornate designs woven into the beams; great stony walls pitched up by small windows close to the roof. Sparse metal chandeliers scattered the roof which led to the very end of the hall – the grand window set into the wall along one streak of poetic sunlight to fall over the Queen’s coffin.
I was ready to tear up, but my therapist held my hand. She gave me a tight smile as we were ushered forward. I had suffered severely with anxiety my whole life – between OCD, and half a dozen other mental health issues they all came to an awful climax when depression took over me.
When I was at my lowest – I felt like the weakest women to ever exist… almost on the edge of life – my anxiety had reached an all-time high and I felt like a useless women. I was only 21 then. When I did get help about 15 years ago, my therapist, Denise, taught me how to control my emotions and I will never forget what she told me… mainly because she’ll never let me forget.
“Did you know the Queen was crowned when she was 21…” Denise smiled at me… She had told me this a thousand times before we became friends.
“Yes… I know. You remind me every day,” I laughed.
The room was mostly in silence… some people chattered amongst themselves. A woman behind me was trying to take pictures but most of the people glared at her until she stopped.
“Because I want you to remember… She never expected to have the whole country sit on her shoulders so soon but under all that pressure she pushed and look where she got to today.
“And I want you to remember when you were at your lowest… and everything fell before you in your life, but you took charge and pushed forward. You’re just as powerful as the Queen.”
“She literally ruled an entire country,” I replied.
“And you took back control of your life… I’m not saying you’re the same as the Queen, but I see a few similarities.” That was my therapist’s favourite line.
“Of course, you do. I’m glad we came today,” I said.
We came to the end of the queue, and we were shortly ushered to be in line with Her Majesty. We weren’t allowed any closer but Denise and I waited nearby. I bowed my head in respect.
What an amazing Queen she was. She inspired me to be who I am today… rest in peace Your Majesty. The royal guards escorted us out, while Denise and I leaned against each other… I’m glad to have seen the Queen just one last time.
The eight hour wait
By Lily Mai Juniper
She stood amongst a crowd filled with people like her. People who wanted to see. She’d been in Cornwall when it happened, when the Queen had passed. She’d been celebrating the birth of her nephew. But now that seemed very far away, and very unreal. She felt disconnected with that person. Sure, she’d never known the Queen – not personally – but she’d always been there. Moulded into the silver coins that jingles in her purse. A constant reminder that there would always be someone to watch over her, over the country.
Queen Elizabeth II had reigned, strongly, firmly, for 70 years and 214 days. Now that was all gone. Looking amongst the solemn faces of all those she stood by made her feel a little better. People shared her grief and felt her loss. And everyone was there. People from all over the world. Because Queen Elizabeth II had always felt so present. Even when you did not think of her, she was still there, doing the best for her country.
Finally, she was close enough to peer over the heads and see. It felt kind of surreal to see it. Like they say, seeing is believing. In the middle of the large, spacious room where she stood was a large purple coffin, a thin blanket draped over it. On top was a bunch of fresh flowers. Their scent was partially washed away, replaced by the candles that burned softly nearby. The woman watched on forlornly, trying not to fiddle too much with the purple bracelet that clung to her right wrist. She tended to do that when she was stressed. When sad. Most of what she wore was black. To pay respect. The blue and white striped shirt that hung from her slim frame almost felt like a mistake. But it was much too cold to take it off and reveal the black vest that was underneath. But she was there to pay her respect.
She closed her eyes softly, feeling tears trickle from the barrier. This was it. This moment is what she’d waited eight hours for. She stood in place, eyeing it all. She bowed her head and closed her eyes, memories flashing shortly behind the barrier of her closed lids. Where it was safe to feel upset.
Then it was all over, and it was time to go. Time to move on and leave as if it had never happened. It was time to reclaim her firm grip on reality and walk out, head held high. For this world was for the living, and she couldn’t spend it all here, where death was being accepted as sad fact. She walked off, the sun still high up in the sky. Off to meet her days-old nephew who knew nothing of what had just occurred.