New Zealand on Monday marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II with a public holiday, a moment of silence and an official memorial service. The South Pacific nation is among 14 outside of the United Kingdom that continue to recognize the British monarch as their symbolic head of state. New Zealand had decided to wait until after last week’s funeral in Britain to hold its own commemoration.
Hundreds of mourners sat on parliament’s grassy grounds on a sunny afternoon to watch large screens that showed a livestream of the state memorial service, which took place nearby at the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul and was open only to invited guests.
The service began after a minute of silence at 2 p.m. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern read an excerpt from a souvenir book that was released to mark the queen’s first visit to New Zealand in 1953, one of 10 visits she would make to the nation of 5 million during her reign.
The excerpt described the scene as the queen and her husband, the late Prince Philip, waved goodbye at the end of their five-week visit from the deck of the royal yacht SS Gothic as it left from the town of Bluff.
“The overall sound was of cheering, swelling up again and again,” Ardern read. “As the great white ship moved slowly through the channel, crowds ran along Marine Parade keeping abreast of her, everyone cheering, many weeping, reluctant to give up their waving until the answering white-gloved hand could be seen no longer.”
Governor-General Cindy Kiro said the queen had set an example with her constancy and grace, while also holding onto a sense of wonder and joy. Kiro said that while people’s lives can sometimes feel at the mercy of immense and indifferent forces, the queen had shown that what matters most remains within their control: “The small acts of goodness and generosity we perform each day.”
The queen’s death has rekindled debate in New Zealand about whether the nation should take a final step toward independence by becoming a republic. Ardern said this month that while she thinks New Zealand will eventually become a republic, her government won’t pursue any moves toward that goal because it faces more pressing issues.