Queen Elizabeth’s death felt among British expats in Tampa Bay

TAMPA — Keith “Dougie” Douglas watched the news from his home country for a while on Thursday. When it suddenly seemed like too much, he walked out.

For eight years during the 1990s, Douglas was a member of the Royal Navy’s crew on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, which was used by Queen Elizabeth II. for state visits and other travel.

Her favorite trips were in late summer when the Queen and other royals set sail from Portsmouth and traveled up Britain’s west coast, occasionally stopping for picnics at secluded beaches along the way. along the Western Isles of Scotland. The trip would end in Aberdeen, where a Rolls Royce or Bentley would take the Queen to Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

“She said more than once that being on the Britannia was the only place she could really relax,” said Douglas, 63, who lives in eastern Hillsborough County. “I shed a few tears, having met her many times and spoken to her many times. This is a key for everyone.

Fishhawk Ranch resident Keith “Dougie” Douglas, center right, stands to attention as Queen Elizabeth II disembarks from HMY Brittania, the monarch’s yacht. [ Keith Douglas ]

Many struggled to cope with the death of Queen Elizabeth, 96, who had been a constant and reassuring national figurehead and, for most, the only monarch they had ever known.

According to the census, nearly 80,000 British-born people live in Florida, including about 13,000 in the Tampa Bay area.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ office announced Thursday evening that as a sign of respect, the flags of the United States and the State of Florida would be flown at half-mast from all local and state buildings until sunset on the day. of his burial.

Related: Queen Elizabeth II visited Tampa on May 20, 1991. Here’s a look back.

Former Pinellas resident Katie Wenz, 51, was at the supermarket when she learned the Queen had died. Fighting back tears, she loaded her basket and paid as quickly as she could. Then she got in her car and “let out a good old cry.”

The tears continued at home.

“Even turning the kettle on today doesn’t help,” said Wentz, who moved to the United States in the 90s and now lives in Ocala. “The one thing I could rely on as a constant in my life was that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II would be on the throne.”

A dozen red roses and a condolence card were sent Thursday to Jillian Frers, also known as Lady Chattaway, named after the British-themed blue and white dining room at Chattaway, her restaurant on South 22nd Avenue in St. Petersburg. The card read: “His Majesty will always live in our hearts.”

Born and raised in London, the 90-year-old came to Florida after marrying an American soldier. On Thursday, she felt in touch with her homeland.

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“I fear for the people in London,” she said. “I worry about them. They love their queen so much.

Frers said she was lucky enough to see the Queen in London. She remembers his “beautiful skin, his big blue eyes and his very beautiful laugh”.

“I don’t think we could have another queen that we would love so much. We will miss her very much.”

Even before news of her death was announced, the Queen’s health was a topic of conversation at the Horse and Jockey, a British-themed pub on Pasadena Avenue in St Petersburg where the menu includes steak and beer pie , fish and chips and Cornish pasties.

Director Chris Lowndes, who grew up in Essex in the UK, said the Queen had been a wonderful head of state.

“It’s really sad,” he said. “We will definitely do something here at the pub. Everything is very sudden.

Dunedin resident Johnny Cee remembers standing on the side of the road in his home town of Wrexham in Wales to see the Queen during her Silver Jubilee in 1977. He was 13. It was a summer marked by street parties across the country to celebrate his 25th year on the throne.

He left England in 1987, but his affinity for the UK has hardly diminished. Cee, who works at a car dealership specializing in Jaguars and Land Rovers, also runs the Tampa Bay Brits, an expat social group. The group will reunite soon, he said, to mark his historic passing.

“Most of us expats here only knew Queen Elizabeth as our monarch,” he said. “With his passing, it feels like a part of your life is gone.”

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