The death of Queen Elizabeth II has bruised the British community of Saint-Puy, one of the largest in the Gers: around 10% of its total of 580 inhabitants. Reportage.
Suzanne Bullerwell expected it. We may live in a small Gers village, “we receive all the British channels”, smiles this Englishwoman, who has lived for 10 years in Saint-Puy with her husband Ian. So when the avalanche of messages started on her cell phone, Suzanne wasn’t surprised. “British media were saying that the Queen was not well, and that the royal family was going to Balmoral, where they were resting. We were just talking about that. We understood that there would be bad news…” Ian, her husband, is also affected. “We have known her all our lives. My father had received a birthday card from him, for his 100th birthday! »
Neither Suzanne nor Ian have ever seen Elizabeth II. But each time they went to London, they made the detour in front of Buckingham Palace. “To find out if she is there”, slips Suzanne. Nick Nelson-Piercy, passing by on his bike, nods. “It was a shock, even though she was not well. On Tuesday, she received the new Prime Minister…”
No doubt, they will all follow the result by interposed screens. » The BBC has already prepared everything, everything is updated every 5 years,” says Nick. And life in the UK is at a standstill. « All sporting events are canceled, » says Ian. Cricket, horse racing, football… Everything. “Even the Tour of Britain, the” small Loop “of the British, ended three days before the end, regrets Nick.
Long live the king
By exchanging anecdotes and points of view on this queen who has always been present in their lives, the British are smiling, joking. The Queen is dead, long live the King. For their fidelity goes to royalty as much as to the person. « I feel a deep sadness, » says Nick. “It’s like a mother, a grandmother, explains Suzanne, who shed a tear when she learned of the death. She has always been there, from the war to the Covid. She was like a relative, of the family. » An ambiguous proximity: « It’s a bit like God, we can approach him, but there remains a distance, slips Nick. They were a very private family, of which very little is known, in fact. »
What’s next? “The British monarchy is like an oil tanker,” continues Nick. They move very slowly, they change direction very slowly, you can see them from afar, and stopping them is almost impossible! Everyone agrees. Charles III will take matters into his own hands. Even if they admit that we will have to get used to it: apart from Ian, no one has ever sung God save the King. No one wants to see the royal family become an operetta monarchy. “If we didn’t have the queen, who would we have? Prime ministers like Cameron or Johnson? We want this stability,” insists Ian.
« The mayor’s email touched us »
In Saint-Puy, nearly one inhabitant in 10 is British. And the mayor, Michel Labatut, sent an email of condolences to his British constituents in the morning. “It touched us a lot, it was magnificent,” says Suzanne Bullewell. He also lowered the flags, including a British flag.