By NICK PERRY – Associated Press
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday with a public holiday, a minute’s silence and an official memorial service.
The South Pacific nation is one of 14 countries outside the UK 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 the grassy grounds of Parliament on a sunny afternoon to watch large screens broadcasting live the state memorial service, which took place near St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington and was only open to guests.
The service began after a minute of silence at 2 p.m. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern read an excerpt from a souvenir book which 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 ‘inhabitants. during his reign.
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The clip depicts the scene as the Queen and her husband, the late Prince Philip, bid farewell at the end of their five-week visit from the deck of the royal yacht SS Gothic as it left the town of Bluff.
“The general sound was cheers, swelling again and again,” Ardern read. “As the great white ship moved slowly through the channel, crowds ran along Marine Parade standing abreast of her, everyone cheering, many crying, reluctant to give up their wave until that the white-gloved hand can no longer be seen.”
Governor General Cindy Kiro said the Queen had led by example with her consistency and grace, while maintaining a sense of wonder and joy.
Kiro said that even though people’s lives can sometimes feel at the mercy of immense and indifferent forces, the Queen has shown that what matters most remains in their control: “The small acts of kindness and generosity that we perform each day.”
The Queen’s death has reignited debate in New Zealand over whether the nation should take a final step towards independence by becoming a republic.
Ardern said this month that while she believes New Zealand will eventually become a republic, her government will not pursue any movement towards that goal as it faces more pressing issues.
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