Well-wishers gathered outside Windsor Castle were comforted by a “beautiful” rainbow visible when the Queen’s death was announced.
Members of the rapidly gathering crowd laid flowers outside the royal residence, where the Queen spent much of the lockdown, and sobbed openly as the Union flag was lowered at half-mast.
Within minutes, the crowd of mourners had grown so dense that servants returning to the castle struggled to reach the entrance.
One woman, who called Lisa and was visiting from Florida, said the impromptu gathering felt “special” because everyone was united in grief.
“I’m amazed at all the different kinds of people who are here,” she told the PA news agency.
“I hear a lot of different accents, a lot of different cultures are represented, it’s a very beautiful thing.
“The world is as it is now, this is something we can all agree on.
“The Queen is just someone I’ve always admired.
“I think her character is just impeccable…she’s lived a really good life.”
Her eyes filled with tears, Lisa gestured at the rainbow and added, “It’s fading a little, but it’s been beautiful.”
Well into the evening, crowds poured in from the shops on nearby Peascod Street, their arms laden with floral tributes to the Queen.
Roses, tulips, elderflowers and even potted plants were placed outside the castle as people paid their respects with anything they could get their hands on.
After dark and the police had returned the mourners, they decorated a nearby statue of Queen Victoria with more flowers and candles.
Denise Speck brought a bouquet of roses from the local Marks & Spencer, which was supposed to close at 7pm but stayed open late for benefactors.
Ms Speck, who was on holiday from Perth, Australia, had planned to visit Windsor on Friday, but rescheduled her trip a day after learning that the Queen was not feeling well.
“I just feel very blessed to be here right now… my family in Australia won’t even know it yet because it’s the middle of the night,” she told PA.
She said the world had entered a “new era” without the Queen, and speculated that Australia and other Commonwealth countries could begin to grow apart from Britain.
She said: “The Queen was something everyone admired, even if they didn’t necessarily want to be part of the British system.
“It’s the queen who was the glue that kept it all going.”