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The Situation Room
Queen Elizabeth II Dies At 96, Charles Becomes King; Biden At British Embassy To Pay Respects To The Queen; Legendary CNN Anchor Bernard Shaw Dies At 82. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 08, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Mourners are crowding outside Buckingham Palace tonight, the British people paying their respects and sharing in the loss of their Queen Elizabeth II. Britain's longest serving monarch dead at the age of 96 after 70 extraordinary years on the throne. The palace says she died peacefully at Balmoral Castle in Scotland where her closest relatives are gathered right now, including the new king, Charles III. He's calling this a moment of the greatest sadness for him and for all members of the royal family.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM with CNN's special live coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth.
We have extensive live coverage coming up, but there you see the president of the United States, President Biden is at the British embassy right now paying his respects. He's signing the book of condolences over at the British embassy here in Washington. You see him there with the British ambassador to the United States, Karen Pierce, the first lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden as well.
We're going to monitor what the president is doing at the British embassy. We anticipate he will be saying something about Queen Elizabeth, expressing his condolences, paying his respects to the United Kingdom, to the British monarchy. We will have live coverage of that coming up.
But I want to bring in Max Foster right now. He's over at Buckingham Palace watching all of this history unfold for us. Max, truly, truly significant moments unfolding.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: The longest serving head of state in the world, the longest serving monarch in British history, something that I think people are struggling to take in even though we knew the inevitable would be coming at some point. The crowds behind me, they are sometimes celebratory, it's a bit of a party atmosphere at sometimes, but most of the time it's deeply moving as well. You can hear a cheer there. It's a very confused atmosphere, but people are walking around and just staring at the gates. They just don't really know what to do because of the way the queen died in the middle of the day and on this particular day and because of her movements because she was in Scotland.
The plans around the buildup to the funeral have moved slightly. So, there are no events today. But from tomorrow, there will be gun salutes, there will be a national address from the new king, and we'll start really getting a sense of how people have taken this news.
At the moment, Wolf, it's just really shock, and we see President Biden there who has spoken today. But all world leaders around the world are equally bemused by what's happened. She was, I think, the most revered head of state in the world. Wolf, you would have seen the big world gatherings, the queen would always be at the center of the grouping and people would help her get up and down off stage. People looked up to her I think the world over.
BLITZER: They certainly did, really momentous moments unfolding right now. Max, stand by. Max Foster is our royal correspondent watching all this unfold.
Kaitlan Collins is our Chief White House Correspondent joining us from the White House right now. Just reminding our viewers, Kaitlan, we're seeing President Biden over at the British embassy down diplomatic row, Massachusetts Avenue here in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, signing this book of condolences. The White House has spent a lot of time today focusing in on the death of the queen.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, unsurprisingly, Wolf, they have lowered the flags here to half staff and at all federal buildings until her burial happens. You see President Biden there. He is at the British embassy in Washington. He is signing this book of condolences. But if you look closely, Wolf, as the camera zooms in, you can see there is this lengthy note card, often what President Biden has, his remarks that he is going to say or his thoughts or his talking points on. He's got it there next to him and he's copying from it, it appears, into what he is writing in this book. And we are watching him, Wolf. He may comment any moment for the first time publicly on her passing. He issued a written statement alongside First Lady Jill Biden earlier today praising the Queen, as what he said --
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm so delighted we got to meet her. We were joking, she actually -- can I walk over there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'll take you over, thank you.
COLLINS: They're walking over, Wolf, to where they've got a lectern set up for the president to make a few remarks on the queen.
He appears to be speaking to embassy staff now, Wolf.
BLITZER: We anticipate, Kaitlan, that we will be able to hear the president of the United States express condolences on behalf of the American people over at the British embassy here in Washington. We anticipate his remarks will be beginning momentarily.
Let's listen in and see if we can hear what he says.
I guess we can't, Kaitlan. But you saw the president there. It's a sad day not only in Britain, here in the United States, but indeed all around the world.
COLLINS: Yes. And the woman that he was standing next to is the British ambassador to the United States, Karen Pierce, hosting President Biden there. He appeared to be speaking to embassy staff. You heard a bit of laughter there. Obviously, President Biden last saw the queen last summer when she hosted President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for a private tea, no cameras around, that the president said was actually a very long meeting, where they only talked about family affairs but also world affairs as well. There's a clear image there of the president speaking to staff. It's a little difficult to hear him. But we'll see if we can get those remarks of President Biden.
He issued a lengthy statement of the queen earlier, praising her, Wolf, as more than just a monarch, talking about the effect that she had and also talking about their own relationship. They'd actually met back in 1982 when he was a senator and they met then. He was on a trip to the United Kingdom. Of course, they later met and last met last summer when he was president of the United States and they had that meeting.
He said in a statement today, a very lengthy statement that during that meeting that she had charmed us with her wit, moved us with her kindness and shared with us graciously -- generously shared with us her wisdom, talking about that meeting. It's a similar tone of what you've seen other U.S. presidents take when talking about their meetings with the queen, often comparing her to this motherly or grandmotherly figure, saying that she reminded them of strong women in their lives.
Obviously, she met with every U.S. president since Harry Truman with the exception of LBJ. She is someone who is very familiar with presidents, Wolf. So, the president there taking a moment to pay tribute to her.
BLITZER: We're hearing now, Kaitlan, that President Biden is not going to be making additional remarks at the British embassy here in Washington. He signed the condolence book and now he's moving on, spoke briefly to members of the British embassy staff over there. And now, we're told he's moving on.
I want to go to our Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance. He's in London now, just outside 10 Downing Street for us. So, set the scene over there, Matthew. What's the latest information you're getting?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight inside 10 Downing Street, there has been a cabinet meeting where new British prime minister, Liz Truss, have been meeting with her senior ministers to discuss these momentous events, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, that she's sort of been confronted with just two days into her administration. I mean, it would be a difficult enough situation to handle for any prime minister, yet alone one who has been in the job for less than 48 hours.
Liz Truss was basically one of the last people to meet Queen Elizabeth II. It's that incredible photo of her being sworn in by the British queen at Balmoral, that summer residence of the queen in Scotland where she passed away earlier today.
We're told that already Liz Truss has had a conversation on the telephone with King Charles III, the man we used to know as Prince Charles. That's the name he seems to have adopted, King Charles III. And she, of course, made a very short speech in tribute to Queen Elizabeth earlier today. Take a listen to some of the words she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Through thick and thin, Queen Elizabeth II provided us with the stability and the strength that we needed. She was the very spirit of Great Britain, and that spirit will endure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: Right. And Liz Truss also said that her passing meant the end of the second Elizabethan age.
Of course, it's not entirely over yet because there's a huge operation, Operation London Bridge, which is now getting into full swing, which is going to be a big security operation, a huge logistical operation, not just to transfer the remains of Queen Elizabeth to London where there will be a state funeral, of course, but to cater for that funeral, and the huge security arrangements that are going to be made when so many world leaders and their representatives come to pay their respects to the British queen.
BLITZER: Yes, a huge moment indeed. All right, Matthew Chance in London for us.
Right now, I want to get back to our Royal Correspondent Max Foster. He is also at London. He is just outside Buckingham Palace. Max, it's truly been an unprecedented day for the world to watch what's going on.
FOSTER: Well, the rumors started swirling, I have to say, in the political quarters early this morning, and that was when I was first alerted and got many phone calls. All the signs felt very ominous, I have to say, this morning. Normally, speculation starts running rife, calling the palace and they normally play it down. They weren't doing that. So, it has been an extraordinary day of events, and ultimately ended up with the worst possible news.
FOSTER (voice over): Britain's longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has died at the age of 96. Her reign spanned more than 70 years, marked by spectacular jubilee celebrations just three months ago.
A palace statement issued at 6:30 P.M. local time read, the queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The king and the queen consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.
As fears for the queen's health gathered pace, members of the royal family rushed to Balmoral Castle, her home in Scotland, to be by her side. A car carrying Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, the countess of Wessex and driven by Prince William, entered the castle gates. Prince Harry also traveled to reunite with his family.
Elizabeth's son, now King Charles III issued the following, the death of my beloved mother, her majesty the queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of our family. We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the commonwealth and by countless people around the world.
Repeatedly advised by her doctors to rest, Elizabeth was forced to withdraw from key events due to mobility issues in recent months. On Tuesday, she said farewell to outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and welcomed Liz Truss, her 15th prime minister. It marked the first time in her 70-year reign that the queen carried out those duties from Balmoral rather than Buckingham Palace.
Truss stood in Downing Street to reflect the thoughts of the nation.
TRUSS: Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built. Our country has grown and flourished under her reign. Britain is the great country it is today because of her.
FOSTER: Rain or shine, crowds gathered outside the queen's London residence, mourning the passing of Britain's revered leader and the second Elizabethan age.
FOSTER (on camera): The coffin will remain in Scotland for some days as people pay their respects there, including the family and members of staff. And then it will be brought to London and it will lie in state, I expect, in Westminster Hall, in Westminster, and the public will be able to pay their respects.
I think the king and the queen consort will come back to London tomorrow, probably meet the prime minister to discuss arrangements. And then the big moment, I think, tomorrow will be the national address from the new king, his first as monarch and really speaking to his mother's legacy but also looking ahead to his own monarchy. It is the end of the Elizabethan age.
BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, Max Foster, stay with us.
Just ahead, flags in Britain flying at half staff in honor of the queen's passing as well as over at the White House. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're following the outpouring of grief in the United Kingdom tonight as that nation mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Take a look at these. These are live pictures coming in from Buckingham Palace right now.
Let's discuss what's going on. Joining us now, CNN Royal Historian Kate Williams as well as Journalists Trisha Goddard and Bidisha Mamata.
Kate, let's start with you. Queen Elizabeth, Britain's longest reigning monarch, marked 70 years on the throne earlier this year. How remarkable is her place in history?
KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: Well, as you say, Wolf, how remarkable her place is in history, it's So remarkable, so significant. When we think that she was born in 1926, when not all the women in the country had the vote, it was the time of the flapper, she lived through the depression, the great Wall Street crash, through World War II, and then came in 1952, just a young woman, 25, a young mother and has seen the country and the world change so much, from globalization, the way in which we earn our money, the way in which we live.
And also when she came to the throne, it was a time of empire. That has crumbled into independence, and she became the queen of commonwealth. Really, throughout it, she has been the constant through these changing, changing times. President Biden said she defined an era and she did, the second half of the 20th sentry, the beginning of the 21st century. And, really, it's very hard to imagine a world without her. The second Elizabethan age has been one of significant change. And she's always been such a constant through which, for her, she always emphasized that she was here as the people's servant.
BLITZER: A truly, truly remarkable woman.
Bidisha, even before she became queen, Elizabeth pledged to the British people that her life, quote, and I'm quoting her now, shall be devoted to your service.
She lived that pledge, didn't she?
BIDISHA MAMATA, JOURNALIST AND BRITISH BROADCASTER: She absolutely did. We're being so sober but I'm really feeling the undercurrent of respect and appreciation for that sense of sobriety and duty and acceptance.
The crown is heavy, as we famously all know. It is a job. It's a job that the queen was doing until the very day before her passing, she was appointing and acknowledging our latest U.K. prime minister, Liz Truss. So, that's her level of industry commitment and dedication.
Now, one of the dilemmas of being queen, of course, is you can't show your personal feelings. You can't get up in the morning and say, you know what, I'm going to take a personal day. She could never do that. She was also the queen. And, in fact, her entire day was subsumed by appointments under which she was really scrutinized every second. And, in fact, because she couldn't speak out openly, everything she did, said or wore was seen to be significant in some way. And to reign for 70 odd years and to weather so much political and personal and economic upheaval is amazing.
BLITZER: 96 years old, 70 years as queen. Trisha, this is someone who guided the U.K. through truly, truly monumental change. What do you see as her legacy?
TRISHA GODDARD, JOURNALIST AND BROADCASTER: I see her legacy as her family, really. I know it seems quite fractured and what have you. I think the fact that Prince Harry is up there in Scotland as well, and I do think we're going to see a lot of innovative things from Prince Charles in many ways -- well, King Charles, I should say now. He recently co-edited The Voice, which is the black newspaper. He's done a lot with the prince's trust, for instance, and what have you. And I think that's because of the queen being the backbone.
I just want to point out how monumental it is that Putin, amongst everything that's going on, that Putin actually reached out and offered his condolences. I mean, if that doesn't show the power of the queen in bringing people together, in looking forward to the future, in giving people grounding, I really don't know what does.
BLITZER: Let me follow up, Bidisha, because for most of Britain's lives, the national anthem has been God Save the Queen. That now shifts to God Save the King. What does this mean for the monarchy and for the country?
MAMATA: It means a huge deal. And I was thinking just a moment ago, my goodness, they're going to have to change all the stumping of the profile on the queens. You're absolutely right. The national anthem is going to change. The very song that you have to memorize as a school kid, that's all going to change. There never has been any experience of there being any other monarch.
What's extraordinary to me is that the queen's duty has been so longstanding that she's shuffled through prime ministers and presidents, and yet she always remains the same.
BLITZER: Good point indeed. All right, guys, thank you very, very much, Kate Williams, Trisha Goddard, Bidisha Mamata, I appreciate it.
Coming up, bells toll to mark the passing of Britain's longest reigning monarch. We'll have a closer look at the life of Elizabeth II. That's next.
[18:25:00] BLITZER: These are live pictures coming in right now from just outside Buckingham Palace in London. Tonight, we're following the death of Queen Elizabeth II at age 96, and the accession of her oldest son, now King Charles III. The queen dying at her home in Scotland after just marking 70 years on the thrown, the longest reign in British history.
Tonight, outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, there are crowds, large crowds remembering their late monarch, for most the only one they've ever known.
Here once again is CNN Royal Correspondent Max Foster.
FOSTER (voice over): Britain's Queen Elizabeth II crowned at Westminster Abbey on June the 2nd, 1953. This was the first time the public was able to witness this sacrosanct moment. Elizabeth had allowed live television cameras in to capture it, in a powerful signal that this was a new, open and relevant monarchy.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, as Lilibeth to friends, was born on April the 21st, 1926. It was only a decade later that she knew she was truly destined to lead an empire. It was a fluke of history, a work of scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few hours ago, I discharged my last duty as king and emperor.
FOSTER: Her uncle, Edward, abdicated to marry the love of his life, Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, and, therefore, spoiler to the throne. Elizabeth's father became king. She was the accidental heir which entrenched in her a sense of duty. She was devout, almost spiritual about her responsibilities as a royal even before being crowned.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II, ENGLAND: I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and to the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.
QUEEN MARGRETHE II, DENMARK: I seem to remember having listened to that speech and I remember very well -- I certainly remember reading it not many years later the way she dedicated her life to the country. That was an example which I very much felt when I grew older, that was what it was about, you dedicate your life to your country.
FOSTER: On November the 20th, 1947 she wed her childhood sweetheart, the tall and dashing Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, title the Duke of Edinburgh. The following year, their marriage bore Elizabeth's heir, Prince Charles. For more than half a century, the queen led her empire before overseeing its managed decline as it became known as the commonwealth, an association of now independent countries. Her first prime minister was Winston Churchill. During her rule, she met every acting U.S. president bar one, meetings that she always prioritized.
ROBERT HARDMAN, AUTHOR, OUR QUEEN: She remembers learning from her parents how important keeping America on side during the war. And then the Americans came into the war. She remembers that so well. She remembers the American troops, D-Day, all that. To her, it's a very important part of her growing up.
FOSTER: Whilst the British monarch has no political power, Elizabeth wielded immense power as a figurehead, as demonstrated in 2011 when she became the first monarch to visit neighboring Ireland since its separation from the United Kingdom.
QUEEN ELIZABETH: You can all see things which we would wish --
FOSTER: Then Prime Minister David Cameron described the trip as a game-changer in Anglo-Irish relations.
A year later, the queen traveled to Belfast in another significant moment of her reign, a historic handshake with former IRA Commander Martin McGinnis, a public symbol of peace following decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.
There was, nonetheless, a very private side do this wife, mother and grandmother. Stiff upper-lipped in public and so guarded, there's little footage to show the sense of humor she's reputed to have displayed behind closed doors. On occasion, she did open up with uncharacteristic candor and emotion. The queen herself marked 1992 as a very bad year.
QUEEN ELIZABETH: It has turned out to be (INAUDIBLE).
FOSTER: Punctuated by several family splits and a fire at her beloved Windsor Castle. Three of her four children would divorce, Charles most famously, and then that crash.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are just getting word that the French government has informed all of us that Princess Diana has died.
FOSTER: The royal family's restrained response collided with a British public convulsing in heartache. Elizabeth learned a tough lesson through all of the grief. She wasn't merely a mother or grandmother, rather a queen to a people no matter what, an enduring image the queen bowing her head to Princess Diana's coffin, marking a sad period for the royal family, Britain and its relationship with the monarchy.
Over more than a decade, however, public faith in the royal family did rebuild. The queen was visibly thrilled by the show of support for the royal wedding between her grandson, William, and partner, Kate, in 2011. Then the following year, polls showed the British royal family at the height of their popularity as the queen celebrated 60 years on the throne. She used her diamond jubilee to present a slimmed-down monarchy, only the key royals paraded and waved, a sign of a more economic family for the 21st century.
In later years, the queen welcomed several additions to the family, including Prince George, her first great grandson and future heir to the throne, born in 2013 to the then-duke and duchess of Cambridge.
Reflecting the modern age, Prince Harry later married Meghan Markle, the royal family extending again to embrace an actress with African- American ancestry, in time, welcoming Baby Archie. Prince Philip retired from public duties in 2017. Meanwhile the queen continued indefatigable. She gradually slowed her busy schedule certainly in terms of travel.
But in September 2015, whilst opening a new railway in Scotland without ceremony or commemorative fireworks, Queen Elizabeth II passed her revered predecessor, Victoria, to become Britain's longest reigning monarch.
Controversy visited the family again in 2019 as the queen's second son, Prince Andrew, gave an ill-advised interview to the BBC that made allegations of sexual misconduct. Any hopes for a quieter year ahead were dashed when Harry and Meghan, the duke and duchess of Sussex, made a shock announcement at the start of 2020.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the last time they'll be walking into the abbey.
FOSTER: Giving up their public roles and duties, they moved to North America with a mission to become financially independent. Crisis talks and another contentious interview soon followed.
In 2021, at the age of 99, Prince Philip, the duke of Edinburgh, passed away. Senior royals attended the funeral, scaled back due to coronavirus to celebrate his seven decades of service and mourn the passing of a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.
Elizabeth stood alone as she watched his coffin lower into the royal vault in Windsor, bidding farewell to her husband of 73 years, the man she described as her strength and stay.
She will be remembered as one of the great monarchs, able to hand a strengthened crown to her heir despite reigning over a period of tumultuous change.
BLITZER: CNN's Max Foster reporting for us. Max, thank you very, very much.
Joining us now, the former communications secretary to the queen, Simon Lewis. Simon, thank you so much for joining us. I'm curious, how are you remembering Queen Elizabeth tonight?
SIMON LEWIS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: Well, Wolf, I'm extremely sad, I think like not just the country, but all over the world. I was lucky to work with the queen for two years, from 1998 to 2000. And it was an enormous privilege. I remember her sense of duty, her hard work, her tremendous sense of humor, her commitment to her country and obviously thoughts with King Charles as well, his majesty king Charles because he's lost his mother, he's lost both his parents now. So, it's a very human moment as well. It's a combination of sadness and also realizing that like all great institutions, there's a moment of transition and that is happening in front of our eyes.
BLITZER: It certainly is. And as you well know, the queen served in an incredibly public role for seven decades but she was also a very private person. Can you share with us a treasured moment you had with her?
LEWIS: Well, the extraordinary thing about the queen is once you were a close advisor -- and before I was appointed to Buckingham Palace, I had never met a member of the royal family. But once you're inside that circle, you were treated almost as if you're a member of the family. Obviously, you weren't (ph). And the first time I went to Balmoral just after being appointed, and the first night we went off one of the famous barbecues in a Range Rover drove up and I was asked to drive the car, which sounded like a good idea. And so her majesty got in and sat next to me. And I realized it was her majesty and myself driving down to the barbecue. So, I'm very glad I had my driving license that night.
And then I remember when I was at the palace presented a particular proposal to the queen for a particular project, which I thought was a great idea. And she looked at it and we talked about it and she said, Simon, that's far too grand for us. So, I think that combination of being pragmatic, testing people a bit, but also being very clear about what she wanted on behalf of the institution, the monarchy was a defining characteristic.
BLITZER: Simon, we saw that photo of Queen Elizabeth meeting the new British prime minister, Liz Truss, what just two days ago. What does that say about the queen's dedication to her duties even in her final days?
LEWIS: Wolf, absolutely extraordinary. If you think, as we all know, the queen's first prime minister was Winston Churchill, and Liz Truss was her 15th and last prime minister. And in those last days, she still wanted for it to be seen that she was both saying farewell to Boris Johnson and inviting -- this is the important thing -- inviting Liz Truss to form a new government.
And, yes, I think that says everything about the queen's commitment to her country and also says everything about the incredibly important role that the monarchy plays in the U.K. system. The queen is the person who appoints the government. The queen is the person who approves legislation, and that's how the constitution works, and the queen completely understood that as, of course, King Charles.
BLITZER: So, what do you think? What does Queen Elizabeth's death mean for the monarchy and for the country now led by King Charles III? [18:40:02]
LEWIS: What is interesting, Wolf, if I was to look behind me and look at the crowds outside Buckingham Palace, it's extraordinary how many young people there are and how diverse it is. And I think one of the fascinating things about the monarchy is its ability to reinvent itself.
All the young people who have come here tonight have come because they have enormous respect for the queen. And I'm sure that respect is going to be transferred to King Charles. Remember, he has been the longest prepared, the most prepared monarch of all time. And I think he'll do a tremendous job. And he's very well supported and very well advised and he knows exactly what he's going to do as king.
BLITZER: I suspect you're absolutely right. Simon Lewis, thank you for joining us.
Up next, we're going live to Windsor Castle, another place where people are laying flowers right now and they're sharing their memories of Queen Elizabeth.
BLITZER: More now on Queen Elizabeth II, dead at the age of 96 after a truly remarkable 70-year reign on the British throne.
CNN's Scott McLean is just outside Windsor Castle for us.
Scott, so how are people over there reacting to the news?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, look, it's almost midnight here and people are still showing up with flowers to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II and I've been really shock not only the volume of flowers but also by the some handwritten notes.
And I just want to show some of them. This says to our beautiful queen, thank you your majesty for all your years of service to your people and your country. You've conducted yourself with dignity and with class.
You look at this one here. This was written by a child, obviously. To Queen Elizabeth II, it was -- it's been lovely few years with you as queen. We will miss you loads. Rest in peace.
If you walk along here, you can see there's all kinds of handwritten cards, handwritten notes, obviously candles as well.
This one, this letter here, a lengthy one has been dropped. I want to speak quickly to the woman who actually wrote it. Her name is Jane. She's a nurse. She just got off shift. You were compelled to come here to leave this note. Why?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think she's touched so many lives actually. Obviously I'm just an ordinary person. I don't know her.
I personally never met her. My father did and my son. I just feel she was an incredible lady.
MCLEAN: Can you summarize what your message to her said?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think really just, although we're just an ordinary family and they're anything but, the feelings of grief and loss are just still the same. We can only empathize and imagine how they're feeling and how proud they must feel. So, you know, we related to her. She was amazing.
MCLEAN: She sure is.
Wolf, this is just a little sampling of what we're seeing from the British people as they pause to remember this incredible monarch, the longest living monarch until earlier today in the world, Wolf.
BLITZER: Scott McLean, thank you very much.
The outpouring of grief across the U.K. tonight is reminisce of Princess Diana's death some 25 years ago. It was a challenging time for the British people, the royal family and for the queen herself. It's an angle we'll explore on a CNN special report tonight. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are just getting word that the French government has informed all of us that Princess Diana has died.
CHARLES ANSON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: This happened suddenly. So their first instinct was I think the one that any family would make which would be to look after these boys.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The queen and Prince Charles sequestered at Balmoral Castle in Scotland to comfort William and Harry in private. Back in London, there was an overwhelming outpouring of public grief.
The British press demanded a public response from the queen.
PENNY JUNOR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: People wanted the monarch, but she felt the place she needed to be was with her grandsons.
FOSTER: What do you think that said about her?
ROBIN JANVRIN, FORMER PRIVATE SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: It was an occasion where she put family before duty.
FOSTER: Family before duty, something the queen had rarely done before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the most dangerous week of her entire reign. I think that the future of the monarchy really hung in the balance. FOSTER: Days after Diana's death, the queen broke with protocol and
had the Union flag lowered to half staff, and she returned to London where she met with mourners outside Buckingham Palace.
WESLEY KERR, FORMER BBC ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: She drove down Constitution Hill and much to everyone's surprise, got out of the limousine. She and the duke spoke to the crowds.
FOSTER: That night, the Queen gave a live address to the nation, only the second of her reign.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II, UNITED KINGDOM: So what I say to you now as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart, first, I want to pay tribute Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.
JANVRIN: She saw it as a moment to try to set the record straight about her feelings for the princess of Wales.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And for more on the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, join us later tonight for CNN special report, "A Queen for the Ages." That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, only here on CNN.
Coming up, our coverage -- special coverage continues. That's next.
BLITZER: Finally tonight, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of a CNN original, Bernard Shaw, who died yesterday at the age of 82. He was my very good friend and my mentor who helped me from the very first day I arrived here at CNN 32 years ago.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. We're seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.
BLITZER (voice-over): It was a night that would make TV history. CNN anchor and veteran journalist, Bernard Shaw, reporting live from Baghdad. It was the start of the 1991 Gulf War.
SHAW: Clearly, I've never been there, but this feels like we're in the center of hell.
BLITZER: Shaw, with colleagues John Holliman and Peter Arnett broadcast the first war coverage in real time. The boys of Baghdad as they became known reported from the floor of their hotel room as bombs fell around them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baghdad lines dead.
BLITZER: You were really scared for your life?
SHAW: Yes, very much so. In war, one moment you're alive. The next moment, you're dead.
BLITZER: Dire moments shared by one billion viewers around the globe and credited with turning CNN into the news leader it is today.
JODI WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR: It reminded everybody of what journalism can be and what television can be. And it truly put CNN on the map. And Bernie was right at the heart of that story.
BLITZER: Shaw's remarkable career began in Hawaii. He was a marine, determined to become a journalist, and sought out a meeting with TV news legend Walter Cronkite there on assignment.
WALTER CRONKITE, TV ANCHOR: Right away he said, Mr. Cronkite, I have to talk to you. I have to be a journalist and I have to find out how I do that.
BLITZER: Shaw returned to his native Chicago and got a job in radio. That led to an assignment covering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
SHAW: The one memorable thing he said to me was one day you're going to make it, just do some good.
BLITZER: Eager to follow King's advice, Shaw once again turned to Cronkite, who helped him land a job at CBS. As a D.C. reporter, he covered the Watergate scandal before moving to ABC in 1977. He was one of the first journalists to capture the harrowing scene of the Jonestown massacre.
Two years later, CNN came calling.
SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw. That's the latest from our cable news network bureau here in Washington.
TED TURNER, CNN FOUNDER: And then we started off, all the other guys had white males as their lead anchor. Our lead anchor was a team of a woman and a black man. So I thought it was real good.
SHAW: I did too.
BLITZER: Less than a year on air, Shaw led the network's coverage of the assassination attempt on President Reagan.
SHAW: Approximately four shots were fired at the president.
WOODRUFF: Bernie was Mr. Calm, Mr. Steady. He was never trying to get ahead of the story. He was not trying to say more than he knew. Frankly, that's what you want in a journalist.
BLITZER: Six years later, Shaw's brand of journalism won CNN the kind of White House access previously reserved for the big three networks. SHAW: Five of the Republican presidential candidates have deserted
you. The conservatives, the right wing of your party are after your scalp.
BLITZER: Shaw's reputation for hard interviews became legendary after a question to Michael Dukakis during a 1988 presidential debate.
SHAW: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?
WOODRUFF: It was classic Bernie Shaw that certainly was the moment when people took another look at Michael Dukakis and made a decision about him that no doubt had an impact ultimately on their vote.
BLITZER: A year later, Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government cracked down on news coverage, forcing Shaw off of the air.
SHAW: For all of the hard-working men and women of CNN, good-bye from Beijing.
I'm a child of democracy and when we were shut down, my temples just froze with anger. I remember that night I went back to my hotel room and I actually cried.
BLITZER: For more than 20 years, Shaw was the face of CNN and trusted news around the world.
WOODRUFF: Always steady, always solid, always trusted. That to me is going to be his legacy. It was the "you can count on him" brand.
BLITZER: But that public trust came with a personal cost. Shaw said he sacrificed precious time away from his wife and two children, and suffered PTSD from his time in Baghdad.
SHAW: You pay a price. I happen to believe it's a worthwhile price to pay, but you're going to pay a price.
BLITZER: It was the price of being a witness to history and the privilege of being trusted to report it.
SHAW: You can depend on us being here all the time. And please, pass the word.
BLITZER: Bernie leaves behind his wife, Linda, and two children. Our deepest, deepest condolences to the family. May he rest in peace and as we say, may his memory be a blessing.
Thanks very much for watching.
Erin Burnett picks up our special coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth right now.