On Thursday 8th September 2022, Buckingham Palace announced that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had ‘died peacefully at Balmoral [that] afternoon’. The country was launched into a 10 day mourning period in honour of the Queen, the UK’s longest-reigning monarch, who had celebrated her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year.

Her Majesty made several visits to Oxford throughout her life, the first of which was on Accession Day in 1948, during which she visited Oriel College, even meeting the college’s boat club mascot, ‘Mr Testudo’ the tortoise. The same year, she was also awarded a Degree by Diploma from the University. Her Majesty was also present at several historic events in Oxford during her reign; she laid the foundation stone of St Catherine’s College in 1960, for Wolfson College in 1969, and reopened the newly refurbished Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street in 2009

In response to the Queen’s death, the University have created a news page to commemorate Her. A tribute has been made by Chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes, stating: ‘Queen Elizabeth was one of Britain’s greatest monarchs, which is not solely because of the achievements and length of her remarkable reign, as well as the changes and challenges the UK and the world underwent during that time. It is, above all, because of her utter dedication to duty, responsibility, decency and brave integrity. We are all profoundly grateful for her services to the UK and the Commonwealth, which she carried out at all times with generosity of spirit, good humour and wise judgement. Requiescat in pace.’ 

Whilst events such as degree ceremonies and Open Days are expected to continue throughout the period of national mourning, the University has announced a service of thanksgiving and remembrance for Her Majesty, details of which have not yet been announced. A book of condolence has also been set up in the atrium of the Weston Library on Broad Street to allow all staff and students to leave a comment.

A university procession, as well as a city procession and county procession, will take place in Oxford on Sunday 11th September in memory of the Queen. This forms part of the proclamation ceremony, and will be accompanied by a band, an official proclamation read by the High Sheriff, and an appearance from the Lord Mayor, along with prayers.

Colleges across Oxford have lowered their flags to half-mast. The same response was seen across Oxford only last year, when many colleges underwent a period of national mourning to commemorate the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip. As well as this, several colleges have released statements giving their condolences and letting their students know about collegiate chapel services which will be held in memory of the Queen. Great Tom, the hour bell in Christ Church’s Tom Tower, tolled half-muffled for an hour upon the announcement of Her Majesty’s death, a practice seen repeated by several other Oxford colleges the following day.

Student societies, including Oxford University Labour Club and The Oxford Union (which Her Majesty became the first reigning monarch to visit in 1969), also took to social media to pay their respects, along with other members of the student body.

“It feels as though the world has shifted on its axis,” one Oxford student responded when asked for comment. “There are so many things in life that we take for granted and yet nothing is certain and every period comes to an end. Our generation and our parents’ generation knew no other monarch, no other leader [of] our country and no matter what anyone may say or think, positive or negative, during this time, there is one certainty: we have just entered a time of change.”

Incoming fresher Cassie Lee described Her Majesty as “a fantastic figure of female authority, [who] can teach us all a wealth of wisdom.” She continued, “through standing strong in difficult times [Queen Elizabeth II] has shown us the rewards of being resilient.”

Whilst respect for the late Queen is widespread, some are more critical about the wider role of the monarchy in the 21st century. Only last year, the Magdalen College MCR voted to remove a portrait of the Queen, which had previously been hung in the common room, on grounds of her representation of Britain’s ‘recent colonial history’. The story was misrepresented in the national media and became highly controversial, with mainstream politicians responding to the occurrence, including Gavin Williamson and Andy Burnham.

Indeed, Oxford student Connor Clarke remarked that, “while the nation rightfully mourns the death of a Queen, a mother, and a grandmother, we must not overlook or ignore the colonialist legacy that the new King inherits.” He continued, “I hope the Queen rests in peace and I hope her successor works hard to right the wrongs of his family’s history.”

Nevertheless, the full impact of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s death is yet to be seen in Oxford, and indeed the country at large.