HAMILTON, Bermuda — The Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society has screened royal weddings. The community theater here in the capital of Britain’s oldest overseas territory has celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s jubilees, including her Platinum Jubilee in June, marking her 70 years on the throne.
And so on Monday, about two dozen of its members convened before sunrise over bacon sandwiches and mimosas, around a bar in the Daylesford Theater kitted out with Union Jack flags, to toast “To Her Majesty” on the more somber occasion of her funeral.
“We feel an affinity toward her,” said Alan Brooks, 67, a retail manager in Bermuda who served in the Royal Navy. “Whenever there have been any special occasions in her life that we felt we needed to mark, we’ve marked them … And sadly, we’re now marking the last event in her life.”
Those gathered at the theater watched in mostly pin-drop silence. Some sang, softly, or hummed the hymns. Everyone stood for “God Save the King.”
Bermuda’s governor declared Monday a public holiday here, and many of the bars, banks, restaurants and shops on the trendy, pastel-hued waterfront promenade Front Street were closed.
Gov. Rena Lalgie and Premier David Burt were in London for the funeral. Tanya Davis, Lalgie’s private secretary, said officials anticipated that most Bermudians would watch the funeral at home. They were planning a service at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity on Sept. 24.
But not everyone was watching the funeral. Some were apathetic or uninterested. At one open pub in Hamilton, the funeral was on the televisions, but the one couple dining there early Monday afternoon was paying it little attention.
Dylan Wilson, 25, said he caught snippets of the funeral procession on television. Wilson, who works in digital marketing, said he hasn’t given the British royal family or the queen much thought, but was happy to have a day off.
Kris Smith felt otherwise. The 25-year-old project manager did not watch the funeral, opting to spend his morning working out and planning his week instead. He said he’d take his dog for a walk in the afternoon.
“I am very upset with the holiday,” Smith said. “Lots to do and everything’s closed.”
Elizabeth came to Bermuda several times. Her first visit was with Prince Philip in 1953, during her six-month tour of the Commonwealth after her coronation.
Kim Day, the president of the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society’s executive committee, has fond memories of a visit in 1994, when the queen had a little conversation with local Cub Scouts. Her son was one of them.
“I was about two feet away from her,” Day recalled. “It was back in the time before cellphones, so nobody took a real close picture, which is a real shame.”
The Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society, an amateur theater set up in 1945, planned the funeral screening late last week. Jennifer Campbell, a Canadian who has lived in Bermuda since 2001, said some of its members are like her: expats from Commonwealth realms, countries where the British monarch is head of state.
She said she was “in awe” of Elizabeth.
“She made a vow to serve her entire life when she became queen and she did it,” said Campbell, who was dressed in a shirt with a sequined Union Jack flag. “She never, ever floundered. Her commitment was to the monarchy, and she never swayed from that … I know a lot of people have different feelings about the monarchy itself.”
Including in Bermuda. Burt said last week that Elizabeth’s “life and the constancy of her service meant that whether we warmed to the idea of monarchy or not, ‘The Queen’ was the single most immovable feature on the world stage.”
Bermuda has a crown-appointed governor, who represents the British monarch, and a parliament of elected lawmakers. As in other overseas territories, Britain is responsible for defense, security and foreign policy.
The islands were named after Juan de Bermúdez, the Spanish navigator who discovered them, uninhabited, in 1505. A century later, Sir George Somers, a British admiral, was sailing the merchant ship Sea Venture to Jamestown with a group of colonists when they were caught in a treacherous storm and shipwrecked here. (The wreck is believed to have inspired Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”)
In 1612, King James issued a charter to the investors of the Virginia Company of London that extended the boundary of their colony to Bermuda. Several dozen British colonists arrived and established a settlement in St. George, one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.
The crown took over administration of the colony in 1684. Not long after settlement, colonists brought enslaved people to Bermuda, many of them transported through the Middle Passage from Africa. Slavery was abolished here in the 19th century, but Black people continued to be subjected to segregation for more than a century afterward.
Talk of independence here has long ebbed and flowed. In a 1995 referendum, about 73 percent of voters rejected a break with the crown.
Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda described independence as a “natural progression” for a modern democracy, but “the death of the monarch should not in itself be a trigger for Bermudians to pursue independence.”
“We have been settled since 1612, we have our own constitution, laws, traditions, currency and culture, and frankly it is very difficult to see how being a colony or overseas territory benefits Bermuda in any tangible way,” the group told the Royal Gazette newspaper.
Sandy Amott, 64, was born and raised in Bermuda to parents from England. She admired the queen for her seven decades of service and was emotional when she learned of her death.
“In a way, I’m very sorry to be here today,” said Amott, a secretary. “I just thought that she would live forever, and I’m very sad. But rest in peace, Elizabeth, and long live the king.”