In Westminster we knew without knowing on day Queen Elizabeth II passed

We knew it had happened before it was announced – not from an announcement, but a feeling.

During new Prime Minister Liz Truss’s speech about energy bills freezing on Thursday, something happened that became all anyone could talk about.

No, not a £150 billion package being announced which the government hasn’t said how it will pay for, but the passing of a note.

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Nadhim Zahawi, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, entered the chamber looking solemn, passed the note to the PM, and it began to circle through the room.

Prime Minister Liz Truss attends a service of prayer and reflection for her majesty Queen Elizabeth II at St Paul's Cathedral. Picture: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images
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First the Conservative ministers, then to Sir Keir Starmer, before it spread through the Labour benches.

No announcement was made at that time, but seeing faces fall, the downcast and muted reactions of those so often at each other’s throats, you just knew.

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It was a knot in the stomach, a soft sickness of acknowledgment that the Queen was about to die.

In the corridors people simply said “it’s happening”, while WhatsApp messages constantly pinged.

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There were no other options and, if we didn’t know then, the confirmation the Queen was ill and “under medical supervision” all but confirmed it.

Gone was the traditional press release saying she was “in good spirits”, instead the word “comfortable” stuck out as grim confirmation.

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So we waited, knowing without knowing, writing other stories, all the while understanding the 96-year-old passing would take precedence over the biggest financial policy Truss will ever announce.

I say “writing stories” – the mood was so sombre that speaking to MPs became almost impossible, with their parties ordering them to cease political campaigning, and stop talking to journalists as a result.

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Messages to MPs about appointments congratulating them, clear signs of contact building or basic kindness that seemed essential in the morning felt misjudged and insensitive after.

So we waited, or at least some of us did, with several outlets publishing that she had died based on a tweet from a fake BBC news account.

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Then there were the messages, with multiple contacts asking if we’d been told, as Westminster sought certainty, as if knowing earlier would make it easier to process.

Others messaged me and colleagues saying a friend knew someone who knew someone, and the announcement would be at six o’clock.

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The general sense was one of anguish, perhaps not so much about the Queen, but the certainty she offered.

I am no flag-waving patriot, do not believe in a monarchy and am baffled by those who do, but for so many in Westminster, love of country is why they are there.

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Across the political divide, people come to Parliament to make this country better because they love it, the Queen and what to them they both represent.

This is why when the news was finally confirmed, journalists, MPs and staffers huddled together in the parliamentary bars, hugging, crying and bearing witness to the end of an era.

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