Almost everyone knew it was coming, but when it came it was a shock.
In the King’s Head pub off Piccadilly the pub suddenly went silent. The music went off.
Men and women crowded round the TV which switched to the BBC and the simple, dignified statement.
The crowds were gathering at Buckingham Palace, where the Union Flag was flying at half mast, signifying her death.
A massive scrum formed around the railings, on which the traditional brief notice of her death was posted.
The police tried to keep people back, but with little success. The crowd – patient and good humoured – pushed forward to get a view.
Spontaneously sections of the throng broke into “God Save the Queen” – somewhat inappropriately in the circumstances, with its refrain: “Long may she reign over us” but it didn’t matter.
There were the odd shouts of “God Save the King!” but that seemed odd too.
People arrived, carrying bunches of flowers: many British, but just as many people of all nationalities.
And the row of media outlets sent the message around the world: journalists struggling to find words to describe an event that had not occurred for over 70 years.