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Crowds worldwide remember Mandela

The UK joined the rest of the world in mourning the loss of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela as crowds gathered in London and elsewhere to remember the inspiring leader.

South African President Jacob Zuma announced last night that Mr Mandela, 95, had died peacefully, surrounded by family, at his home in Johannesburg.

The announcement prompted vigils and outpourings of grief but also celebration from politicians, celebrities and the public across the globe as Mr Mandela's contributions to his country and the world are remembered.

In the UK, the Queen led the tributes to South Africa's first black president after visiting a plaque commemorating Mr Mandela's 1996 visit to Parliament.

"The Queen was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela last night," a statement from Buckingham Palace read.

"He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today."

The Prince of Wales described the Nobel Peace Prize winner as "the embodiment of courage and reconciliation".

"With his passing, there will be an immense void not only in his family's lives, but also in those of all South Africans and the many others whose lives have been changed through his fight for peace, justice and freedom," he said.

Westminster Abbey will hold a national service of thanksgiving for the life of Mr Mandela after the state funeral in South Africa. A book of condolence has been opened in St Margaret's Church at the Abbey.

Hundreds of people formed a long queue at South Africa House in Trafalgar Square to write in a book of condolence set up there.

At the front of the queue, a teary Lorna Soar, originally from South Africa, summed up the feelings of many when she said simply: "At least he's at peace now."

A vigil will be held in the square tonight to honour the renowned leader.

Flowers and a framed picture of Mr Mandela were laid at the base of his statue in London's Parliament Square in the early hours.

One tribute on a card read: ''Thank you for the sacrifices you made for all of us.''

A second read: ''May God shine light on your homecoming in heaven. Rest in Peace, Mr Mandela.''

Prime Minister David Cameron was the first to sign the book of condolence at South Africa House.

"Your cause of fighting for freedom and against discrimination, your struggle for justice, your triumph against adversity - these things will inspire generations to come," Mr Cameron wrote.

"And through all of this, your generosity, compassion and profound sense of forgiveness have given us all lessons to learn and live by."

The Prime Minister's sentiments were echoed by other politicians as both Houses of Parliament gathered in the House of Lords.

Lords Speaker Baroness D'Souza said another book of condolence would be open in the Palace of Westminster's Royal Gallery.

" I will be writing to the Speakers of the South African Parliament to express our sympathies on behalf of the House," she said.

The grief felt in the UK mirrored that felt around the world, as evidenced by social media website Twitter.

In the five hours after the news of Mr Mandela's death broke, 7.2 million tweets were posted, with a peak of 95,000 per minute.

News of Mr Mandela's death broke while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were attending a royal premiere of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom in London's Leicester Square last night.

Tragically, Mr Mandela's daughter, Zindzi Mandela, was told of her father's death while story of his amazing life played out on the screen in front of the audience, which included William and Kate and the film's cast and crew.

Actor Idris Elba, who played Mr Mandela, led a minute's silence after the shocked audience was informed at the film's conclusion.

William, with Kate beside him, gave a sombre tribute after leaving the cinema.

"It was extremely sad and tragic news," he said.

"We were just reminded of what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now."

Mr Mandela is held in the highest esteem across the world for leading his nation's transition from white minority rule in the 1990s after 27 years in prison.

A law student turned freedom fighter, it was Mr Mandela's battle to end the system of apartheid that led to his incarceration in a tiny cell in the infamous Robben Island jail.

He was released from prison in 1990, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected South Africa's first black president the following year.

Mr Mandela had been receiving medical care for a prolonged lung infection at his home when he died.

There was a growing celebratory atmosphere at South Africa House.

A strong smell of incense filled the air as crowds remembered Mr Mandela with a constant flow of song and dance.

The shrine and the group were the focus of photographers, broadcasters, reporters, intrigued passers-by, and passengers on the top deck of passing buses.


From Belfast Telegraph