Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Queen Elizabeth
The death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8 began a period of national mourning in the United Kingdom. It signified the end of an era in British history and the start of a new one, as the crown passed from a beloved monarch who reigned for 70 years to her son, the new King Charles III.
For Beckie Ridley, a 35-year-old resident of Windsor in the county of Berkshire, England, the death of the Queen is also heartbreaking milestone that at the same time fills her with pride.
"It does feel like a personal loss, it's awful," Ridley tells PEOPLE. "The whole family has been so upset; it hasn't sunk in properly."
Monique Jessen Beckie Ridley and friends
Ridley lives in the town that shares a name with its defining landmark, Windsor Castle, the late Queen's royal residence where she spent most of her time in her final years.
"I got married in the chapel there," Ridley said. "My grandma has lived there for years, ever since I was born."
To the south of the famed castle — originally built in the 11th Century by William the Conqueror — is Windsor Great Park, a sprawling and diverse area managed and funded by the Crown Estate that holds gardens, woodlands, trails, monuments and more.
"Inside the Great Park, it's a community — there's a church, a town hall, a post office. It's lovely because everyone around her worked for the Queen, so it was a lovely community," said Ridley, whose grandfather was a groundskeeper for Queen Elizabeth.
"When my granddad passed, the Queen sent a note to my nan to share her memories and her sympathies. She genuinely cared about everyone," Ridley said.
"She never forgot anyone's name," Ridley continued. "She was famous for that. I was quite young, but my auntie says she always had time for my grandpa. She would stop and talk to him about the dogs, the horses."
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty
Because her grandfather worked for the Queen, "It meant we could get married in the chapel in the castle," Ridley told PEOPLE.
"The Queen and Prince Philip were there when I had my bans read," she added, "and Prince Philip gave a thumbs up to my husband when nobody objected! He had a great sense of humor."
PEOPLE spoke with Ridley on the day that the Queen's grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry made a surprise appearance together outside Windsor Castle to greet mourners with their wives, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, two days after the monarch's death.
"We were just having lunch and weren't planning to come down, but I heard William was coming. To see the four of them together was lovely," Ridley told PEOPLE of the show of unity by the royal foursome.
Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
"The Queen would have wanted that because her and Harry were so close," Ridley said. "Now that the Waleses are in Windsor, that would have made her so happy."
In stepping out to greet well-wishers who adored their grandmother, Prince William and Prince Harry displayed a quality that Ridley said reminded her of Queen Elizabeth.
"The Queen did such a fantastic job in making the royals more accessible, so it wasn't this hierarchical thing," she said. "I think that's why everybody feels such a sense of deep loss, because they feel like they knew her."
Ridley said she remained "in awe" of the Queen as she comes to terms with the loss of the sovereign who kept her promise to be of service to the British people until the end of her life.
"During Covid," Ridley recalled, "she got Savill Gardens kitchens cleared and sent weekly hampers to all the elderly. She was amazing."
And just two days before she died, the Queen appointed Liz Truss prime minister — her fifteenth — and fulfilled one of the monarch's key duties a final time.
"I have seen her up close, and she was just beautiful," Ridley said. "Flawless, right until the end."