Britain bids a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II

Britain bid a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, honoring its longest-reigning monarch with a state funeral that offered pomp in solemn circumstances, drew dignitaries from around the world and captivated a global television audience.

The hour-long event at Westminster Abbey, a service attended by 2,000 people that reflected the old-world grandeur of Britain’s monarchy, followed 11 days of national mourning and highly choreographed public ceremonies.

The Queen’s coffin, topped with national symbols, then made a slow procession through the streets of London to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where it was lowered into the Royal Vault before a more intimate royal ceremony. Charles III and other members of the royal family in what officials described as a “deeply private family event” held without media coverage.

The ceremony at St George’s, a devotional service attended by 800 people, was the latest in a series of public events commemorating a figure whose life is considered by many to be the model for a great modern monarch. The Dean of Windsor, David John Conner, opened with a nod to the ethos of stoicism and stiff upper lip that the Queen seemed to embody for many of her subjects.

“In the midst of our rapidly changing and often turbulent world, his calm and dignified presence has given us the confidence to face the future as he did, with courage and hope,” he said.

Then followed moments steeped in the symbolism of the passing of royal power: the Lord Chamberlain, the highest official in the Queen’s household, broke his scepter, which was buried with the dead monarch to mark the end of his service. Later, the crown jeweler took the diamond-encrusted imperial state crown, orb and scepter from the top of the queen’s casket and gave them to Conner to place on the altar. His coffin was lowered to the Queen’s bagpipe lament.

As the national anthem played, the crowds gathered outside Windsor stood alone. Known as the Long Walk, more than 100 police officers in traditional black and white uniforms were stationed on the tree-lined avenue leading to Windsor Castle to keep the peace.

Earlier, tens of thousands of people streamed around Buckingham Palace in London hoping to catch a glimpse of the motorcade on its route and pay their last respects.

The pallbearers of the Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards carry the coffin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II out of Westminster Abbey in London on Monday.

(Photo by Marco Bertorello / Pool)

“He’s just been a part of our lives forever,” said Angie Judge, who had woken up before dawn with her sister Maureen to make sure to find seats in Hyde Park to watch the funeral on a giant screen. Both women wore crisp white T-shirts with the words “Forever in our hearts” printed above a portrait of the Queen.

“It’s never going to be the same. I love Charles, but I can’t say ‘God save the king’ yet,” Judge said, referring to the new king, Charles III.

Before her death on September 8, Elizabeth reigned for a record 70 years as Britain emerged from the ashes of World War II and finally entered the digital age. Before the funeral began on Monday morning, Westminster Abbey’s largest bell tolled once a minute for 96 minutes to mark the anniversary of each late monarch’s life.

Her casket, which had lain in the Houses of Parliament for more than four days as hundreds of thousands of mourners passed by, was drawn by a guard of honor on a hearse to the Abbey, the ancient church where Elizabeth was married in 1947 and crowned in 1953. Walking behind the carriage were Charles, his sister and two brothers, and his two sons, Harry and William, who is now first in line to the throne.

Eight pallbearers from the Queen’s Company 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards carried the coffin into the service, which began at 11am sharp, when the Reverend David Hoyle exhorted the congregation to pray in the church where remembrance and hope are sacred duties. “

Uniformed bearers carry the coffin into St. George's Chapel as those present stand in pews on either side of the aisle.

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II into St. George’s Chapel for a dedication service at Windsor Castle in England on Monday.

(Joe Giddens/Pool Photo)

Among those in attendance were the royal family, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, the kings of Spain and Belgium, Middle Eastern emirs, other heads of government and select members of the British public, most of whom knew no sovereign other than Elizabeth.

“We remember with gratitude her unwavering commitment to a high calling over so many years as Queen and Head of the Commonwealth,” Hoyle said. “We remember with admiration his lifelong sense of duty and dedication to his people. We fondly remember his love for his family and his dedication to the things he held dear.

Outside, some people had lined up overnight to get into the designated viewing areas, which were full by 10 a.m. Police sealed off the entrance from the mall, off the wide boulevard leading to Buckingham Palace, and directed the endless flow of people into Hyde. Park. Street vendors did a brisk business selling all things Britannia, including hats, shawls, flags and other Union Jack trinkets.

As the congregation stood for the first hymn inside Westminster Abbey, the entire crowd in Hyde Park rose from their blankets and lawn chairs and remained standing until the singing ended. One of the two Scripture readings was given by British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was officially appointed by the Queen just two days before her death, reflecting the sense of duty that endeared her to her subjects across the UK.

“He just summed up what this country is and what it means to be British,” said Dan Schofield, who came from outside London with his wife and their two daughters. “We just wanted to pay tribute and for our kids, when they’re older, to be able to say they’re here.”

A man and a woman dressed in black are walking on a sidewalk along a lawn covered with flowers.

Guests arrive at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England on Monday before Queen Elizabeth II’s service.

(Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo)

But not all Britons shared equally at this time. Many went about their daily business or found other ways to enjoy the unexpected public holiday.

Londoner Tina Thorpe said the wall-to-wall coverage in the British media over the past week was too much.

“I think it’s going overboard,” said Thorpe, 62. “It’s interesting, but I don’t like the endless royal commentary. We’re being told how to grieve.”

Thorpe said he enjoyed celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in the summer and organized a street party, but it was more about coming together for the community. The Queen’s death has pushed the news aside from everything else.

“What is going on in Pakistan? What’s going on in the rest of the world? What about Ukraine?” Thorpe said.

Such concerns were brushed aside at the abbey, where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivered a homily that ended with the words “We shall meet again” – an echo of the Queen’s message of comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic. those who had lost loved ones. He used the phrase from the song “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn, an iconic song of World War II in Britain.

Shortly afterwards, a military man played the Last Post, similar to Taps in the US, to signal the end of the service and the start of a two-minute silence in memory of the Queen. It was quiet that hung outside the monastery walls: takeoffs and landings at London’s Heathrow Airport, one of the world’s busiest airports, were halted for half an hour so as not to disturb the silence. In Hyde Park, many stood straight, heads bowed in a moment of unified solemnity remarkable for such a large crowd.

The funeral participants then sang the national anthem, some of them saying the words “God Save the King” for the first time. A final dirge from the Queen’s piper ended the service.

Two women hug in the middle of a crowd.

People react as the hearse carrying Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin passes in a ceremonial procession after her state funeral at Westminster Abbey in London on Monday.

(Mike Egerton/Associated Press)

As the sun broke through the heavy cloud cover that had blanketed London in the morning, Royal Navy sailors carried the coffin once more to Wellington Arch to the sounds of a funeral march backed by the tolls of Big Ben and loud cannon fire. . The coffin was loaded onto the hearse which drove to Windsor Castle.

After the funeral, the tables at the Quebec City pub immediately across from Hyde Park filled up quickly.

“To the Queen,” said a group of three friends as they clinked glasses of Guinness and watched the BBC broadcast of the procession on mobile phones.

Reflecting on the “end of an era”, Zoe Dearsley marveled at the Queen’s seven decades of service.

“He served all this time with such grace. At 96, two days after his death and still doing his duty, meeting Boris Johnson and Liz Truss is probably the last thing he wanted to do, it’s just remarkable.

Her boyfriend, Dan Ellis, said that as a native South African he had always been less enamored of the British monarchy, but acknowledged the Queen’s devotion and steadfastness.

“I’m generally skeptical of the monarchy, but she had that character,” he said. “He was the best leader.”

Bulos, Stokols and Chu are staff writers. Boyle is a special correspondent. Times foreign correspondent and photographer Marcus Yam contributed to this report.