Britain says its 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 under solemn circumstances, drawing dignitaries from around the world and captivating global television audiences.

The hour-long event at Westminster Abbey, attended by 2,000 people, followed 11 days of national mourning and highly choreographed public ceremonies. Thereafter, the Queen’s coffin, topped with symbols of state, made its slow procession through the streets of London on its way to Windsor for smaller ceremonies and funerals later on Monday.

Tens of thousands of people flocked to the area surrounding Buckingham Palace hoping to catch a glimpse of the funeral procession on its way and to pay their respects to a figure whose life served as a model for many of a modern day great monarch.

“She was just a part of our lives forever,” said Angie Judge, who, along with her sister Maureen, woke up before dawn to secure a seat in Hyde Park to see the funeral on a giant screen. Both women wore crisp white T-shirts that read “Forever in our hearts” over a portrait of the Queen.

Men in red uniform carry a flag-draped coffin covered with flowers, orb and scepter and crown on a purple cushion.

A carrier party from 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.

(Marco Bertorello / pool photo)

“It won’t be the same anymore. I love Charles, but I can’t say ‘God save the King’ just yet,” Judge said, referring to the new King, Charles III.

Before her death on September 8, Elizabeth reigned for a record-breaking 70 years, during which Britain rose 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 rang once a minute for 96 minutes to mark each year of the late monarch’s life.

Her coffin, which had lain in the Houses of Parliament for more than four days to allow hundreds of thousands of mourners to pass by, was hauled by a guard of honor on a gun carriage to the Abbey, the ancient church where Elizabeth had been married in 1947 and crowned in 1953. Among those behind the carriage were Charles, his sister and two brothers, as well as 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 in for the service, which began at exactly 11 a.m. when David Hoyle, Dean of the Abbey, urged parishioners to pray in “a church where memory and hope sanctify.” duties are. ”

Uniformed pallbearers carry a coffin into St George's Chapel while participants stand in benches on either side of the aisle.

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

(Joe Giddens / Pool Photo)

Attendees included 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 other Sovereign other than Elizabeth.

“We remember with gratitude her unwavering commitment to high calling over so many years as Queen and Head of the Commonwealth,” said Hoyle. “We remember with admiration her lifelong sense of duty and dedication to her people. We remember with affection her love for her family and her dedication to the causes close to her heart.”

Outside, some people had queued overnight to gain access to designated viewing areas, which had filled to capacity by 10am, with police sealing off access from The Mall, the broad boulevard leading from Buckingham Palace and directed the endless stream of people to Hyde Park. Street vendors thrived, selling everything Britannia had to offer, including hats, scarves, flags and other Union Jack knick-knacks.

As the congregation rose for the first hymn at Westminster Abbey, the entire crowd in Hyde Park rose from their blankets and deck chairs and stood until the singing was over. One of two scripture readings was given by Liz Truss, the British Prime Minister, whom the Queen officially appointed to the post just two days before her death to reflect the sense of duty that endeared her to her subjects across the UK .

“She just summed up what the country was and what it means to be British,” said Dan Schofield, who traveled from outside London with his wife and their two daughters. “We just wanted to show our respect and be able to tell our kids when they’re older that they were here.”

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

Guests arrive at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, on Monday ahead of the farewell ceremony for Queen Elizabeth II.

(Adrian Dennis / Pool Photo)

But not all Brits shared equally at the moment. Many went about their daily business or found other ways to enjoy the unexpected holiday.

Tina Thorpe, a Londoner, said the UK media coverage over the past week has been too much.

“I think it’s going overboard,” said Thorpe, 62. “It’s interesting but I don’t like the endless royal comments. We are told how to mourn.”

Thorpe said she enjoyed celebrating the Queen’s platinum jubilee over the summer and organizing a street party, but it’s more about the community coming together. The Queen’s death pushed other news aside.

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

Such concerns were allayed at the Abbey, where Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered a sermon that ended with the words “We shall meet again” – echoing a message of comfort from the Queen during the COVID-19 pandemic had transmitted those who have lost loved ones. Her use of the phrase itself comes from the song “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn, an iconic track in WWII Britain.

Shortly thereafter, a military bugler played the Last Post, similar to taps in the US, signaling the end of the service and the beginning of two minutes of silence in memory of the Queen. There was a silence that weighed heavily on the walls of the abbey: take-offs and landings at London’s Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest in the world, were suspended for half an hour so as not to disturb the silence. In Hyde Park, many stood bolt upright and head bowed in a moment of unified solemnity remarkable for a crowd of this size.

The mourners then sang the national anthem, some of them saying the words “God save the king” for the first time. A closing lament from the Queen’s bagpiper brought the service to an end.

Two women hug in a crowd.

People react Monday as the carriage carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II passes during the ceremonial procession following her state funeral at Westminster Abbey in London.

(Mike Egerton/Associated Press)

Then, as the sun broke through the heavy cloud cover that had overcast London that morning, Royal Navy sailors brought the coffin once more to Wellington Arch, to the sounds of a funeral march, backed by Big Ben’s peal and the loud bang of artillery guns. The coffin was loaded onto a hearse bound for Windsor Castle, where the royal family is due to bury the Queen in a private ceremony at St George’s Chapel.

After the funeral, tables outside the City of Quebec pub, just across from Hyde Park, quickly filled up.

“To the Queen,” said a group of three friends as they toasted with pints of Guinness and followed the ongoing BBC coverage of the procession on a mobile phone.

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

“She has served with such grace throughout. To be 96 years old, two days from death and still doing her duty to meet with Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, probably the last thing she wanted to do is just remarkable.”

Her friend Dan Ellis said that as a native of South Africa he had always been a little less in love with the British monarchy but still recognized the Queen’s devotion and perseverance.

“I’m a bit skeptical about the monarchy in general, but it had such a character,” he said. “She was the best leader.”

Bulos, Stokols and Chu are staff writers. Boyle is a special correspondent. Britain says its final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II

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