LONDON — The United Kingdom and the world bade farewell to Queen Elizabeth II on Monday with a state funeral that drew presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers — and crowds in the streets of London and at Windsor Castle — to honour a monarch whose 70-year reign defined an age.
In a country known for pomp and pageantry, the first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s was filled with spectacle: Before the service, a bell tolled 96 times — once a minute for each year of Elizabeth’s life. Then, 142 Royal Navy sailors used ropes to draw the gun carriage carrying her flag-draped coffin to Westminster Abbey, where pallbearers carried it inside and about 2,000 people ranging from world leaders to healthcare workers gathered to mourn.
The trappings of state and monarchy abounded: The coffin was draped with the Royal Standard and atop it was the Imperial State Crown, sparkling with almost 3,000 diamonds, and the sovereign’s orb and sceptre.
But the personal was also present: The coffin was followed into the church by generations of Elizabeth’s descendants, including King Charles III, heir to the throne Prince William and nine-year-old George, who is second in line. On a wreath atop the coffin, a handwritten note read, “In loving and devoted memory,” and was signed Charles R — for Rex, or king.
“Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth, and from the nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service, and in sure confidence to commit her to the mercy of God our maker and redeemer,” the dean of the medieval abbey, David Hoyle, told the mourners.
The service ended with two minutes of silence observed across the United Kingdom, after which the attendees sang the national anthem, now titled God Save the King.
The day began early when the doors of Parliament’s 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed to mourners after hundreds of thousands had filed in front of her coffin.
Yesterday was declared a public holiday in honour of Elizabeth, who died September 8 — and hundreds of thousands of people descended on central London to witness history. As the procession passed Buckingham Palace, the queen’s official residence in the city, staff stood outside, some bowing and curtseying.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in his sermon at Westminster Abbey that “few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen” for the queen.
More people lined the route the hearse took from the capital to Windsor Castle, and many tossed flowers at the cortège as it passed. Millions more tuned into the funeral live, and crowds flocked to parks and public spaces across the UK to watch it on screens. Even the Google doodle turned a respectful black for the day.
As the coffin arrived at the castle, there were poignant reminders of her love of animals: A groom stood at the roadside with one of her ponies, Emma, and another member of staff held the leashes of two of her beloved corgis, Sandy and Muick.
During the committal ceremony in St George’s Chapel on the castle grounds, Dean of Windsor David Conner praised Elizabeth for her “life of unstinting service” to the nation but also her “kindness, concern and reassuring care for her family and friends and neighbours.”
Then the crown and the orb and sceptre were removed from atop the coffin and placed on the altar — separating them from the queen for the last time. Her coffin was lowered into the royal vault through an opening in the chapel’s floor. Charles looked weary and emotional as mourners sang the national anthem.
The mourners at Westminster Abbey included US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, all of the living former British prime ministers and European royalty.
After the pomp and pageantry of a grand state funeral, Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest in an intimate ceremony away from prying cameras in Windsor, where she was reunited with her husband and her parents.
The queen was interred together with Prince Philip’s remains at the King George VI memorial chapel, an annex within St. George’s.
Elizabeth II’s parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, were also interred there along with the ashes of Princess Margaret, the late monarch’s younger sister who died in 2002. (AP)
St George’s is the resting place of 10 former British monarchs, including Henry VIII and the beheaded Charles I. It is also the home of the Order of the Garter, an ancient order of chivalry founded by King Edward III in 1348.