Kings, presidents, an emperor and a million citizens have bid farewell to Queen Elizabeth in London. In Westminster Abbey there was modest mourning, but especially thanks for a life of service to the Queen who died at the age of 96.
“Few leaders receive as much love as we have seen for her,” the Archbishop of Canterbury typified ten days of mourning. “The sadness there is – in her family but also around the world – stems from her rich life and the loving service that we now have to miss.”
The Archbishop said that loving service is rare, especially among those in power. “But they are remembered long after those who clung to power and privilege are forgotten.” The archbishop also prayed for strength for the bereaved as they face their grief “in the brightest spotlight”.
Emotions were seen among members of the royal family:
The ceremonies started early in Westminster Hall, where the public had been able to say goodbye to the Queen for five days. At exactly 6:30 am, the last mourner passed the bier.
It turned out to be a woman who came by for the second time: yesterday at 5.15 pm she joined for the first time and when it was her turn at 1.15 am she went straight back.
“I just had to go one more time,” said Christina Heerey, a member of the British Armed Forces. “I have sworn my allegiance to her. I am very proud as a member of the Air Force and as one of its subjects.”
After Heerey, the Black Rod, Parliament’s highest official, took a solemn farewell:
Last citizens pass Queen Elizabeth’s coffin
A few hours later, King Charles accompanied his mother’s bier on foot from Parliament to nearby Westminster Abbey, along with his sons, brothers and sister. It was the first time since George II’s funeral in 1760 that the church had been used again for a royal funeral; other princes chose Windsor for the ceremony.
The location was one of the many personal touches Elizabeth had added to the ceremony. The Queen had a special bond with the Church, where she married in 1947 and was crowned six years later. The personal touch was also evident in the choice of music, with chants from her own wedding service and from last year’s funeral service for Prince Philip.
Just before noon in Great Britain, the Last Post announced two minutes of national silence, for which even air traffic at Heathrow was suspended for half an hour. The church then set God save the king in.
Charles, who of course did not sing along, was visibly moved:
King Charles emotional as national anthem ‘God save the king’ is sung
The service was carefully followed along the route that the funeral procession would follow. In some places in the city large screens had been erected, elsewhere the ceremonies were followed on mobile phones.
The 11-year-old Alex had already picked a spot along the route with his mother Laura yesterday. “The Queen was there all my life, and my mother’s whole life as well. That’s why we have to be here today,” he explained. “I hope I don’t forget it for the rest of my life.”
Shortly afterwards, the funeral procession of 3,000 soldiers, a motley crew from all the countries of which Elizabeth had been the head of state, passed: traditional beef eaters, Asian gurkhas, Canadian mounties and a delegation from Jamaica. Employees from the merchant navy, fire brigade, ambulance services and police also followed. All armed units held their weapons upside down as a sign of mourning.
Impressive procession travels through London with coffin Elizabeth
The centerpiece of the procession was Elizabeth’s coffin with the symbols of her power: the Imperial State Crown, scepter and orb. 148 sailors pulled the gun carriage on which the coffin rested, the base of a cannon that had been used for the funerals of Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill and Elizabeth’s father.
In silence the crowd waited for the procession of veiled drums and bagpipes to pass, accompanied by the sound of Big Ben and salutes from Hyde Park. En route to Wellington Arch, where the car journey to the burial chapel in Windsor began, the procession passed Buckingham Palace, a final salute to the palace where the Queen lived for seventy years.
The funeral procession is now on its way to Windsor, where the Queen will be interred in St. George’s Chapel, the resting place of ten other British monarchs, but above all her parents, sister and husband Philip. A burial service will follow to which 800 people have been invited. Among them, besides the family, are members of her court and representatives from the Commonwealth.
Insiders report that King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and Princess Beatrix have also been invited. Earlier in the day they had also been given a prominent place in the Abbey among others royals from Europe: front row in front of Elizabeth’s coffin, directly across from Charles.
The service in Windsor will again be accompanied by much ceremony and tradition. For example, the court marshal breaks his staff just before the coffin enters the royal crypt, as a sign that an era has come to an end. The crown is also ceremonially taken back and placed on the altar.
A private service will follow tonight in the Windsor Memorial Chapel. There, Elizabeth is reunited with her husband Philip in the George VI Memorial Chapel.