‘Few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen’
LONDON (AP) – The United Kingdom and the world bade farewell to Queen Elizabeth II yesterday 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 bore 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 sat 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 on September 8 – and hundreds of thousands of people descended on central London to witness history. They jammed sidewalks to watch the coffin wend its way through the streets of the capital after the service. As the procession passed Buckingham Palace, the queen's official residence in the city, staff stood outside, some bowing and curtsying.
Mark Elliott, 53, who travelled from the Lake District in northern England with his wife and two children to watch the procession, got up at 1.30am to stake out a good viewing location near the palace.
“I know we don’t know the queen, but she’s been our head of state for 70 years, you feel as though you know her, you feel as though she’s part of the family. It is kind of moving,” he said.
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 cortege 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 queen will be laid to rest later with her husband, Prince Philip, at a private family service.
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.
In Japan, whose Emperor Naruhito also attended, several people sipped beer and watched the service at The Aldgate British pub in Tokyo’s fashionable Shibuya district.
“The queen had an especially long history in a country that boasts a long history, and so she deserves deep respect,” said dentist Tomotaka Hosokawa.
The global outpouring of sympathy touched the king, who on the eve of the funeral, issued a message of thanks to people in the UK and around the world, saying he and his wife, Camilla, the queen consort, have been “moved beyond measure” by the large numbers of people who have turned out to pay their respects.
Jilly Fitzgerald, who was in Windsor, said there was a sense of community among the mourners as they prepared to wait hours to see procession carrying the queen’s coffin.
“It’s good to be with all the people who are all feeling the same. It’s like a big family because everyone feels that … the queen was part of their family,” she said.