Queen Elizabeth’s coffin arrived at Windsor Castle, her final resting place, on Monday after a day of unparalleled pageantry drew heads of state to her funeral and hundreds of thousands to bid farewell to a revered monarch.
Well-wishers lined the route her hearse took from London, throwing flowers, cheering and clapping as it drove from the city into the English countryside she loved so much.
Thousands more had thronged the capital to attend the procession and funeral, in a fitting tribute to Britain’s longest-serving monarch, who has garnered worldwide respect in 70 years on the throne.
At the majestic Westminster Abbey, where the funeral took place, the 2,000 worshipers included some 500 prime ministers, foreign royal family members and dignitaries, including Joe Biden from the United States.
The hearse carrying Britain’s Queen Elizabeth’s coffin is seen on the day of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral and funeral in Windsor, Britain, March 19
Paul Childs | Reuters
Attention later turned to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where some 800 guests attended a funeral service before her burial.
It ends with the crown, orb and scepter – symbols of the monarch’s power and rule – being removed from the coffin and placed on the altar.
The Lord Chamberlain, the most senior official in the royal household, then breaks his ‘staff’, which marks the end of his service to the sovereign, and places it on the coffin.
Later that evening, in a private family service, the coffin of Elizabeth and her husband of more than seven decades, Prince Philip, who died last year aged 99, will be interred together in the same chapel where her parents and sister Princess Margaret are, also rest.
At the funeral, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told those present that the grief felt by so many in Britain and around the world was a reflection of the late monarch’s “rich life and loving service”.
“Her late Majesty declared on a 21st birthday broadcast that her whole life would be devoted to serving the nation and the Commonwealth,” he said.
“Seldom has such a promise been kept so well. Few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen.”
Music played again at the Queen’s wedding in 1947 and her coronation six years later. The coffin was inscribed in lines of script set on a musical score used at every state funeral since the early 18th century.
After the funeral, her flag-draped coffin was dragged through the streets of London by sailors on a gun carriage in one of Britain’s largest military processions, attended by thousands of members of the armed forces in ceremonial finery.
They walked in step to the funeral music of marching bands while the city’s famous Big Ben chimed every minute in the background. King Charles and other senior royals followed on foot.
The coffin was taken from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch and loaded onto a hearse for the journey to Windsor, where more large crowds waited patiently.
Among the crowds that came from across Britain and beyond, people climbed lampposts, barriers and ladders to catch a glimpse of the royal procession.
Some wore smart black suits and dresses. Others wore hoodies, leggings and tracksuits. A woman with dyed green hair stood next to a man in morning suit as they waited for the London procession to begin.
Millions more watched on television at home on a bank holiday declared for the occasion, the first time a British monarch’s funeral had been televised.
“I’ve been coming to Windsor for 50 years now,” said Baldev Bhakar, 72, a jeweler from the nearby town of Slough, outside Windsor Castle.
“I’ve seen her many times over the years; it felt like she was our neighbor and she was just a beautiful woman; a beautiful queen. It was good to say goodbye to our neighbor one last time.”
Elizabeth died on September 8th at Balmoral Castle, her summer home in the Scottish Highlands.
Her health had deteriorated and the monarch, who had performed hundreds of official engagements well into the 1990s, had retired from public life for months.
However, in keeping with her sense of duty, she was photographed just two days before her death naming Liz Truss as her 15th and final Prime Minister, looking frail but smiling and holding a walking stick.
Such was her longevity and her inseparable connection with Britain that even her own family was shocked.
“We all thought she was invincible,” Prince William told well-wishers.
The 40th sovereign in a line tracing her lineage back to 1066, Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1952 and became Britain’s first post-imperial monarch.
Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral procession arrives at Westminster Abbey on September 19, 2022 in London, Britain.
Rowan Griffiths | Reuters
She oversaw her nation as it attempted to carve out a new place in the world, and she was instrumental in the formation of the Commonwealth of Nations, now a grouping of 56 countries.
When she succeeded her father George VI, Winston Churchill was her first prime minister and Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union. She met major figures in politics, entertainment and sport, including Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Pele and Roger Federer.
Though she reportedly stood at 1.6m tall, she dominated the rooms with her presence and became a towering global figure, hailed to death from Paris and Washington to Moscow and Beijing. National mourning was observed in Brazil, Jordan and Cuba, countries with which it had little direct association.
“People who serve lovingly are rare in any walk of life,” Welby said during the funeral. “Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases, those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who hold onto power and privilege are long forgotten.”
The abbey’s tenor bell – the coronation, wedding and burial place of English and later British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years – struck 96 times.
Among the hymns selected for the service was ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’, sung at the abbey wedding of the Queen and her husband Prince Philip in 1947. Among the royal group that followed the coffin into the Abbey was the Queen’s great-grandson and future King, Prince George, aged nine.
As well as dignitaries, the congregation included those who have been awarded the UK’s highest military and civilian medals for bravery, representatives from charities supported by the Queen and those who have made “extraordinary contributions” to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic have done.
Towards the end of the service, the church and much of the nation fell silent for two minutes. Trumpets sounded before the congregation sang “God save the King.” Outside, the crowds joined and erupted in applause as the anthem ended.
The Queen’s piper ended the service with a dirge called “Sleep, Dearie, Sleep,” which fell silent.