Britain bid farewell to Queen Elizabeth II, the country’s longest-serving monarch, at a historic funeral watched by millions around the world, which reflected her deep Christian faith and a life of service to the British people.
The state funeral and solemn military procession on Monday marked the end of the second Elizabethan era, a 70-year reign that saw Britain undergo radical change as its empire was dismantled and its global standing shrank. The queen, on the other hand, remained a hugely popular head of state who provided people in the UK and abroad with a valued sense of continuity and served as a powerful symbol of the country’s identity.
The nation and hundreds of dignitaries from around the world paid tribute to her reign during a six-hour military ceremony. It was the first state funeral held in the United Kingdom since Winston Churchill’s in 1965, and it was one of the most significant diplomatic events in the country’s history.
The queen’s state funeral on Monday morning blended royal tradition with touching personal touches to reflect her life. “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” which was sung during the queen’s marriage to her late husband, Prince Philip, in Westminster Abbey in 1947, was among the hymns chosen by the queen. The choir also performed “O Taste and See How Gracious the Lord Is,” a short anthem written by Ralph Vaughan Williams for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.
Along with the king of Spain, the sultan of Oman, and Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were in attendance.
A two-minute silence was observed across the country as the service ended shortly before noon. The red buses in London were ordered to stop and turn off their engines. Flights from Heathrow Airport were canceled to avoid aircraft noise.
When the moment of silence ended, those in the service rose and sang “God Save the King,” the first time it had been sung in the abbey for more than 70 years, leaving the late queen’s son, King Charles III, appearing tearful. It gave way to a more somber note as a lone piper played “Sleep, Dearie, Sleep.”
Following the service, the queen’s coffin was marched to Wellington Arch, near Hyde Park Corner, to the steady beat of a drum and funereal marching music. As minute guns fired from Hyde Park and London’s iconic Big Ben tolled, King Charles III and his family followed on foot.
Outside the abbey, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in central London to pay their respects under the capital’s largest-ever policing operation for a single day. Approximately 10,000 military personnel took part in the various processions.
Many people stayed overnight near Buckingham Palace to get a good view of the cortege. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay our respects,” said Sim Madgewick, who brought his family to London from Essex. They arrived on Sunday afternoon and joined the long line to see the queen lying in state at Westminster Hall, emerging at 2 a.m. on Monday morning, snatching a few hours’ sleep on a stationary train at nearby Charing Cross station, and heading off again to Buckingham Palace at 6:30 a.m. to get a place to see the funeral procession. They were fortified by plenty of tea and bags of sweets and chocolates.
The queen’s coffin was carried in a procession from Westminster Hall, where it had been lying in state for the past four days, to Westminster Abbey, the site of the coronation of nearly every English and British monarch dating back to William the Conqueror in 1066. Church bells rang 96 times, one for each year of the monarch’s reign.
“On her 21st birthday broadcast, Her Majesty famously declared that her entire life would be dedicated to serving the nation and the commonwealth,” Archbishop Welby said. “Rarely has a promise been kept so well.”