Emotion and majesty at Queen Elizabeth II's funeral

Britain's King Charles III walks behind the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II with the Imperial State Crown resting on top after departing Westminster Abbey during the State Funeral in London, Britain, September 19, 2022. PHOTO | AFP

Summary

  •  Leaders from around the world will attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth II's funeral service at Westminster Abbey on Monday ebbed between moments of triumph and peace, lament and emotion -- and awesome majesty.

Inside the imposing Gothic church, royalty and government leaders said farewell to a monarch whose longevity and omnipresence made her -- in the words of French President Emmanuel Macron -- "The Queen".


Tower Bridge is reflected on a picture of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in London

Tower Bridge is reflected on a picture of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in London on September 18, 2022. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL | AFP

It was at the abbey in 1953 that she was crowned. It was there that she married Prince Philip, in 1947.

The service contained touches referencing that history.

The hymn "The Lord's My Shepherd" was sung at her wedding to Philip; the choir's anthem "O Taste and see how gracious the Lord is", was composed for the coronation.



Britain's King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort attend the State Funeral Service for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, at Westminster Abbey in London on September 19, 2022. L

Thunder of drums

The hubbub as people took their seats quietened down a full hour before the service, then fell silent as foreign royalty slowly entered the abbey.

The coffin was borne in procession from nearby Westminster Hall and the thunder of the approaching drums and sound of the massed pipes reverberated in the church as the procession passed outside.

Westminster Abbey's tenor bell tolled every minute for 96 minutes, signifying the age at which Britain's longest-reigning sovereign died on September 8.

Each strike added to the anticipation, while the organ music, played in minor keys, grew louder and deeper as the bearer party approached.

As the coffin arrived at the Great West Door, the 2,000 congregants stood in a wave spreading towards the altar.

Eight Grenadier Guardsmen in scarlet jackets, their bearskin hats removed, carried the coffin over the memorial stone for Winston Churchill, the first of Queen Elizabeth II's 15 prime ministers.

The late monarch's eldest son, King Charles III, led the royal family walking slowly behind the coffin.

Prince William, now the heir to the throne, stayed close to his son Prince George, a nine-year-old boy who will one day take on his late great-grandmother's duties.

William's wife Catherine occasionally held the hand of their daughter Princess Charlotte, aged seven.


A promise 'well kept

On the lead-lined, oak coffin lay a new wreath of flowers, with the message "In loving and devoted memory. Charles R", meaning Rex, or king.

The coffin also bore the Royal Standard flag and the instruments of state -- the Imperial State Crown, the Orb and the Sceptre.

These Crown Jewels were part of the coronation regalia when Queen Elizabeth II made her solemn oaths of service. They glittered in the flickering light of the candles surrounding the coffin.

The service included Bible readings by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and by Liz Truss -- appointed by the queen as her last British prime minister only two days before she passed away.

In his sermon, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recalled how a young princess Elizabeth, aged 21, had pledged to serve her future subjects, in Britain and the Commonwealth, for life.

"Rarely has a promise been so well kept," he said.

In April 2020, as millions in Britain plunged into anxious isolation during the Covid-19 lockdown, Queen Elizabeth II made a rare national broadcast to say "We will meet again", reprising a line from a World War II song that kept hope burning in the darkest hours.

Welby ended his sermon by saying all who followed Queen Elizabeth II's example could say those words with her.


Silence, and peace

During the prayers, the sun shone through the vast south rose window, bringing out the Royal Standard's vivid red, blue and yellow hues on the coffin.

After the Last Post's final note died out in the roof, a two-minute silence fell.

It was broken by trumpets sounding a triumphant reveille.

The singing of the national anthem, now "God Save the King", symbolised the transfer to a new reign. Throughout, King Charles stared straight ahead at his mother's coffin.

Members of the public camp behind barriers lining the procession route.

Members of the public camp behind barriers lining the procession route, ahead of the funeral on Monday of the late Queen Elizabeth II, in London on September 18, 2022. PHOTO | MARCO BERTORELLO | AFP

The Queen's Piper ended the state funeral with the traditional Scottish lament "Sleep, dearie, sleep".

The bearer party then returned to take the coffin to the waiting procession on the slow march and drive to St George's Castle, Windsor Castle.

In several steps, they gradually turned with the coffin to face the Great West Door.

At each turn, the Imperial State Crown's 2,868 diamonds, 269 pearls, 17 sapphires and 11 emeralds sparkled anew, taking on different colours.

Paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.

People pay their tributes in front of a picture of late Queen Elizabeth II, at the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata on September 19, 2022. PHOTO | DIBYANGSHU SARKAR | AFP

Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who served as the Queen's Chaplin, told AFP afterwards: "It was beautiful.

"It captured her essence, her faith and it felt as if we just said farewell not only to a mother but also to a woman of great esteem, and a woman who was loved."