LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest on Monday after a monumental state funeral that drew tens of millions of Britons together in an expression of grief and gratitude, as they bid farewell to a loved one. Kings have reigns that span seven decades of their lives and define their time.
It was the culmination of 10 days of mourning since the queen’s death on September 8 in Scotland – a series of elaborately choreographed ceremonies that have fallen against the backdrop of a deepening economic crisis and a bad political transition in Britain – but everything about the date seems destined to be etched into history.
Tens of thousands of people lined up along the cortege’s path past London landmarks. In Hyde Park, those watching the ceremony on the big screen joined in the “God’s Prayer” as it was read at Westminster Abbey. Thousands of others cheered, flowers scattered in the path of her glass-covered hearse, as the queen’s coffin was carried to Windsor Castle, where she was buried next to her husband, His Royal Highness. Philip.
“In this changing world, she is a pillar of the old world,” said Richard Roe, 36, who works in finance in Zurich and flew home for the funeral. “It’s nice to have something that is stable and represents good values.”
An unbroken chain of sadness runs through the day, but also a palpable sense of uncertainty. The Queen, who died at the age of 96, was one of the last survivors leading up to World War II and the twilight of British imperialism. The country she showed with such dignity has fundamentally changed.
A new Britain is forming among the diverse crowds that have used iPhones and Instagram accounts to document the funeral. But its contours, and the role of the monarchy, are still in the spotlight, as people grapple with less regal concerns like rising gas and electricity bills, and an economic downturn. economy is lurking.
On Tuesday, Britain will return to grappling with its worst economic crisis in a generation. Concerns over public finances have sent the pound to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985. The existence of the distant kingdom of a monarchy is in question, as Caribbean nations debate it. on whether to remove the king from their position as head of state.
Britain’s uncertain future, however, is a matter of another day, as the country pays homage to one of its past great icons. More than 100 world leaders, including President Biden and Emperor Naruhito of Japan, converged on London, the largest gathering since the 2013 Nelson Mandela funeral in South Africa.
Years into the plan, the tribute to the queen is both intimate and monumental: from the gun carriage carrying her flag-clad coffin through the streets of London to a lone pickpocket wailing. breathing, its haunting features lifted high in the silent void of Westminster Abbey.
“The role model of many leaders is to be glorified in life and forgotten after death,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said in a eulogy that seemed to address a troubled world. troubled by error. Not so with Elizabeth, who he said: “Few leaders receive the love we have seen.”
Judging by the tearful faces and cries of “God bless the queen” in the streets and parks, his words were no exaggeration.
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Bea McArthur, 38, a hospital worker who arrived from Hampshire, England on Friday, camping with her two daughters and a friend, said: “She is everything that I am proud of. when he was British. of the parade route.
“She made a promise when she was 21 and she didn’t back down,” Ms McArthur said. “When she first became queen, there weren’t many women in powerful roles, and she blew everyone else away.”
Mr. Roe, the Zurich businessman, was more optimistic. “I think people have come to terms with the sad side of it now,” he said. “This is a final goodbye, an anniversary.”
The service is also designed to showcase Britain’s imperial history, its constitutional democracy and the Commonwealth. The carriage used for the queen’s coffin was first used for that purpose at Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901. The new prime minister, Liz Truss, read from the Gospel of John, while the general. Secretary of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, read from Corinthians (“O death, where is your venom?”).
Archbishop Welby described the queen as a beacon of hope. He recalled a speech she gave during the coronavirus pandemic, when she promised Britons to endure the lockdowns, “We’ll see each other again,” the chorus of a beloved song. from the Second World War by Vera Lynn.
“All who follow the queen’s example, and inspire confidence and faith in God,” he declared, “may join her in saying, ‘We shall meet again’.
Britain has not held a state funeral since 1965, when it buried Winston Churchill, the wartime leader who acted as a mentor to young Elizabeth after she unexpectedly ascended the throne following the death of his father, King George VI, in 1952.
There are echoes of that history as the queen’s cortege rolls over statues of Churchill and George VI. But there are also glimpses into the future of the royal family. Prince George, 9, is the eldest son of Prince William and second in line to the throne, standing in the front row in the convent, along with his 7-year-old sister, Princess Charlotte. They both sang earnestly from their hymn.
The new king, Charles III, was quietly present during a day dedicated to his mother. On her coffin, beside a wreath of roses, hydrangeas and daisies – all arranged, by order of the king, without the use of floral foam to make it more sustainable – He left a handwritten note, “In loving and devoted memory, Charles R.”
He marched behind the coffin as it was transported to Westminster Abbey from Westminster Hall, where she spent four days in state, watched by tens of thousands of people, including dignitaries like Mr Biden and ordinary people often lined up in what is known. is “Queue”, waiting up to 24 hours to show their respect.
He marched behind it in its procession up Whitehall, down the Mall and past Buckingham Palace, before reaching the Wellington Arch, where an honor guard loaded the coffin onto a hearse. And he saluted as a military band played a captivating final rendition of “God Save the Queen” as she departed.
The procession, a mile and a half long, embodies the full splendor of the monarchy: seven groups, each with its own marching band; detachments from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British armed forces; and mount soldiers from the Household Cavalry.
Charles, wearing a Royal Navy tailcoat and carrying a sword, joined members of the royal family, whose recent tumultuous history stems from their choice of attire. . Prince Andrew, who served in the Royal Navy during the Falklands War, wears a morning suit instead of his uniform, reflecting his banishment from royal duties because of his ties with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex predator.
Prince Harry also wears a suit as he has retired from royal duties when he moves to the US in 2020 with his US-born wife, Meghan. He received the king’s permission to stand guard over the queen’s coffin in uniform on Saturday, but it did not have her monogram, ER, on his shoulder, signifying his declining status. .
The royal family, Archbishop Welby said, is as grieving as any family, but in this case, they must do it “in the brightest spotlight”.
The spotlight remained on, but the scene grew closer after the queen’s coffin arrived at Windsor, the towering castle where she spent most of her final days, isolated during the pandemic. In April 2021, she buried Philip, her husband of 73 years, in an austere funeral at St George’s Chapel, memorable with an image of the queen, isolated and masked in a pavilion. choir row.
As her hearse rolled down the Long Road, the tree-lined avenue leading to the castle, it was cheered by more crowds and flanked by the Queen’s Household Guards and Cavalry.
But as the cortege got closer to the castle, these symbols of royalty giving way to more personal reminders of the queen’s life there: Fell’s pony, Emma, her ears and tail twitch as she watches the cortege dog pass by; and her two puppies, Muick and Sandy, waited patiently at the door.
If anything, the ceremony in Windsor, known as the pledge ceremony, was even more ceremonial than a funeral. Before the final hymn, the jeweler removed the royal crown, sphere, and scepter – precious jewels representing the crown – from the coffin and placed them on the altar.
As an end to her service totem, the queen’s handmaiden, the most senior official in the royal family, broke her wand into two pieces and placed them in the coffin, to be buried with her. with its sovereignty.
The coffin was then lowered into the royal vault, where the queen was interred beside Philip in a private family ceremony in the evening. Once again, the queen’s lute made a mournful wail, its sound dying out as he walked slowly out of the chapel.
In the final reminder of the monarchy’s continuity, the congregation sang, “God save the King.” Charles, his face heavy with grief and, perhaps, the burden of his new job, looked speechless.
Saskia Solomon and Emma Bubola contribution report.