Windsor – Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest alongside her beloved husband, Prince Philip on Monday after a day that saw Britain and the world pay a final farewell to the nation’s longest-reigning monarch, in a dazzling show of pomp and ceremony.
Amid formality and careful choreography, there were moments of raw emotion. Late in the day an ashen-faced King Charles III held back tears, while grief was etched on the faces of several members of the royal family.
Huge crowds thronged the streets of London and at Windsor Castle to witness the moving, grand processions and ceremonies.
“Few leaders receive the outpouring of love that we have seen,” Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told the congregation at the state funeral in the majestic Westminster Abbey, where monarchs have been married, buried, and crowned over the last 1 000 years.
Among the 2 000 congregation were about 500 presidents, prime ministers, foreign royal family members and dignitaries, including United States president Joe Biden.
Outside hundreds of thousands crammed into the capital, London to honour Elizabeth, whose death at the age of 96 prompted an outpouring of gratitude for her seven decades on the throne.
Many more lined the route as the hearse took her coffin from London to Windsor, throwing flowers, cheering, and clapping as it passed from the city to the English countryside that she loved so much.
At St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, about 800 guests attended a more intimate committal service, which concluded with the crown, orb, and sceptre – symbols of the monarch’s power and governance – being removed from the coffin and placed on the altar.
The Lord Chamberlain, the most senior official in the royal household, then broke his “Wand of Office”, signifying the end of his service to the sovereign, and placed it on the coffin, which then slowly descended into the royal vault.
As the congregation sang, “God Save the King”, King Charles III, who faces a huge challenge to maintain the appeal of the monarchy as economic hardship looms in Britain, appeared to be fighting back tears.
It was in the same vast building that the queen was photographed alone, mourning her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, during the pandemic lockdown, reinforcing the sense of a monarch in sync with her people during testing times.
Later on Monday, in a private family service, the coffins of Elizabeth and Philip, who died last year aged 99, were moved from the vault to be buried together in the same chapel where her father, King George VI, mother, and sister, Princess Margaret, also rest.
At the state funeral, Welby told those present that the grief felt by so many across Britain and the wider world reflected the late monarch’s “abundant life and loving service”.
“Her late majesty famously declared on a 21st birthday broadcast that her whole life would be dedicated to serving the nation and Commonwealth,” Welby said. “Rarely has such a promise been so well kept.”
Music that played at the queen’s wedding in 1947 and her coronation six years later again rang out. The coffin entered to lines of scripture set to a score used at every state funeral since the early 18th century.
After the funeral, her flag-draped coffin was pulled by sailors through London’s streets on a gun carriage in one of the largest military processions seen in Britain, involving thousands of members of the armed forces dressed in ceremonial finery.
They walked in step to funeral music from marching bands, while in the background the city’s famous Big Ben tolled each minute. Charles and other senior royals followed on foot.
The coffin was taken from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch and transferred to a hearse to travel to Windsor, where more big crowds waited patiently.
Among those who came from around Britain and beyond, people climbed lamp posts and stood on barriers and ladders to catch a glimpse of the royal procession.
Some wore smart black suits and dresses. Others were dressed in 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 public holiday declared for the occasion, the first time the funeral of a British monarch was televised.
Elizabeth died on September 8 at Balmoral Castle, her summer home in the Scottish highlands.
Her health had been in decline, and for months the monarch, who had carried out hundreds of official engagements well into her 90s, withdrew from public life.