In a country known for pomp and pageantry, the first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s was filled with spectacle: Ahead of the service, a bell tolled 96 times — once a minute for each year of Elizabeth’s life. Then, 142 Royal Navy sailors used ropes to draw the gun carriage carrying her flag-draped coffin to Westminster Abbey before pallbearers bore it inside the church, where around 2,000 people ranging from world leaders to healthcare workers gathered to mourn her. The trappings of state and monarchy abounded: The coffin was draped with the Royal Standard and atop it sat the Imperial State Crown, sparkling with almost 3,000 diamonds, and the sovereign’s orb and scepter.
But the personal was also present: The coffin was followed into the church by generations of Elizabeth’s descendants, including King Charles III, heir to the throne Prince William and 9-year-old George, who is second in line. On a wreath atop the coffin, a handwritten note read, “In loving and devoted memory,” and was signed Charles R — for Rex, or king. “Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth, and from the nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service, and in sure confidence to commit her to the mercy of God our maker and redeemer,” the dean of the medieval abbey, David Hoyle, told the mourners. The service drew to a close with two minutes of silence observed across the UK, after which the attendees sang the national anthem, now titled “God Save the King.”
The day began early when the doors of the parliament’s 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed to mourners after hundreds of thousands had filed in front of her coffin. Many had waited for hours in line, including through cold nights, to attend the lying in state in an outpouring of collective grief and respect. “I felt like I had to come and pay my final respects to our majestic queen. She has done so much for us and just a little thank you really from the people,” said Tracy Dobson, who was among the last to join the line.
Monday was declared a public holiday in honor of Elizabeth, who died September 8 — and hundreds of thousands of people descended on central London to partake in the historic moment. They jammed the sidewalks to watch the coffin wend its way through the streets of the capital after the service. As the procession passed Buckingham Palace, the queen’s official residence in the city, staff stood outside, some bowing and curtseying. Millions more tuned into the funeral live on television, and crowds flocked to parks and public spaces across the UK to watch it on screens. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in his sermon that “few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen” for Elizabeth. US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, all of the living former British prime ministers as well as European royalty attended the the funeral.
More people lined the route the hearse took from the capital out to Windsor, where a committal service will be held in St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of a castle where the queen spent much of her time. They threw flowers at the convoy as it passed, and some rested on top of the hearse. The queen will be laid to rest with late husband, Prince Philip, at a private family service.