Britain and the world yesterday said a final goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II at a state funeral that drew presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers — and crowds who massed along the streets of London to honor a monarch whose 70-year reign defined an age.
A day packed with events in London and Windsor began early when the doors of 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed to mourners after hundreds of thousands had filed in front of her flag-draped 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.
In a nation known for pomp and pageantry, the first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s was filled with spectacle: 142 Royal Navy sailors drew the gun carriage carrying Elizabeth’s coffin to Westminster Abbey, with King Charles III and his sons, Princes William and Harry, walking behind as bagpipers played.
Pallbearers carried the coffin into the abbey, where about 2,000 people ranging from world leaders to healthcare workers gathered to mourn her. Ahead of the service, a bell tolled 96 times — once a minute for each year of her life.
“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,” David Doyle, the dean of the medieval abbey, told the mourners, as the funeral opened.
It drew to a close with two minutes of silence observed across the UK. The attendees then sang the national anthem.
Yesterday was declared a public holiday in honor of Elizabeth, who died on Sept. 8 — and hundreds of thousands of people descended on central London to partake in the historic moment.
Long before the service began, city authorities said viewing areas along the route of the funeral’s procession were full.
Millions more tuned into the funeral live on television. In airport lounges, parks, pubs and city squares, people gathered in front of screens across the nation to watch the queen’s state funeral. Usually busy streets fell silent as young and old came together in towns, villages and cities outside London for the live broadcast of the service beamed in from Westminster Abbey.
“When you can watch it with a big group of people, it feels more communal,” said student Jo Underwood in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park. “That was the thing with the Queen, she brought everybody together so this is a fitting way to end her reign, with everyone coming together to see her funeral.”
Some kept their heads bowed, others wiped away tears as Britain said goodbye to its longest-serving monarch.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said during the funeral that “few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen” for Elizabeth.
Following the funeral, the coffin — ringed by units of the armed forces in dress uniforms and members of her family — was brought through the capital’s streets to Wellington Arch near Hyde Park.
There, it was placed in a hearse and driven to Windsor Castle — where Elizabeth spent much of her time — for another procession before a committal service in St George’s Chapel. She was to be laid to rest with her late husband, Prince Philip, at a private family service.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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