King Charles and other British royals followed Queen Elizabeth’s coffin at Westminster Abbey on Monday, joining world leaders and monarchs to bid farewell to a figure who united the country during his 70-year reign.
In scenes of inimitable pomp, pallbearers carried the flag-wrapped casket down the aisle at the country’s first state funeral since 1965, when Winston Churchill received that honour.
Tens of miles of people lined the streets as the queen’s coffin made the short journey from Westminster Hall, on an artillery cart pulled by 142 sailors with linked arms. A bell tolled and bagpipes sounded.
Silence descended on nearby London’s Hyde Park as thousands of people, who had picnicked and chatted for hours, fell silent as the queen’s coffin appeared on screens set up for the occasion.
Shortly before, hundreds of armed people, dressed in full regalia, had paraded in a historic use of kilts, bearskin hats, scarlet robes and bands with white gloves.
Inside the abbey, the scripture reading was set to music that has been used at all state funerals since the early 18th century. Among those walking behind the casket was his great-grandson and future king, nine-year-old Prince George.
Among the 2,000 attendees were some 500 world dignitaries and foreign royal families.
In the throngs that came from across Britain, people climbed lampposts and climbed onto barriers and ladders to watch the royal procession, one of the largest in the capital’s modern history.
Millions more people watched it on television at home on a holiday for the occasion. The funeral of a British monarch has never been televised.
Some mourning spectators wore smart suits and black dresses, but others wore hoodies and sweatshirts. A woman with dyed green hair stood next to a man in a suit as they waited for the procession to start.
Alistair Campbell Binnings, 64, said he left his Norfolk home at midnight to get to London.
“This is something unique. We were only going to be here for the queen. We felt like we would use to be here. She was what we always needed in times of crisis,” he said.
Elizabeth died at the age of 96 on September 8 at her Scottish summer home, Balmoral Castle.
Her health had worsened and for months the monarch, who had fulfilled hundreds of official commitments well into her 90s, had withdrawn from public life.
Yet, in keeping with her sense of duty, she was photographed just two days before she died, looking frail but smiling and with a cane in her hand, as she appointed Liz Truss as prime minister, the fifteenth commissioned by the government. .
His longevity and his inextricable bond with Britain were tales that even his own family passed away their own shock. “We all thought he was invincible,” Prince William said.
Elizabeth, the fortieth sovereign in a line dating back to 1066, came to the throne in 1952, becoming Britain’s first post-imperial monarch .
He oversaw his country as it tried to carve out a new place for itself in the world, and was instrumental in the emergence of the Commonwealth of Nations, now made up of 56 countries.
When he succeeded his father George VI, Winston Churchill was prime minister and Josef Stalin headed the Soviet Union. He met great figures from politics, entertainment and sports, such as Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Pelé and Roger Federer.
Despite his 1.6 meters tall, he dominated theaters with his presence and became a world figure, praised in his death from Paris and Washington to Moscow and Beijing. There was national mourning in Brazil, Jordan and Cuba, countries with which they had few direct ties.
“Queen Elizabeth II was without a doubt the most well-known figure in the world, the most photographed person in history, the most recognizable person,” historian Anthony Seldon told Reuters.
Transport authorities said a million people were expected in central London for the funeral, and police said it would be the biggest security operation in the capital.
The funeral will end with a trumpet salute before the church and nation fall silent for two minutes.
The coffin will then be carried through central London, past the queen’s home at Buckingham Palace to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, with the monarch and royal family again following on foot during the procession. of 2.4 kilometers.
From there, it will be placed in a hearse to be driven to Windsor Castle, west London, for a service at St George’s Chapel. The ceremony will conclude with the removal of the crown, orb and scepter – symbols of the monarch’s power and government – from the coffin and their placement on the altar.
Later, in a private family service, Elizabeth’s coffin and that of her husband of more than seven decades, Prince Philip, who will turn 99 last year, will be buried together in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, where his parents and his sister, Princess Margaret, also rest.