The state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II — likely to be one of the most watched events in history and an occasion that was carried out with intricate, military precision throughout — has come to an end.
The conclusion of a grand spectacle, the likes of which the UK is unlikely to put on again for a very long time, saw the queen’s coffin lowered into the royal vault beneath St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where King George III, IV and V, William IV and others also lie. Last year, Prince Philip, the queen’s husband, was laid to rest there. Later on in the evening of Sep. 19, the royal family announced that the queen had been buried “together with the Duke of Edinburgh at The King George VI Memorial Chapel” in a private funeral service, away from the cameras.
A day of pomp, pageantry, tradition and ceremony began early, when the queen’s coffin was carried from Westminster Hall — where it had been lying in state since Sept. 14 — to Westminster Abbey in a procession that was followed on foot by new monarch King Charles III, alongside senior royals, including Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and Prince Edward.
At Westminster Abbey, the first funeral service took place, a somber yet spectacular occasion that welcomed the largest gathering of world leaders for decades. Among the 2,000 guests were around 500 heads of state and foreign dignitaries, including President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, who arrived in the UK on Saturday, plus France’s Emmanuel Macron. On Sunday, Charles hosted a special reception for 1,000 guests, including world leaders, ambassadors and other royals at Buckingham Palace, during which they joined the country in a minute’s silence — called the National Moment of Reflection — to mourn the queen’s passing.
The service in the Abbey — the church where Britain’s kings and queens have historically been crowned and where Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philip — lasted for around one hour and was conducted by the dean of Westminster David Hoyle. Alongside various religious readings, there was choir singing and performances on the bagpipes.
“Her Late Majesty’s example was not set through her position or her ambition, but through whom she followed,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury in his sermon. Seated close to the coffin was Charles alongside his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, as well as Princess Anne and her husband, Timothy Laurence. Behind them were Prince Harry, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Princess Beatrice. Also in attendance at Westminster Abbey was Killing Eve actress Sandra Oh, who was part of the Canadian delegation as a member of the Order of Canada.
The service was immediately followed by a two-minute national silence, after which a military procession took the coffin, draped in the royal standard and carrying the imperial royal crown, through the streets of London to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, where it was moved into a hearse. The hearse then drove through London and to Windsor, where it was taken up the famed Long Walk, the chestnut tree-lined avenue leading up to Windsor Castle, flanked by units of the household cavalry, grenadier guards and the queen’s company, to the sound of bagpipes and drums, while ceremonial cannons were fired every minute.
At St. George’s Chapel — where Prince Philip’s memorial took place and where Prince Harry and Meghan were married — there was another public service filled with hymns and prayers, which saw the “instruments of state,” including the imperial state crown, the orb and scepter, which were given to the queen at her coronation, removed from the top of the coffin and placed on the altar. In another deeply ceremonial element of the occasion, a clearly moved Charles placed the queen’s Company Camp Color on the coffin, having received it from the regimental lieutenant colonel of the grenadier guards.
Billions of people around the world are expected to have tuned in to watch the day’s events, one of the most meticulously organized in British history, while an estimated 2 million people lined the streets of London and Windsor to see the procession go past. Many camped out overnight or arrived in the early hours of Monday in order to pay their respects to the late queen, who has been head of state for 70 years. As the hearse drove by, many threw flowers onto the road.
When she passed away peacefully aged 96 in Balmoral, Scotland on Sept. 8, Queen Elizabeth II was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch in history and the longest-serving female head of state in history. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee, marking 65 years in power. (She had surpassed Queen Victoria in 2015 to become the longest-reigning British monarch ever). She was also, undoubtedly, one of the world’s most recognizable figures, as well as being one of the most portrayed onscreen.
Her death prompted an outpouring of emotion and flood of tributes from around the world.
“The death of my beloved mother, her majesty the queen, is a moment of great sadness for me and all members of my family,” said Charles, who ascended to the throne immediately following her death, in a statement. “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt through the country, the realms, and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the queen was so widely held.”