Monarchs, emirs, presidents and prime ministers bid Queen Elizabeth farewell

A great silence descends over London as one million mourners gather for late monarch's funeral

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II is carried following her funeral service in Westminster Abbey in central London, Monday, Sept.  19, 2022.  The Queen, who died aged 96 on Sept.  8, will be buried at Windsor alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.  (AP Photo / Vadim Ghirda, Pool)
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For two minutes, central London was silent on Monday as Britain marked the funeral of its longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

On a day of national mourning, there was a tangible sadness for the death of a queen who had for 70 years devoted herself to duty.

Hundreds of international leaders joined a million mourners along with many millions of worldwide television viewers to watch the solemn ceremony.

But it was the image of the 98 Royal Navy ratings towing the gun carriage carrying the queen’s coffin draped in the royal standard that was among the most striking of the day.

Shortly before they set out to collect the coffin from where it had been lying in state for five days, The National watched the sailors along with the officers who had gathered in Speaker’s Court in the Houses of Parliament. Some temporarily removed their plumed helmets or hats, chatting quietly as they stood next to the empty gun carriage.

Looking at the same green hearse that had carried Queen Victoria’s coffin in 1901 and every dead monarch since, the sense of history was palpable

The command "parade" rang out over the cobbles of New Palace Yard. The service personnel stiffened and came to attention. Then, as another order was shouted, they lifted the rope and marched out, their boots tramping in unison on the cobbles. Meanwhile, the rumble of the carriage filled the courtyard with a sense of purpose.

The same Grenadier Guards who had carried the queen into Westminster Hall on Wednesday returned with the coffin. This time, it was adorned not only with the Imperial Crown, but also the queen’s sceptre and orb attached on top. The three symbols of sovereignty will not be seen again until they are carried by King Charles III at his coronation next year.

The new king joined the rear of gun carriage with his three siblings and his sons, Princes William and Harry.

At precisely 10.44am BST, they departed from Parliament for Westminster Abbey under grim, grey clouds, with the mournful sound of bagpipes and drums assembled on Parliament Square resonating a steady beat.

The sailors came to an abrupt halt outside the abbey doors and bowed their heads.

Queen Elizabeth was taken into the church where she had married aged 21 in 1947 — and where she was crowned six years later.

Flower bouquets of myrtle lined the long nave, the same that had been used in the queen’s wedding to Prince Philip.

The state funeral of Queen Elizabeth takes place inside Westminster Abbey. Getty Images

Members of the 2,000-strong congregation turned then bowed their heads in respect as the coffin passed. They were joined by Prince George, 9, who has become second in line to the throne, and his sister Princess Charlotte, 7.

Queen Consort Camilla took her place beside her husband, as did Catherine, Princess of Wales and Meghan, Prince Harry’s wife.

They passed a galaxy of world leaders, bowing their heads in respect. Among them was US President Joe Biden, Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and French President Emmanuel Macron, who earlier said he was there to “share the pain of the British.”

King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan and the Crown Prince of Bahrain were there along with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim. Also in London was Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who met King Charles on Sunday evening at a Buckingham Palace reception.

Once again the high vaulted ceiling of Westminster Abbey witnessed an immense royal event, as it has done since William the Conqueror was crowned there in 1066.

Royal Navy sailors walk ahead and behind the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II as it travels on the state gun carriage. AFP

The queen had been consulted on the service, personally choosing hymns and readings. These included The Lord's My Shepherd, that was also sung at her wedding.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke in his sermon of the queen’s 21st birthday broadcast, where she vowed to dedicate her life to serving the nation and Commonwealth. “Rarely has such a promise been so well kept,” he said.

The service drew to a close with a piper playing the lament Sleep, Dearie, Sleep, followed by trumpets sounding The Last Post.

Then, the great two-minute silence gripped London. On Parliament’s terrace overlooking the Thames, policemen removed their caps and bowed their heads. Speedboats that had been patrolling the water stopped, as did the public lining Westminster Bridge. It was a stillness possibly not witnessed in 70 years.

The silence ended and the coffin was lifted out of the church, with its handwritten card on top carrying the words: “In loving and devoted memory. Charles R.”

Mourners pause for two minutes silence during the funeral service for Queen Elizabeth II in central London Monday Sept.  19, 2022. The Queen, who died aged 96 on Sept.  8, will be buried at Windsor alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.   Kin Cheung / Pool via REUTERS

By now, the sun was streaming across London, warming the crowds who had cried, clapped and linked arms as they listened to the service over loudspeakers. Some had camped overnight, while others had travelled from Europe and beyond.

They witnessed a great military procession, two kilometres long, formed of Canadian Mounties, Gurkhas, guardsmen and Royal Marines ― with the sailors at the tail end.

There was a vivid image when the queen passed the Cenotaph war memorial one last time with a score of Royal British Legion flags resting on the ground. Meanwhile, guardsmen lowered their rifles and the royals in uniform gave a smart salute.

They passed some of the 10,000 police who had mounted the biggest security operation Britain has ever witnessed. This operation protected up 185 heads of state, as well as the new Prime Minister Liz Truss, who has barely been two weeks in her new job.

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth is pulled past Parliament Square following her funeral service in Westminster Abbey. AP

Nearly 90 minutes after it set out from the abbey, the funeral procession finally reached Wellington Arch.

Guns from the Royal Horse Artillery boomed and church bells tolled when it halted in front of a vast array of personnel in uniform.

As the bands played a funeral lament, the Grenadier Guards pallbearers gently lifted their monarch's oak and lead-lined coffin on to their shoulders and placed it into the state hearse.

Queen Elizabeth then began her final journey by car to Windsor Castle, along streets lined with crowds who clapped, cheered and threw red roses on to the road into the path of the cortege.

Twelve days after she died in Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the queen was finally laid to rest in a vault alongside her late husband Prince Philip, her sister and her parents.

Updated: September 19, 2022, 3:45 PM
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