UK bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth, the rock on which country was built

Emotion of funeral summed up by King Charles III's simple handwritten message: 'In loving and devoted memory'

Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II takes place at Westminster Abbey

Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II takes place at Westminster Abbey
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Queen Elizabeth II offered the nation her service and devotion and in return the country bade farewell to the late monarch with all its heart on Monday.

The UK ground to a halt for the state funeral, before she was laid to rest at Windsor Castle.

Throughout the ceremony, field guns fired every minute and the muffled bell of Westminster Abbey rang out 96 times, once for every year of her life.

After her death, the late monarch was described by Prime Minister Liz Truss as the rock on which modern Britain was built, and the country was ready after ten days of official mourning to show its appreciation for her reign.

King Charles III was visibly moved throughout the service and looked close to tears as the national anthem was sung, echoing off the eaves of the gothic Westminster Abbey.

He added a personal touch with a wreath that adorned the queen’s coffin and a handwritten note. The message said: “In loving and devoted memory.”

For the royals, who sat facing the crowned heads and representatives of Europe's regal families from across the continent, the splendour of the moment was also one of personal sadness.

The future heir, Prince George, 9, was comforted by his mother, the Princess of Wales, who put a caring hand on his knee during the service.

It was the largest gathering of royals this century as 500 overseas guests joined the 2,000 strong congregation, including King Abdullah of Jordan and the Sultan of Oman.

In the religious service, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the grief felt around the world arose from her abundant life.

“She was joyful, present to so many, touching a multitude of lives,” said Justin Welby. “People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer.

“We can all share the queen’s hope which in life and death inspired her servant leadership. All who follow the queen’s example, and inspiration of trust and faith in God, can with her say: ‘We will meet again’.”

Flowers ranged from bouquets of red roses and pink lilies to potted plants and wreaths from foreign royals. Those picked from the significant gardens that were treasured by the queen included lilies, dahlias, roses, and greenery including Eucalyptus.

Pallbearers from the Grenadier Guards brought the coffin to the gun carriage and Royal Navy sailors pulled the flag-draped cortege along Whitehall and The Mall, past the gates of Buckingham Palace and under the Wellington Arch. There the coffin was transferred to the state hearse for its departure from London to the royal citadel at Windsor.

Restless children were reined in by their parents, crying babies were shushed and the adults craned their necks as the king’s guards passed the giant black and gold front gates of the palace.

Elizabeth Jones, 72, whose parents named her after the queen, joked that she had a marriage like the late monarch as her husband is also called Philip.

“We always loved the queen,” Mrs Jones, from Warwickshire, said. “She’s been there for almost all of my life.”

People had secured their spots at the barriers along the route, some days in advance.

Paul, an admirer of the monarchy, was visibly touched by the occasion as he waited alongside his wife Justine and son Alex. The family wore all black as a mark of respect for the queen.

“It was the queen’s dignity and grace and her sense of responsibility that I always admired,” he said. “She had a kind of unique life.”

Louis Bollard, dressed in a union flag, watched the queen’s funeral on the big screens in Hyde Park.

“The funeral was very powerful,” he said. “Seeing it was quite enchanting and mesmerising. It was a really, really nice, fitting tribute.”

Across the country people used the public holiday to watch the funeral on big screens in public squares and with friends and family in private gatherings. More than one million travelled to London.

A major power cut on the railways west of London left thousands stranded unable to get to the capital. For those stuck on trains, mobile phones were tuned into the events in Westminster.

Gaby Thomas, 29, who travelled from Castle Cary, Somerset, with her father, said she had been scheduled to arrive hours before the funeral began.

“My dad is a former naval officer and he wanted to see the procession and the military involved,” she said. “It’s just about being there. We are still hoping to catch the end of the procession.

“It’s a typical British thing to happen.”

There was also rare disruption for the journey of the US president Joe Biden who was given dispensation to use his motorcade headed by a limousine known as 'The Beast'. It took so long to navigate a tight corner that the American leader was almost 10 minutes later getting to his seat.

Smoother arrangements were in evidence early on Monday when dozens of world leaders gathered in Chelsea to be taken by bus to the ceremony. African leaders were among the first, with Sudan’s military leader Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, among them.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier rode in a sleek, dark BMW and Italian president Sergio Mattarella arrived in his embassy’s Maserati.

The arrival at St George's Chapel in Windsor revived memories of the queen marking the death of her husband Prince Philip with very few family members during the Covid-19 pandemic 16 months earlier.

There was a mix of family and statesmen for the queens committal. Among those invited to the service were prime ministers from countries where the queen was head of state, former British prime ministers Sir John Major and Sir Tony Blair, who are Garter Knights, and current premier Liz Truss.

The commemoration concluded with the Imperial State Crown, Orb and Sceptre lifted from the coffin and placed on the altar.

Once the Lord Chamberlain, head of the queen's household, broke his wand of office on the lid, the coffin was removed to the royal vault.

UK opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer said a woman who ruled for 70 years would always be with those who lived during her reign. “We are lucky to call ourselves Elizabethans,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth II's 70-year reign - in pictures

Updated: September 20, 2022, 7:34 AM