The U.K. and much of the world are mourning Queen Elizabeth II, who was celebrated at a funeral at Westminster Abbey Monday and will later be laid to rest beneath St George’s Chapel with her husband of 73 years, her sister Margaret and her parents.
The queen’s casket entered Westminster Abbey around 11 a.m. local time Monday, exiting around noon after the funeral proceedings. King Charles III, the royal family and dignitaries from around the world arrived shortly ahead of the funeral.
The state funeral, expected to be the biggest gathering of world leaders in years, drew in millions of people to the streets of London and likely billions more to their TVs and computer screens. The funeral and events surrounding it were designed to help unite the royal family and divided subjects while helping ensure the monarchy survives another century.
London’s mayor’s office said up to two million people could line the streets as members of the royal family and hundreds of foreign dignitaries and heads of state descend on Westminster Abbey for a ceremony expected to be full of all the pomp and splendor the monarchy can offer. More than 10,000 police officers were on patrol in London with reinforcements supplied from all of Britain’s 43 police forces, authorities said.
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The funeral concluded just after noon, local time. The pall bearers escorted the queen’s coffin onto the gun carriage.
The queen will be buried in a special chapel beneath the floor of St George’s with her parents, sister Princess Margaret, and husband, Philip. This ceremony will be private.
The program also included:
- Patricia Scotland Commonwealth Secretary-General read a lesson from Corinthians 15 as a tribute to the queen’s life of dedication to service and the nation.
- A sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury
- Choirs sang the Anthem, taken from “Songs of Farewell” by Hubert Parry, a favorite of King Charles’.
- A short anthem, composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the queen’s coronation in 1953, presenting a reflective moment in the service.
- The third hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” is a Welsh tune, and was sung at the wedding of The Prince and Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey in 2011. The arrangement is by James O’Donnell, a former organist at the Abbey.
- The Archbishop gave the commendation over the queen’s coffin. The commendation will include the familiar line, “Go Forth, O Christian Soul, From This World,” which is often heard during funerals.
- The choirs sang a new anthem, composed for the service by Sir James McMillan. The words are taken from Romans 8, which leads with the hopeful, confident line, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
- The dean pronounced the blessing from the altar, and the congregation will remain standing for the last post, which will be sounded by the state trumpeters of the household cavalry.
- This was followed by two minutes’ silence, to be observed across the United Kingdom.
- The trumpeters then sounded the reveille, before the national anthem was sung.
- The sovereign’s piper played the traditional lament, ‘Sleep, dearie, sleep.’
- At the conclusion of the lament, at noon local time (7 a.m. ET), the pall bearers entered and moved the queen’s coffin to the state gun carriage.
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, were visiting the U.K. from their home in California to promote several causes they are involved with when the queen died.
At Monday’s funeral, Harry wore his military uniform at the request of his father, King Charles, after a representative for Harry previously confirmed he would not.
Royal experts have explained that only working members of the royal family will wear the military uniform for the five events during the late monarch’s period of mourning and state funeral.
Harry walked in to Westminster Abbey alongside his brother, Prince William. But during the service, Harry and Meghan sat in the second row behind his father, while William, Princess Kate and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte sat across the aisle in the first row.
The queen’s casket entered Westminster Abbey around 11 a.m. local time Monday. The choir of St. George’s Chapel sang The Sentences as the queen’s coffin procession, including King Charles, Prince William, Princess Kate, Prince Harry, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince George, Prince Charlotte, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, followed the coffin into the abbey.
David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, opened the service before attendees joined together to sing The Hymn, “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended.”
During the funeral, speakers included Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury; Rev. Mark Birch, Minor Canon and Precentor; Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth secretary-general; Shermara Fletcher, principal officer for Pentecostal and Charismatic Relations, Churches Together in England; and Rt. Rev. Dame Sarah Mullally. As the funeral concluded, the choir sang “God Save the King.”
The music during the funeral will be sung by the choir of the Westminster Abbey and included The Sentences, written by William Croft, whose Sentences have been used since the mid 1500s, and at every State Funeral since the early 18th century.
The choir of St George’s Chapel sang The Sentences during the procession as the casket entered. The choir of Westminster Abbey began the funeral service in song, later joining with the choir of the Chapel Royal for a rendition of “Like as the Heart.” The funeral’s attendees sang “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended.”
The choir also sang “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” which also was heard at the Wedding of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in 1947.
The oak coffin was made more than 30 years ago, funeral directors previously confirmed to USA TODAY. Leverton & Sons, which has served as funeral directors to the royal household said it inherited the coffin made for the queen by another firm, Kenyons.
Andrew Leverton, a funeral director at Leverton & Sons, previously told British outlet the Times “It is made from English oak, which is very difficult to get hold of.
“Oak coffins are now made from American oak. I don’t think we could use English oak for a coffin now. It would be too expensive,” he told the outlet.
The coffin is also lined with lead, Leverton & Sons said. The lead lining makes the coffin so heavy that eight military bearers carried it Monday.
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The majestic Imperial State Crown sits atop the queen’s flag-draped coffin as the queen was moved to Westminster Abbey, along with her scepter and orb.
The crown, the same one the young Queen Elizabeth II wore for her coronation in 1953, is adorned with stones including the 317-carat Cullinan II diamond, one of several stones cut from the more than 3,000-carat Cullinan Diamond, mined in South Africa in 1905, when the nation was a British colony. The main stone – the 530.2-carat Cullinan I diamond, also called the Star of Africa – rests at the top of the monarch’s scepter.
As the royal jewels are in the news, so are repeated calls to return the diamonds to their country of origin. The queen’s death at 96 on Sept. 8 has also renewed the conversation of the royal family’s ties to colonialism and the queen’s lack of apology or atonement.
Calls for reparation from former colonial powers are not new, but they have resurged in recent years. Barbados in November 2021 removed the queen as its head of state, becoming the region’s newest republic. Six other Caribbean countries have signaled their intent to follow suit.
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When the coffin emerged from Westminster Hall, the pallbearers placed it on the green gun carriage that was used for the funerals of the queen’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather, all kings.
King Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward flanked the procession, followed by several other members of the royal family including Prince William and Prince Harry.
King Charles, more royals arrive
King Charles was met with applause by crowds as his motorcade arrived at Westminster Hall for the queen’s coffin procession to Westminster Abbey. Prince William and Prince Harry joined him.
One car contained Queen Consort Camilla and Catherine, Princess of Wales, with her children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Another featured Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
More members of the royal family, including Prince William, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrived shortly after.
The funeral’s order of service showed that George and Charlotte will walk together behind their parents. They will be followed by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and other royal family members.
The royal children’s 4-year-old brother, Prince Louis, is not expected to be present at the funeral, which will be attended by some 2,000 people.
Biden arrived at Westminster Abbey for the queen’s funeral in his armored limousine, The Beast. He was among the few international diplomats who, for security reasons, did not ride on a fleet of chartered luxury buses provided for other world leaders. Biden stepped out of the The Beast a few minutes after 10 a.m. local time. He did not say anything or address the press.
Many other leaders arrived Monday morning via bus; the Bidens arrived separately. British Prime Minister Liz Truss and husband Hugh O’Leary, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and wife Brigitte Macron, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and wife Michelle Bolsonaro and Israeli President Isaac Herzog and wife Michal Herzog were also spotted arriving.
Biden is among many world leaders who traveled to the United Kingdom to honor Queen Elizabeth’s long reign. During his visit, Biden told media the queen “was the same in person as her image: decent, honorable and all about service.”
“Our hearts go out to the royal family, King Charles and all of the family. It’s a loss that leaves a giant hole and sometimes you think you’ll never overcome it,” the president said, adding that he told Charles the queen will be with him “every step of the way, every moment.”
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Less than an hour and a half before the funeral is set to begin, notable arrivals connected to the royal family began to trickle in. Queen Consort Camilla’s family was also photographed arriving at Westminster Abbey, including Laura Lopes, Camilla’s 44-year-old daughter, and Tom Parker Bowles, her 47-year-old son. Princess Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, were also photographed upon arrival.
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The queen will be buried at St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle, where many of her ancestors are buried, including her parents, King George VI and his consort, Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother.
Following the funeral at Westminster Abbey, the coffin procession will begin, joined by King Charles, other members of the royal family, past and present members of the queen’s household, governors general and prime ministers of the realms.
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Ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, King Charles III issued a statement Sunday evening thanking people in Britain and across the world for “the many messages of condolence.”
“Over the last ten days, my wife and I have been so deeply touched,” the king said. “In London, Edinburgh, Hillsborough and Cardiff we were moved beyond measure by everyone who took the trouble to come and pay their respects to the lifelong service of my dear mother.”
“As we all prepare to say our last farewell, I wanted simply to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those countless people who have been such a support and comfort to my family and myself in this time of grief,” Charles concluded his statement.
Ahead of the queen’s funeral Monday, a new photograph was released Sunday.
According to the royal family on Facebook, the photo was taken to mark the queen’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this year. She was the first British monarch to reach this milestone.
“Tomorrow, millions will come together to commemorate her remarkable life,” the post read.
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Westminster Abbey, where Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral will be held Monday, has a centuries-long association with the royal family, hosting generations of coronations, royal weddings and funerals.
The church, which was consecrated in 1065 and “has been the setting for every coronation since 1066” and 16 royal weddings, a statement on the abbey’s website says.
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s connection with Westminster Abbey ran like a thread through her early life and her long reign,” the site says. “As an 11-year-old girl, she watched as her father was crowned here. As a young adult, she married here and was crowned here.”
Fourteen English monarchs were buried there between 1066 and 1760, including Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of King Henry VIII, who was interred in the abbey in 1603. The Unknown Warrior, whose body was brought from France in 1920, is buried in the abbey’s nave. Author Charles Dickens is among those buried in Poets’ Corner of the abbey.
The funeral of Princess Diana was held at the abbey in 1997 and the Queen Mother’s funeral took place there in 2002. More recently, Prince William and Duchess Kate, now the Prince and Princess of Wales, were married there in 2011.
The queen, who died Sept. 8 in Scotland at age 96 after 70 years on the throne, was widely considered the glue holding the U.K. together. She was also the most canny of her Windsor ancestors about using ceremony and splendor to bond the monarchy and the people who pay for it.
Not since 1965, for former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, has Britain mounted a state funeral, which is usually reserved for monarchs, with exceptions for distinguished figures such as Churchill, the queen’s first prime minister of her reign.
Royal funerals are planned decades in advance by governments and the crown, and the plans are updated regularly. The monarch plays a crucial role in deciding details. The choice of flowers in the wreath on her coffin, the music and prayer selections, even the bespoke design of the Royal Hearse (lots of glass and inside light so the casket can be seen even at night), were all decisions made by the queen.
At 6 a.m. local time, snipers were on rooftops, sniffer dogs were on the streets, drains were being searched and surveillance drones have been banned from all of central London. Around 20 miles of barriers have been erected to control crowds as the queen’s coffin travels the short distance from Westminster Hall, where it is lying-in-state, to Westminster Abbey, and then onward to Windsor Castle after the funeral for burial.
A full five hours before the funeral gets underway, London’s transportation network was already busy on a public holiday, with the subway system seeing members of the public rushing to secure viewing spots in and around Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster. Many carried small fold-up chairs, and Londoners almost entirely wore black in the quiet of the city. Volunteers in purple vests every few yards provided help with directions and other needs.
Hyde Park, one of London’s central parks, is a designated screening spot for Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral on Monday. The 11 a.m.-ceremony will be broadcast live on large screens for attendees to see for free at the park, and the Hyde Park site will show the procession through London following the funeral, the procession through Windsor and the Committal Service at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Signs and staff are present across the city to direct people to either the park or other “viewing areas” where they may catch a real glimpse of the state funeral route. The park and viewing areas include dedicated spots for anyone who has an accessibility need, including British Sign Language interpreters and a dedicated location for wheelchair users.
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London’s transport authority expects around 1 million people to visit the British capital Monday for Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral.
Transport for London chief Andy Byford said the capital has seen “huge numbers of additional passengers” since the queen died on Sept. 8. But he said demand will “reach a climax” on Monday.
Across the country, some 250 extra train services will run, including some overnight trains. Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said Monday will see the “biggest public transport operation since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
More than 100 Heathrow Airport flights will be canceled to prevent aircraft noise from disturbing the funeral at Westminster Abbey Monday morning and the queen’s committal service at Windsor Castle afterward.
The west London airport said 15% of its 1,200 flights scheduled to take off or land on Monday will be disrupted.
Contributing: Nicole Fallert, Kim Hjelmgaard, Jane Onyanga-Omara, Maria Puente, Laura Trujillo and Naledi Ushe
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism