Sombre pageantry as funeral begins for Queen Elizabeth II
London – King Charles and other senior British royals followed the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II into Westminster Abbey on Monday, joining world leaders and monarchs to bid farewell to a beloved figure who unified the nation through her 70-year reign.
In scenes of inimitable pageantry, pall bearers carried her flag-draped coffin along the aisle in the country’s first state funeral since 1965, when Winston Churchill was afforded the honour.
Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as the queen’s coffin made the short journey from Westminster Hall, where she had been lying-in-state, pulled along on a gun carriage by 142 sailors with arms linked. A bell tolled and bagpipes skirled.
Pin-drop silence fell over Hyde Park nearby as thousands of people, who for hours had picnicked and chatted, went quiet the second the queen’s coffin appeared on screens erected for the occasion.
Shortly before, hundreds of armed personnel in full ceremonial dress had marched past in a historic display of kilts, bearskin hats, scarlet tunics, and bands in white gloves.
Inside the abbey, lines of scripture were set to music that has been used at every state funeral since the early 18th century.
Among those walking behind the coffin was her great-grandson and future king, nine-year-old Prince George.
The 2 000-strong congregation included about 500 world leaders and foreign royal families.
Among them was U.S. president Joe Biden, who paid tribute to a 96-year-old, who earned respect for her sense of duty and represented a constant as Britain’s role in the world diminished and changed.
Among the crowds who came from around Britain and beyond, people were climbing lamp posts and standing on barriers and ladders to catch a glimpse of the royal procession – one of the largest of its kind in modern history in the capital.
Millions more will watch on television at home on a public holiday declared for the occasion.
The funeral of a British monarch has never been televised before.
Along the Mall, one of London’s grand ceremonial boulevards, the crowd stood 15 to 20 people deep in places.
Some wore smart black suits and dresses. Others were dressed in hoodies, leggings and tracksuits. A woman with dyed green hair stood next to a man in morning suit as they waited for the procession to begin.
Elizabeth died on September 8 at her Scottish summer home, Balmoral Castle.
Her health had been in decline, and for months the monarch who had carried out hundreds of official engagements well into her 90s had withdrawn from public life.