A state funeral has been held at London’s Westminster Abbey for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II — a somber ceremony filled with pageantry and steeped in tradition and ritual.
Presidents, prime ministers, royals and other dignitaries gathered Monday to say a final goodbye to Britain’s longest-serving monarch. They included U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden. Elizabeth reigned for 70 years and died in Scotland September 8. Elizabeth’s death at the age of 96 comes months after Britain celebrated her Platinum Jubilee.
Ahead of Monday’s hour-long service, a gun carriage of the Royal Navy transported Elizabeth’s coffin the short distance from Westminster Hall, where she had been lying in state since last week and where thousands had paid their respects after standing for hours in lines that stretched for several kilometers. On Monday, people lined the streets outside the abbey to witness the historic occasion.
Some members of her family walked in the procession toward Westminster Abbey, including new King Charles III, his three siblings and two sons, William, Prince of Wales, and Harry, Duke of Sussex. They joined other family members inside for the service.
Adorning the coffin were the royal standard, the bejeweled Imperial State Crown atop a purple velvet cushion, a gold orb and scepter and a large floral arrangement.
“Few leaders receive the outpouring of love that we have seen,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said about the affection that so many people have shown for Queen Elizabeth. In his sermon Monday, the archbishop recalled the queen’s decades of service to Britain, the Commonwealth and the world. He said the queen’s service to so many people had its foundation in God himself.
The dean of Westminster, David Hoyle, presided over the funeral. He too recalled the queen’s decades of service, noting her “unswerving commitment to a high calling over so many years as queen and head of the Commonwealth.” He also noted Westminster Abbey was the site of Elizabeth’s wedding to Prince Philip in 1947 and her coronation in 1953.
Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was appointed to her office by the queen just two days before the monarch died, read a lesson during the service that was attended by about two thousand people, including some public servants.
Two of the queen’s great-grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were allowed to attend the funeral. They are two of the three children of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales. George is now second in line to the throne.
Two minutes of silence followed the funeral. Later, as Big Ben tolled, King Charles III and other members of the British royal family accompanied Elizabeth’s coffin to Wellington Arch, Elizabeth’s last stop before her committal service in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
During that service, the scepter, orb and crown were removed from the top of the coffin and set on separate purple cushions. Toward the end of the ceremony, a “wand of office” was broken by the Lord Chamberlain, a member of the royal household, and placed atop the coffin. The symbolic breaking of the stick means his service to the queen is over. Before the coffin was lowered into the royal vault, Charles placed a small flag, known as the Queen’s Company Camp Color, on it. Separately, the sound of a bagpipe filled the air as the queen’s piper, standing alone, played a lament.
King Charles appeared emotional as congregants sang the national anthem.
The committal service took place ahead of a private ceremony Monday evening.
Britain’s last state funeral was held almost 60 years ago for Winston Churchill, the prime minister who led the nation to a World War II victory.