The state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II – probably one of the most watched events in history – is underway.
The Queen’s coffin is now being carried in a grand military procession across London to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, where it will be transported in a hearse and driven to Windsor, her final resting place.
The procession started at Westminster Abbey, where the first of the day’s funeral services took place. Earlier in the morning, the coffin was transported from Westminster Hall, where it had been lying in state since September 14, in a short procession followed by senior members of the royal family, including the new monarch King Charles III, and his sons. Prince William and Prince Harry, plus Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and Prince Edward.
Billions of people around the world are expected to tune in to witness the splendor of the occasion, as hundreds of thousands of benefactors line the streets of London (many arrived in the early hours of Monday) to pay their respects to the late queen, who has been head of state for 70 years.
The funeral has also seen the largest gathering of word leaders for decades. Among the guests at Westminster Abbey were about 500 heads of state and foreign dignitaries, including Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, who arrived in the UK on Saturday, plus France’s Emanuel Macron. On Sunday, King Charles III hosted a special reception for 1,000 guests, including world leaders, ambassadors and other royals at Buckingham Palace, with guests joining the country in a minute of silence – the National Moment of Reflection – to mourn the passing of the queen.
The service at the abbey – the church where Britain’s kings and queens were historically crowned and where Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philip – lasted about an hour and was led by the Dean of Westminster David Hoyle.
“Her late Majesty’s example was not determined by her position or her ambition, but by whom she followed,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his sermon. Close to the coffin, King Charles sat next to his wife Camilla, the Queen’s consort, Princess Anne, and her husband, Timothy Laurence. Behind them stood Prince Harry; Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Princess Beatrice. Also present at Westminster Abbey was kill eve actress Sandra Oh, reportedly serving as a member of the Canadian delegation as a member of the Order of Canada.
The service was immediately followed by a two-minute national silence, followed by the procession.
Once the coffin has reached St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Prince Philip’s memorial service took place and where Prince Harry and Meghan were married, there will be a televised service at 4pm local time, after which the Queen will be buried in a private service in the chapel.
When she died peacefully in Balmoral, Scotland, on September 8 at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch in history and the longest-serving female head of state in history. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to achieve a sapphire anniversary, serving for 65 years in power. (She had surpassed Victoria in 2015 to become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch ever). She was undoubtedly also one of the world’s most recognizable figures, as well as one of the most portrayed on screen.
Her death provoked a torrent of emotions and a flood of tributes from all over the world.
“The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty the Queen, is a moment of great sorrow for me and all members of my family,” King Charles, who took the throne immediately after her death, said in a statement. “We deeply mourn the passing of a beloved sovereign and a dearly beloved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt by the country, the empires and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. During this time of grief and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was held so widely.”