Reflections over the royal funeral
LONDON, England -- There always was going to be a stylish send-off for the Queen Mother. Traditionalists saw her as the woman who had given the monarchy new warmth.
But even non-Royalists confessed their regard for a game old bird with a strong sense of duty who loved her racehorses and enjoyed a stiff gin.
The older generation specially remembered Queen Elizabeth's wartime morale boosting, her support for a husband forced reluctantly to become king by his brother's abdication.
Her longevity made her the Royal who could not be criticized, a symbol of continuity who helped to hold together a Royal Family plagued by broken marriages.
But who was going to mark her death? Would the occasion, some wondered, be confined merely to flag-waving Royalists of the kind who had flock to Clarence House each year to see a gracious smile on her birthday?
First signs it would be something altogether different came with the parade escorting the Queen Mother's coffin from St James's Palace to lie in state at Westminster Hall.
As the muffled drums beat and three generations of the Royal Family followed the coffin 400,000 people came to watch.
Andrew Roberts, CNN's royal commentator, said: "The last ten days have been very surprising both for republicans and for monarchists.
"Republicans were saying it was going to be a flop, that non-one would turn up. Monarchists were very much on the back foot. Now of course we've seen the Royal Family is tremendously popular. There is a real well of affection for it."
Some said it was nothing more than the British talent for pageantry, the nation's love for a good ceremony.
But then, as the Queen Mother's coffin laid on its catafalque, those seeking to pay their respects began to assemble.
Soon they snaked back along both sides of the Thames, a cheerful queue up to three miles deep, tens of thousands waiting as long as nine hours through the night. They wore backpacks and trainers, not their Sunday best.
They swapped sandwiches and Royal memories. It wasn't grief but the celebration of a remarkable life. To such an extent that the Queen, unusually, took to the TV screens with a personal thank you.
Queen Elizabeth II said: "It was the warmth and affection of people everywhere which inspired her resolve, dedication and enthusiasm for life.
"I thank you for the support you are giving me and my family as we come to terms with her death and the void she has left in our midst.
"I thank you also from my heart for the love you gave her during her life and the honour you now give her in death."
By the time of the funeral, opinion polls were showing the Royal Family to be more popular than for years.
Roberts said: "The age of deference has gone. It probably went 20 years ago in fact. But the age of respect hasn't.
"People still feel respect for other people, especially people who've given lifetimes of service; like the Queen Mother has."
Huge crowds were on the streets once again for the funeral. They were saying farewell to a much-loved Queen, and perhaps to a whole era. (Full story)
In death as in life the Queen Mother, who lived at Clarence House for 50 years, has proved to be a unifying influence.
Celebration of her life has allowed her nation to display its patriotism and to reassert its confidence in the unifying bonds of tradition, but to do so somehow in a more modern way.
Led by a Royal Family much readier than in the past to express its own emotions, Britain's people have marked the passing of their most famous centenarian with open affection. (Sombre crowds mourn outside abbey)
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