Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral on Monday was a historic moment, witnessed by what was likely the biggest ever gathering of world leaders, foreign dignitaries, members of royal families and faith leaders – but it was also a deeply personal affair that gave the world a glimpse of what the late monarch was like as a mother and a beloved family matriarch.
The Queen’s was the first state funeral Britain has seen since wartime leader Winston Churchill died in 1965, and only the fourth held in the past 100 years.
It was a celebration of the late monarch’s life and a reminder of the many roles she held during her life. The Queen was the head of state in 15 independent countries as well as heading the Commonwealth of Nations. She was the supreme governor of the Church of England, the commander in chief of one of the world’s biggest militaries, the long-time head of one of the world’s most notable royal families as well as a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.
Despite its very public nature, the service was also a family affair and as such included a number of personal touches.
At no point was this more noticeable than when King Charles III and his siblings entered Westminster Abbey. Walking slowly behind their mother’s coffin, their private grief was suddenly on display not just to the 2,000-strong congregation but also to millions of people watching from around the world.
In a particularly striking moment that no doubt touched the hearts of many watching, two of the Queen’s great-grandchildren, Prince George, aged 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7, took part in the funeral procession.
On top of the Queen’s coffin was a wreath made of flowers and foliage cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace and royal residences Clarence House and Highgrove House. The flower arrangement included myrtle grown from a sprig that was in the Queen’s wedding bouquet.
Alongside the wreath was a handwritten card from the King that read: “In loving and devoted memory. Charles R.”
And in a further personal touch, the funeral music featured a hymn that was also sung at the Queen’s wedding to Prince Philip. The Queen’s husband of 73 years died last year.
The funeral showcased the British military at its ceremonial best, reflecting the fact that as the head of state, the Queen was also the commander in chief – as well as someone who personally served in the armed forces during World War II.
Flanking the Queen’s coffin was the bearer party, which was founded by the Queen’s Company 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards and 10 pallbearers made up of former equerries to the Queen, as well as detachments of the King’s Body Guards of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, The Yeomen of the Guard and the Royal Company of Archers.
Thousands of British service members took part in the ceremony, marching through central London to accompany the Queen on her last journey. They were joined by representatives of the armed forces of other countries where the Queen was the head of state.
Prayers for the head of church
The religious part of the service marked the fact that the Queen was the formal head of the Church of England. The Queen herself had been consulted on the order of service, according to Buckingham Palace. The Dean of Westminster prepared the order of service in conjunction with Lambeth Palace, which is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The moment the nation fell silent
Just before the end of the ceremony, the congregation inside Westminster Abbey – and the nation alongside it – paused to mark the Queen’s death with a moment of silence.
Lining the route of the funeral procession, tens of thousands of people bowed their heads in silence, paying their last respects.
Remembering the Queen, singing for the King
While Monday was all about remembering and celebrating the Queen, there was one moment that underscored the transition that began with the monarch’s death. When the congregation rose to sing the national anthem it was “God save the King,” not “God save the Queen” that sounded throughout the abbey.
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CNN’s Max Foster, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Niamh Kennedy and Arnaud Siad contributed reporting.