A chapter in the history of the West has come to an end. At the conclusion of a symbolic funeral day, the body of Elizabeth II now lies in the royal crypt.
Westminster Abbey has seen the wedding, coronation and funeral of Britain’s longest reigning sovereign the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the other Commonwealth Realms over the years.
At about 10:45 a.m., the royal coffin was dislodged from the pedestal of the Palace of Westminster where it was installed in order to be taken to the nearby abbey. The imperial crown, set with 2868 diamonds, lay on the chest alongside the scepter and orb, symbols of monarchical power and the Christian world.
The long-awaited mass could begin once the remains were placed in the church building.
In one of her last speeches during the pandemic, the Queen said, We shall meet again. The Archbishop of Canterbury, in a mystical impulse, took up these words to speak of the afterlife.
This ceremony, regulated to the millimeter, preceded a second one at Windsor Castle. This one was more intimate, but no less serious. Between the two, a huge military procession led by four members of the Canadian Mounted Police accompanied the coffin.
At the very end of this second funeral service, the three glittering symbols were removed and placed on purple cushions. The Lord Chamberlain then broke his staff and placed it on Elizabeth II’s coffin, marking the end of her reign for good. The whole thing was lowered gently, vertically, into the royal vault. Finally, the Queen’s personal musician played his bagpipes, gradually moving away from the chapel until he was no longer audible.
There was only one last ceremony left, away from the cameras, for the immediate family of the sovereign to pay their last respects.
For the occasion, the constabulary forces had closed the whole city center of the English capital to traffic. And for good reason. No less than 500 of the world’s highest dignitaries were gathered to attend the ceremonies.
First and foremost: the President of the United States, Joe Biden, but also the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa and South Korea. The Prime Minister of Canada was invited, of course, as were his counterparts from Australia and New Zealand.
In a press briefing on Sunday, Justin Trudeau had already described the event as a historic opportunity to highlight this solidarity, this strength, this compassion have always characterized His Majesty, qualities that should inspire us all.
Many monarchs also took their seats in Westminster Abbey. The Emperor of Japan, on his first foreign visit since taking the throne three years ago, was there. All the European gotha were present: the King of Norway, the Prince of Monaco, the King of the Netherlands, the King of Sweden, the King of the Belgians, the Queen of Denmark, the King of Spain.
In all, 2000 hand-picked individuals attended the liturgical celebration in person while tens of thousands watched from a distance.
The People Gather
Instead, ordinary people gathered in parks, designated cathedrals and other public places to watch the ceremony on a giant screen. Especially since the good weather blessed this day of mourning.
Hyde Park, the largest park in central London, was packed. The two minutes of silence at the end of the first ceremony silenced the usually noisy city.
Even non-Royalists could not resist participating in this great gathering. This was the case of the oldest spectator found in the Hyde Park crowd, Sarah Wills, 85 only a little younger than the queen, she says. The queen lived a privileged life. She was discreet. Her opinions were never known, although she must have had them. But seeing the amount of people here, she obviously had an impact on their lives.