The funeral of the sovereign was held Monday at Westminster Abbey before dignitaries from around the world

A grandiose funeral, concluded by two minutes of silence: a United Kingdom embraced by emotion has made its farewell in great pomp Monday to Elizabeth II, devoted and “joyful” sovereign with worldwide popularity, in the presence of hundreds of foreign dignitaries.

A chapter of history has been turned with this religious funeral, in London’s Westminster Abbey, of the monarch who lived through her 70 years, seven months and two days of reign with a constant sense of duty, never letting an opinion slip, but fulfilling her duties as head of state with seriousness, benevolence for her subjects and a deadpan humor that was sometimes irresistible.

In a famous speech delivered on her 21st birthday, her late Majesty declared that her whole life would be devoted to the service of the nation and the Commonwealth, an organization that brings together many former British colonies, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, which was headed by the queen, said during the ceremony.

Rarely has a promise been so well kept, he added, paying tribute to a queen who was joyful, present to so many, touching a multitude of lives.

God Save the King

Once the Last Post, a tribute to fallen soldiers in the British army, was played, the ceremony ended with two minutes of poignant silence, observed across the country, followed by the national anthem in its male version, celebrating the new sovereign Charles III, God Save the King.

Applause resounded outside the building where Elizabeth, still a princess, had married the dashing Philip Mountbatten at age 21 in November 1947, before being crowned there on June 2, 1953.

In the streets of London or Windsor, where the queen will be buried in the evening, the British have massed – for several days for some – to participate in this historic day, holiday, the culmination of the emotion that has surged after the death of Elizabeth II on September 8 in his Scottish castle of Balmoral, at the age of 96.

In unison with the 2,000 guests inside Westminster Abbey, the public stood and sat down during the ceremony, or gathered around the lucky few who managed to watch the ceremony on their cell phones.

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George and Charlotte at the funeral

In the image of a national mourning set to the millimeter and marked by the pomp and solemnity that the British monarchy has the secret, the body had left shortly before 11 am, local time, Westminster Hall where hundreds of thousands of Britons had been collecting day and night since Wednesday, after hours of waiting.

To the sound of bagpipes and drums, the coffin, draped with the royal standard and surmounted by the glittering imperial crown, was accompanied in procession to Westminster Abbey pulled on a gun carriage by sailors of the Royal Navy, forming an army of kepi.

The royal family followed, marching in step, staring at each other: Charles III, who became king at 73 after a lifetime of waiting, his brothers and sister Anne, Andrew and Edward, the heir to the throne William, the new Prince of Wales, and Prince Harry, in civilian clothes, a consequence of his retirement from the monarchy in 2020.

In the nave of the abbey, they were joined by Queen Consort Camilla, William’s wife Kate and Harry’s wife Meghan. William and Kate’s two eldest children, George, 9, Charlotte, 7, walked behind their great-grandmother’s coffin as it arrived in the Abbey.

A bell had rung every minute, 96 times for as many years of the queen, before the ceremony.

I was there!

Among the black-clad guests, the cream of the world’s leaders had turned out, from U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron to Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, for these first state funerals since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.

European royalty including King Philip of Belgium, King Felipe VI of Spain and Prince Albert of Monaco also took their seats under the Gothic arches of the abbey so linked to Elizabeth II’s fate.

Not for years has London seen such an influx of dignitaries, and the capital’s police have never experienced such a security challenge.

For millions of Britons, Elizabeth II was the one, the only, reassuring anchor of stability in the convulsions of a changing world.

I will tell my children about this moment: I’ll say: I was there!” says Jack, 14, who came in the early morning with his parents to Hyde Park Corner, not far from Buckingham Palace.

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For Thay, a 59-year-old man, the Queen brought “stability” to a “chaotic” life. He hoped Charles would do the same “because we need something to hold on to.

In Windsor, where the Queen resided since the coronavirus pandemic, Pauline Huxtable, 64, came to celebrate her “extraordinary life”, marked by “dignity”: she was a “mother figure”.

Historical procession

After the ceremony at Westminster, the coffin was again placed on a Royal Navy gun carriage for a historic procession through the streets of central London to Wellington Arch, from where it will depart by hearse for Windsor Castle.

More than 6,000 military personnel participated.

Increasingly frail in recent months, suffering from mobility problems, Elizabeth II still received, smiling, two days before his death, the newly appointed Prime Minister Liz Truss, his last public photo.

She was the world’s oldest sitting leader. During her lifetime, she lived through the Second World War, the dissolution of the British Empire, the entry and exit of the European Union.

She will be buried Monday evening in privacy, in the George VI Memorial in the castle chapel alongside her parents and Prince Philip, who died in April 2021. They were married 73 years.

After exhausting days of travels in the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, bathing in crowds combined with the mourning of a mother, Charles III, 73 years old, will have to write his own history.

Some dreamed of a quick transition with the new Prince of Wales, his 40-year-old son William. But Charles III promised, like his mother, to serve all his life.

If his popularity rating has soared to 70% according to YouGov, the challenges, many, have only just begun, with some Commonwealth countries not hiding their desire to see their ties with the monarchy change.

As of Tuesday, the United Kingdom resumes the course of its life suspended since September 8. The cost-of-living crisis and social movements should quickly return to the headlines.