Britain and the rest of the world said their public farewells to Queen Elizabeth II on Monday in funeral services layered in pomp and piety while rooted in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer used for all members.
Her country’s longest-reigning monarch, Elizabeth II, died at age 96 on Sept. 8. King Charles III, her eldest child, immediately succeeded her and led the funeral procession behind his mother’s casket.
“Few leaders have received the outpouring of love we have seen,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said during the state funeral. “Her Late Majesty’s example was not set through her position or her ambition, but through whom she followed.”
Archbishop Welby said the queen, who reigned for 70 years and celebrated her Platinum Jubilee in June, modeled the servant leadership expressed in the life of Jesus, her savior.
“People of loving service are rare in any walk of life,” he said. “Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases, those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten.”
The funeral in Westminster Abbey drew a packed crowd of 2,000, including President Biden and hundreds of other heads of state, as well as members of the queen’s family, British officials and select friends.
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Generations of Elizabeth’s descendants, including King Charles III, heir to the throne Prince William and 9-year-old George, who is second in line, followed the coffin into the same church where she was married and crowned.
At St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, attendees of the committal service included members of the queen’s household staff. Outside the chapel, two of the queen’s corgi dogs, Sandy and Muick, stood outside as a tribute to the queen’s lifelong love of the iconic breed.
As many as 2 million poured into the streets of London to catch a glimpse of Elizabeth’s casket as it made its final journey to Windsor Castle. Her casket will be placed next to the remains of Prince Philip, who preceded her in death by 17 months.
In Windsor, 100,000 people lined the Long Walk, Sky News reported, as the Jaguar-manufactured hearse carried the casket to the committal service. The queen’s pony, Emma, stood silently and pawed the ground as the hearse passed through the grounds of Windsor Castle near the chapel.
An estimated global television audience of 4 billion people viewed the proceedings, making it the largest single event ever broadcast.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss and Baroness Scotland of Asthal, secretary-general of the Commonwealth of Nations, read Scripture passages during the funeral. Prayers were offered by clergy representing the major Protestant faiths of Britain — Presbyterian, Pentecostal and the Free Church of England — as well as Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster.
King Charles stood without singing, as he would again at the committal service, when the congregation intoned “God Save the King,” Britain’s national anthem. His somber expression, commentators said, reflected the impact of the new responsibilities placed upon him.
The Scottish lament “Sleep, Dearie, Sleep” echoed through the abbey as the queen’s personal bagpiper played the service to a close and the coffin was carried to a naval gun carriage for the trip to Windsor Castle.
Atop the casket was a wreath prepared at King Charles III’s request. It contained “foliage of rosemary, English oak and myrtle (cut from a plant grown from myrtle in the queen’s wedding bouquet) and flowers, in shades of gold, pink and deep burgundy, with touches of white, cut from the gardens of royal residences.”
With the bouquet was a handwritten card, “In loving and devoted memory, Charles R,” for Rex, or king.
The Imperial State Crown and the monarch’s orb and scepter rested atop the Royal Standard, which covered the casket. At Windsor, those symbols of office were placed on the altar. The Lord Chamberlain, Lord Parker of Minsmere, broke his wand into two and placed it on the coffin, symbolically ending Elizabeth’s reign.
The coffin was lowered into the vault of St. George’s Chapel, where it was interred in a private ceremony Monday evening.
The queen’s coffin was interred with Prince Philip’s remains at the King George VI memorial chapel, an annex within St. George’s. Elizabeth’s parents and sister, Margaret, also are buried there.
Behind the ceremonial splendor of the funeral was a profoundly personal ritual, several observers said.
The Very Reverend Dr. David Hoyle MBE, Dean of Westminster, who led the funeral service, told the BBC last week, “Right at the heart of this is a family funeral … deeply personal and a very, very difficult thing for a family to navigate.
“This is also a celebration of a quite extraordinary life. This is an opportunity for us all to mourn, all to remember. And this is also a place for a bit of hope. That’s the job of the church.”
Speaking with The Washington Times from Southwark Cathedral on Friday, the Rev. Andrew Nunn, dean of Southwark Cathedral, said the liturgies of the Church of England apply equally to all as he noted the miles-long line of those waiting to pay respects as the queen lay in state at Westminster Hall.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a queen or a commoner, the services are pretty much the same,” he said. “Death comes to us all, regardless of our social position. And the church deals fairly, evenly and equally with people. So there will be elements that people will recognize in the service that they will have had for members of their own family.”
Lord Leslie John Griffiths, a former leader of the Methodist Church of Great Britain and a director of the country’s Premier Christian Radio, said the advent of King Charles III is an occasion to reflect on the changes the world has seen since a 26-year-old Elizabeth became queen at the unexpected death of her father, George VI, in February 1952.
“Somehow, the change itself has created a sense that something has been lost. And the death of this woman has raised the sense of what that might be integrity, loyalty, faithfulness in, in doing her duty; none of those are sacred statements. But they are generated out of a spiritual kind of dimension.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.