The world bid farewell to the Queen with one of the largest state funerals in history. Under the eyes of millions of TV viewers around the world, a grieving nation in London and Windsor paid their last respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II. Numerous heads of state and monarchs took part in the unprecedented funeral ceremonies, some of whom had traveled from far away. Hundreds of thousands lined the streets for the event of the century.
King Charles III seemed moved when he and his immediate family escorted his mother's coffin through the British capital. The 73-year-old had tears in his eyes. "Grief is the price we pay for love," the Queen once said.
Queen's great-grandchildren Prince George (9), a future king, and Princess Charlotte (7) also joined the funeral procession with their parents Prince William and Princess Kate (both 40).
Burial at Windsor Castle
In the afternoon, the Queen's body was returned to her Windsor residence, west of London. There she was to be buried after a funeral service alongside her husband Prince Philip in a private ceremony. The royal insignia - state crown, scepter and orb - were removed from the coffin.
Commentators spoke of an unprecedented spectacle in recent British history. The ceremony closed the second Elizabethan era, commented on the British media. Elizabeth II sat on the throne for 70 years - longer than any other British monarch. She died on September 8 at the age of 96 at her Scottish country estate, Balmoral Castle.
Britain united in sorrow
The sympathy was great on the streets. United in mourning, scores of people threw flowers at the hearse from the edge as the vehicle carried the Queen from the British capital to her Windsor Castle residence for the last time. Also waiting there were the Queen's beloved corgis, now cared for by her second eldest son, Prince Andrew, and her favorite horse.
The state funeral was meticulously scheduled: at 11:44 a.m. (12:44 p.m. CEST), the coffin wrapped in the royal standard was carried from Parliament’s Westminster Hall, where a number of people had paid their last respects to the Queen in state, to nearby Westminster Abbey. About 2,000 guests attended a one-hour service there. It was at the Abbey that the Queen married Prince Philip in 1947 and was crowned in 1953.
Hours before the service, all areas along the route of the funeral procession were full. New arrivals were ushered into Hyde Park where the ceremony was shown on giant screens.
Memories of the British Empire are awakened
"We put on a good show," said Londoner Kas Girdler, who watched the ceremony with two friends. "We're good at that, we can do that. Tomorrow everything will be back to normal."
A gun salute sounded every minute of the funeral procession, and the famous Big Ben bell rang regularly. A number of soldiers in gala uniform walked past the sites of Elizabeth's 70-year reign, such as Buckingham Palace, with the coffin. Many of the uniforms and ceremonies reminded viewers of the former British Empire, which continued to crumble during Elizabeth's reign.
Royal family in focus
King Charles was followed by the other children of the Queen - Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward - in the funeral procession. Behind her walked her grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry. Their wives and William's children followed in limousines to the triumphal arch of Wellington Arch, where the coffin was transferred from a carriage to the hearse by eight porters. At Windsor, the Royals rejoined the convoy.
As expected, Andrew and Harry didn't show up in uniform. Both were in the military, Andrew in the Falklands War and Harry in Afghanistan. However, they are no longer active members of the Royal Family. At the wake in Westminster Hall, they had previously exceptionally appeared in uniform.
During the service, many eyes were on the youngest attendees of the royal family. Charlotte looked down a lot and wore a black hat with a bow over her long blond hair and a coat, she held her hands clasped in front of her. George wore a dark blue suit with a white shirt and tie. Her younger brother Prince Louis (4) was not seen.
Princess Kate and Harry's wife, Duchess Meghan, appeared in black, but in different fashion styles. Kate wore a long-sleeved coat dress, a hat with a veil over her face and pearl earrings. She wore a pearl necklace from the Queen. Meghan (41) wore a dress with a cape and a sweeping hat and pearl earrings.
Exceptional guest list
A good dozen queens and kings, plus sultans and even the Japanese emperor Naruhito, who otherwise never attends funerals - there has probably not been such an exquisite guest list for a long time. US President Joe Biden also attended, as did French President Emmanuel Macron and Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He expects the new British king to visit Germany in the not too distant future, Steinmeier, who spoke to the monarch at a reception on Sunday, told ZDF.
The six living British ex-Prime Minister and incumbent Liz Truss also attended the state ceremony. The floral arrangements and music were specially chosen for their symbolism for the Queen. A personal letter from Charles to his mother was also enthroned on the coffin. "In loving and faithful memory. Charles R." The R." stands for Rex, the Latin word for "king".
"We'll meet again"
The Archbishop of Canterbury also recalled the Queen's widely acclaimed speech to the nation during the coronavirus pandemic. Elizabeth II encouraged her subjects at the time and said: "We will meet again." At the conclusion of the service, the signal "The Last Post" sounded. After two minutes of silence, the Queen's personal bagpiper performed "Sleep, Dearie, Sleep". Finally, the national anthem "God Save the King" was sung.
The state funeral was an enormous challenge for the authorities: the police, secret services and anti-terrorist units coordinated what is probably the largest security operation the city has ever experienced. Meanwhile, the country stood still - schools and universities as well as shops remained closed almost everywhere. The event also had an impact on the travel plans of numerous people. More than 100 flights have been canceled at London's Heathrow Airport to allow for silence during the ceremonies.