The sombre tolling of Westminster Abbey’s tenor bell rang out once every minute for 96 minutes before Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral service. A million Londoners and visitors lined the streets to say goodbye and thank you. Ten thousand police guarded 500 monarchs, presidents, emperors and heads of government from around the world. Three thousand military personnel attended. The Queen’s children, led by King Charles III, walked with the Queen’s coffin from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. There, other family members joined them to walk up the aisle, including Prince George, 9, now third in line to the throne, and Princess Charlotte, 7. The gun carriage that carried the coffin and later took it past Buckingham Palace to Wellington Arch was pulled by 98 Royal Navy sailors, a tradition dating from the funeral of the Queen’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, in 1901.

Queen Elizabeth II made it clear she did not want a “long, boring funeral’’. It was neither. The hour-long service was rich in faith and pageantry and had as much pomp and circumstance as traditionalists could wish. It spoke of history, continuity and stability. Trumpeters, the choirs of Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal and a lone piper, whose notes the Queen heard in the mornings for years, filled the 13th-century abbey with stirring sounds. The wreath, drawn from flowers and foliage in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Highgrove and Clarence House, included rosemary for remembrance, English oak – a symbol of the strength of love – and myrtle, grown from a bush that supplied the sprig used in the Queen’s wedding bouquet 75 years ago. The service was unifying, drawing representatives of most nations, cultures and beliefs, VC winners were there, and the head of Sinn Fein from Northern Ireland.

The Queen had overseen the details of her farewell, and it was in her choices of prayers, hymns and scripture readings, which she decided on years ago, that her beliefs shone bright. She was probably the most famous woman in the world. But in essence her funeral was about her soul’s encounter with God. The hymns included The Lord is My Shepherd, sung at her wedding, and The Day Thou Gavest. The sentences or invocations read as the coffin was moved into the abbey included: “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” The reading, from St John’s Gospel, spoke of “my Father’s house” having “many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’’

At the commendation the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, prayed that the Christian soul of “our sister Elizabeth” would go forth “from this world, in the name of God the Father, who created thee; in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon thee and anointed thee.” In an interview on Sunday, Archbishop Welby, said she had an undemonstrative, deep faith. She believed she would see her departed loved ones after death. That belief, he said, offered “hope for us as well as her”. His sermon reminded the world of her advice, “We’ll meet again,” during the pandemic. In a letter to John Sentamu, the Ugandan-born former archbishop of York, four weeks after the death of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, the Queen mentioned how hard she had found it to grieve “someone you deeply love … when you have to do it in public”.

After the overwhelming send-off in London, her family probably felt relieved when they reached the relative sanctuary of Windsor for the committal service, sung by the Choir of St George’s Chapel. There on Monday evening. the Queen was laid to rest in a small side chapel with her husband, her parents and her sister. The Lord Chamberlain, former MI5 spy chief Andrew Parker, performed a final act of pageantry. He broke his ceremonial wand of office and placed it on her coffin, signalling his service to her was complete. Before the Queen’s coffin was lowered into the royal vault, the Crown Jeweller, removed the instruments of state, the orb, sceptre and Imperial State Crown she received at her coronation, and placed them on an altar, offering her reign to God. The Dean of Windsor, David Conner, prayed “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul” as the congregation prayed that her soul rest in peace and rise in glory.

Source: Editorial from The Australian Newspaper

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