Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral will go down in history as a remarkable event combining centuries-old traditions and ceremonies, personal moments and a royal spectacle for the world to enjoy.
Queen Elizabeth’s death marked the end of an era not only for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, but for the many people around the world who watched television or had their own memories of the Queen.
So what are some of those key moments that history will remember today? Here is our look:
1. Britain does its grand pageantry very well
Every aspect of Monday’s events had been meticulously planned years, if not decades, in advance. Military personnel had been rehearsing in the moonlight to make sure everything went smoothly.
And what a sight it was: from London’s famous Big Ben ringing 96 times, once a minute for every year of the Queen’s life, to the pallbearers whose poise and stoicism as they carried the coffin on their shoulders were admired by all who saw them. . The bagpipes and the horses, the splendid uniforms, the priceless glittering jewels: it was the tradition of a thousand years of display for the world to see at the greatest single event London had perhaps ever seen.
It apparently went off without a hitch, the most royal and somber occasion that must have borne the heartbreak of an entire nation and family, but also showcased the finest pageantry the country could muster.
2. Traditions rooted in all aspects of today’s events
With the pageantry and spectacle of a royal funeral comes tradition: the formality of a sovereign’s burial, with many aspects steeped in history.
The gun carriage which carried the coffin from Westminster Abbey to Hyde Park Corner was used at the funeral of the Queen’s father and Queen Victoria – pulled by over a hundred sailors, in a tradition begun in 1901.
During the service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, the Imperial Crown of State and the Sovereign’s Orb and Scepter were removed from the top of the Queen’s coffin and placed on an altar, separating the Queen from her crown for the last time.
The Lord Chamberlain ceremoniously broke his clerical baton and placed it on the Queen’s coffin.
These same traditional details will likely be used at the funerals of British monarchs for decades, but in some ways the funeral was also about making history – the first time that much of the ceremonial aspects of a state funeral were seen on television.
3. Touching personal moments sprinkled throughout the ceremonies
Amidst the grandeur of centuries of tradition, color and spectacle, were quieter, more personal moments of reverence and remembrance sprinkled throughout the day.
Like the touching scenes as the Queen’s two favorite corgis, Sandy and Muick, were brought into the quadrangle of Windsor Castle for the arrival of the coffin.
Emma, a black pony who the Queen owned for 26 years, stood on the grass with a groom beside the long walk in front of the castle as the cortege of coffins filed past ahead of a burial service at Saint George’s Chapel.
The Queen’s affection for her dogs and horses was well known. She has owned over 30 corgis in her lifetime. Muick and Sandy have been relocated with her son, Prince Andrew.
Some of these moments had been decided in advance by the Queen herself, others were spontaneous expressions of members of the public who brought their own placards, soft toys, flowers and flags to line the processional routes through the streets of London.
The order of service for Queen Elizabeth’s incarceration service at Windsor Castle was planned by the late monarch for many years. She chose all but the very last hymn, which was chosen by her son and heir King Charles III. The Queen’s personal bagpiper played a lament on the bagpipes.
Most of the music played during the service was composed by Sir William Harris, who was organist at the chapel for much of the Queen’s childhood – as a child, Elizabeth was often seen visiting the organ loft to watch the composer play, especially at Christmas. .
4. Who was invited and who was not?
Leaders from over 100 countries around the world came to London for the funeral. There were other reigning sovereigns from all over Europe – many of whom were linked to the Queen – as well as royal houses in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania.
There were politicians past and present, representatives of Britain’s National Health Service, members of the public as well as some Commonwealth countries and the Queen’s immediate and extended family, friends and loyal staff.
It was a time for the royal brothers – Princes William and Harry – who have been somewhat estranged in recent years, to share a spotlight together, even though there were few opportunities for them to speak, at least in public.
But politics and current affairs also played a part in the funeral. No invitation has been extended to the head of state in Russia, Belarus or Myanmar – and no diplomatic representation from Russia either due to the war in Ukraine.
And while Ukrainian President Zelenskyy was unable to attend the funeral himself, his wife Olena Zelenska represented her country instead.
5. The funeral was a time for people in Britain – and around the world – to come together
Hundreds of millions of people followed the funeral events as they unfolded, broadcast live around the world on TV, radio and online.
And people also came by the hundreds of thousands to London and Windsor to pay their last respects and catch a glimpse of the Queen’s motorcade as it passed.
In different parts of Britain, mourners who could not make it to London watched on large screens set up, for example, in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park.
It was a day to come together, the final moment in a period of national mourning, perhaps putting aside thoughts of a cost of living crisis, or sky-high energy bills, or war, in a collective moment to remember the life of a woman, who marked the lives of so many people.