Queen’s funeral: Five moments that history will remember

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II will go down in history as a remarkable event combining centuries-old traditions and ceremonies, personal moments and royal spectacle writ large for the world to see. 

The death of Queen Elizabeth 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 on television, or who had their own memories of the Queen.

So what are some of those key moments that history will remember about today? Here’s our look:  

1. Britain does grand pageantry very well indeed

Every aspect of Monday’s events had been meticulously planned years if not decades in advance. The military personnel had rehearsed by moonlight to ensure everything went without a hitch. 

And what a spectacle it was: from London’s famous Big Ben chiming 96 times, once each minute for every year of the Queen’s life, to the pall bearers whose composure and stoicism as they carried the coffin on their shoulders was admired by everyone who saw them. The pipe bands and horses, the splendid uniforms, the priceless glittering jewels: this was the tradition of a thousand years on show for the world to see at the biggest single event London has perhaps ever seen. 

It went off seemingly smoothly, the most royal and sombre of occasions that had to carry the grief of a whole nation and one family, but also showcase the finest pageantry the country could muster. 

2. Traditions ingrained in every aspect of today’s events

With the pageantry and spectacle of a royal funeral comes tradition: the formality of a sovereign being laid to rest, with many aspects steeped in history.

The gun carriage which took the coffin from Westminster Abbey to Hyde Park Corner was used during the funerals of the Queen’s father and Queen Victoria – pulled by more than a hundred sailors, in a tradition first started in 1901. 

During the service at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the Imperial State Crown and the sovereign’s orb and sceptre 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 ceremonially broke his staff of office and placed it on top of the Queen’s coffin.

These same traditional details will likely be used at the funerals of British monarchs for decades to come, but in some ways the funeral was also about making history – the first time much of the ceremonial aspects of a State Funeral have been seen on television. 

3. Personal touching moments sprinkled among the ceremonies

Among the grandeur of centuries of tradition, the colour and spectacle, were quieter and more personal moments of respect and remembrance sprinkled throughout the day. 

Like the touching scenes as the Queen’s two favourite corgis, Sandy and Muick, were brought into Windsor Castle’s quadrangle for the coffin’s arrival.

Emma, a black fell pony the queen owned for 26 years, stood on the grass with a groom at the side of the Long Walk in front of the castle as the coffin procession marched past before a committal service at St George’s Chapel.

The queen’s affection for her dogs and her horses was well known. She owned more than 30 corgis during her lifetime. Muick and Sandy have been rehomed with her son, Prince Andrew.

Some of these moments had been decided in advance by the Queen herself, others were spontaneous expressions from members of the public who brought their own signs, soft toys, flowers and flags to line the procession routes through the streets of London. 

The order of service for Queen Elizabeth’s committal service at Windsor Castle was planned by the late monarch for many years. She chose all the hymns except for the very last one, which was selected by her son and heir King Charles III. The Queen’s personal piper played a lament on the bagpipes.

Most of the music played during the service was composed by Sir William Harris, who was an 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 during Christmas.

4. Who was invited and who was not?

Leaders from more than 100 countries around the world came to London for the funeral. There were other reigning sovereigns from across Europe – many of whom were related to the Queen – as well as from royal houses in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. 

There were politicians past and present, representatives from Britain’s National Health Service, members of the public as well from some Commonwealth countries and the Queen’s immediate and extended family, friends and loyal staff.  

It was a time for royal brothers – Princes William and Hary – somewhat estranged in recent years, to share a spotlight together, even if there was little opportunity for them to talk, at least in public. 

But politics and current events also played a part in the funeral proceedings. There were no invitations 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 Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy could not 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 tuned into the the funeral events as they unfolded, beamed live around the world on televisions, on the radio and online.

And people came too in their hundreds of thousands to London and WIndsor to pay their last respects and catch a glimpse of the Queen’s cortege as it drove by. 

In different parts of Britain mourners who could not travel to London watched on big screens that were set up, in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park for example. 

It was a day to come together, the final moment on 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 one woman, who touched the lives of so many people.


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