Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral marks the end of an era

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LONDON – Monday finally marks the end of the second Elizabethan age.

Westminster Abbey’s tenor bell rang 96 times, once for each year of Queen Elizabeth II’s life, before her coffin was carried for the state funeral.

Behind her followed her eldest son, King Charles III, who at 73 finally took the reins of the kingdom.

The service began after the epic line of devoted mourners who had spent four days marching past his coffin was broken and more than a week of ceremonies steeped in ancient tradition came to an end.

He came as the UK prepared for a return to normal, but without his beloved queen, who will rest with her husband, Prince Philip.

In his sermon, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recalled how when Elizabeth turned 21 she swore, in a radio address to his millions of subjects throughout the world, to spend his life in the service of the British nation and the Commonwealth.

“Rarely has such a promise been so well kept,” Welby said.

As Welby spoke, the thousands gathered near Windsor Castle, where the Queen’s coffin will be buried, watched the ceremony unfold on huge screens erected for the momentous occasion. And many had tears in their eyes.

“We just felt we had to come,” said Louise Austerfield, 42, who came from West Yorkshire in northern England.

A group of pallbearers from the Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards place the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in Royal Standard, on the Royal Navy’s State Gun Carriage outside Westminster Hall, at the Palace of Westminster in London on September 19, 2022, where he has been lying in state since September 14.

Emilio Moratti | AFP | Getty Images

The state funeral of the UK’s longest-serving monarch – including the 70-year-old reign has begun in the aftermath of World War II and rode through the dawn of the space race to internet ubiquity – was not only a farewell to a much-loved leader, but also cemented the reign of his new , Charles.

And the ceremony took place on a grand scale.

Some 4,000 servicemen were gathered to march through the streets of London and Windsor. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, lined the streets and inside Westminster Abbey the guest list included leaders such as President Joe Biden and Frenchman Emmanuel Macron, family members European royal body, as well as British doctors and other emergency workers.

Billions of people are expected to watch TV, possibly making it the most-watched live stream in history if audiences top 2.5 billion estimated to have seen Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.

Monday’s busy schedule has already begun. At 6:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. ET), the last members of the public were allowed into Westminster Hall to see Elizabeth lying in state. The hall, which was built over 1,000 years ago, has now been closed in preparation for the grandest funeral in British memory.

Queen Elizabeth II's funeral ends with

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“It was amazing to be able to come and be here and just pay your respects,” said Sima Mansouri, 55, one of the last two people allowed into Westminster Hall. “I’ve loved it since I was a little girl. I’ve moved from the Middle East to the US and then the UK over the past 25 years. … I call this place home and she made me feel like I’m at home here, and safe.”

Just after the doors of the old Westminster Hall closed, those of neighboring Westminster Abbey opened, beginning an event few have seen before.

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chris jackson | Chris Jackson collection | Getty Images

The event will attempt “to unite people across the world and resonate with people of all faiths”, as Earl Marshall, Duke of Norfolk, the hereditary official responsible for organizing the British state funeral.

Shortly after 10.35 a.m. (5.35 a.m. ET), the Queen’s coffin was lifted from its platform, known as the catafalque, by members of the British Army’s Grenadier Guards, the iconic soldiers whose large black busby hats have appeared in a million tourist photographs outside Buckingham Palace.

A well-wisher holds a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II as she waits along the procession route in London on September 19, 2022, ahead of the state funeral service for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Louisa Gouliamaki | AFP | Getty Images

They placed it on a Royal Navy gun carriage, which was withdrawn from active military service in 1901 to be used for Queen Victoria’s funeral. From Westminster Hall he was taken in a procession to Westminster Abbey, just opposite Parliament Square, for the state funeral. It’s a journey of barely 500 feet but at such a solemn pace it took 8 minutes.

The square is lined with soldiers from different companies and squadrons. The procession itself was led by some 200 pipers and drummers from Scottish and Irish regiments, as well as Gurkhas – Nepali fighters who have traditionally fought alongside British troops – and the Royal Air Force.

Flanking the coffin were pallbearers and royal bodyguards, and King Charles III, Camilla, the Queen Consort and other members of the Royal Family walked behind.

The exact guest list has not been released, but the hall capacity is 2,200 people. Alongside Biden, a litany of other heads of state have confirmed their attendance, including Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

London, UK -18/09/2022. King Charles III and his family follow the gun carriage carrying his late mother Queen Elizabeth II to her funeral at Westminster Abbey, Westminster.

Joshua Bratt | Reuters

They were joined by more than 180 members of the public identified as key workers, including emergency service personnel and other professionals who were recognized in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List in June.

The funeral began at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. ET) and featured readings from British Prime Minister Liz Truss, among others, and prayers from various archbishops, cardinals and other British religious leaders.

Near the end of the hour-long service, the final bugle call sounded. The bugle call of the Revival, the British national anthem and a lament played by the Queen’s piper end the ceremony at noon.

The coffin will then be taken to Hyde Park’s Wellington Arch, again flanked by the same procession members and punctuated by tiny gunshots fired from the park. This time he will be joined by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Northern Ireland’s Royal Ulster Constabulary and the cherished state-funded National Health Service.

An hour later, the coffin will arrive at the ark, be placed in the state hearse and taken to Windsor Castle for more guns, another service and a private burial at St. George’s Chapel alongside of Philip, whose body has been placed in the royal vault of the chapel since his death last year.

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