After 10 days of national mourning, the body of Queen Elizabeth II has been laid to rest in St George’s chapel at the Windsor Castle. The longest reigning monarch died on 8 September 2022, and kept in lying-in-state for 4 and a half days. Almost 2000 guests including world leaders joined her state funeral on 19 September in Westminster Abbey. Hundreds of thousands of commoners lined up the streets to watch the Queen’s final journey while million others watched online.
It was the biggest ceremonial event since the last state funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965. On the occasion, it was a national bank holiday in the UK, a public holiday in Canada, and commemorative public holidays will be held later in Australia and New Zealand on 22 September and 26 September respectedly.
The UK officials arranged a spectacle for the local mourners and tourists. According to reports, apart from few unpleasantries, the procession went smoothly. Here are some of the key facts to know about the funeral.
Distinguished Guests at the Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II
Notable guests who attended the Queen’s funeral included world leaders, royals from other realms, and British politicians. Apart from recently appointment Prime Minister, Liz Truss, and her husband Hugh O’Leary, other officials included former PM Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, Theresa May and her husband Philip, David Cameron with wife Samantha, John Major and Tony Blair. Harry and Meghan were also there which automatically raised controversy. Media reported that the couple were pushed back to second row in Abbey unlike other Royal Family members including Prince William and Kate who were seated in front row.
From other countries, US President Joe Biden was there with his wife Jill, French president Emmanuel Macron with wife Brigitte, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau with wife Sophie, New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern with partner Clarke Gayford, and Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon with her husband Peter Murrell.
Royals attending from across the world included Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan, Monaco’s Prince Albert and Princess Charlene, Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II and Crown Prince Frederik, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah with son Prince Abdul Mateen, and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands with mother Beatrix.
Queen’s Carriage and Casket
The Queen’s coffin was reportedly created 30 years before her death. It is made of English oak, lined with lead to protect against moisture damage. It is to preserve the body as the coffin will go in the royal crypt rather than ground like commoners. The casket was decorated with royal banner along with 2900 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and 4 rubies. It took 8 pallbearers to carry it due to the excessive weight. Traditionally, Christian faith requires 4 to 6 pallbearers for one coffin.
As the queen’s casket made its way to a hearse, London clock tower, Big Ben tolled for 96 times – once every minute for 96 minutes for the 96 years of Queen Elizabeth’s life. It took nearly 45 minutes to walk towards the hearse in a new Royal Navy’s State Carriage. This time the carriage was not pulled by horses but people. The change in tradition came when horses carrying Queen Victoria’s casket in 1901 were spooked, nearly dropping the coffin. To prevent a potential disaster, 90 sailors drew the carriage and 40 marched behind to act as a brake.
After loading into the hearse, the queen’s casket drove another 50 minutes to the committal service at the Chapel. Then it was lowered into the royal crypt where her family including sister, father, mother, and late husband Prince Philip lie.
The security arrangement for the Queen’s funeral has surpassed the biggest happening in London’s history, the 2012 Olympics. Officials are still crunching the numbers but here is what’s reported till now.
Nearly 6000 military personnel were deployed throughout the The Operation London Bridge that started with Queen’s death. Almost 4,500 were from the army, 850 from the navy and 680 from the air force. Moreover, around 180 armed forces from the Commonwealth nations also joined.
More than 1500 military personnel followed the queen’s coffin after the funeral while further 1000 were lined up along the streets. More than 400 took part in the procession, 150 stood in guard of honor, and 130 fulfilled other ceremonial duties.
For crowd control, the barriers around Central London stretched for 22 miles to secure points of interest i.e., Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Houses of Parliament. Furthermore, at least 10,000 police officers were on duty every day since Queen’s death.
A Letter from the King
Queen’s successor King Charles III left a handwritten note on the coffin. It caught many eyes because it was hard to read. Many people on social media wondered what was written on the note. Later, it became clear that the King wrote “In loving and devoted memory. Charles R”. There were also debate about the meaning of R as Charles surname. It was confusing for many because the British Royals adopted Windsor as the surname in 1917 after giving up thier original surname, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, due to anti-German sentiments.
It made many argue about what did Charles meant by R. The letter R stands for Regina which means Queen. Elizabeth signed official documents as ‘Elizabeth R’ so it was Charles way of remembering his mother by using the same affix.
The Royal Funeral was a one of a kind event that the UK had never seen before in generations. Just like the funeral, the expense was also royal, which can be seen from all the arrangements. The British officials have not revealed the total cost but several reports have made estimates, which are far greater than 2012 London Olympics. The total expense is likely to be in millions which will be paid for by tax payers contributing in Treasury.
Experts opined that the cost will be fairly higher than previous state funerals like The Queen Mother in 2002, which took about 5.4 million GBP. Other experts claimed that only the security expense for Queen’s funeral was 7.5 million GBP. They predicted the total amount to be between 10 – 20 million GBP. Tourism can cushion some of that blow but critics opined that a family should be able to pay for a deceased member’s funeral on its own.