OPINION - Queen’s funeral had magnificence that befitted the country’s longest-reigning monarch

·3-min read
 (PA)
(PA)

The Queen’s funeral in Westminster Abbey had the magnificence that befitted the country’s longest-reigning monarch, all the ceremonial that the tradition of this country can offer and the glory of the Abbey’s musical tradition.

There has rarely been in modern times, and will not be again in our lifetime, such an assembly of ecclesiatical dignataries, royalty, heads of state, and holders of the most ancient offices of  the Queen’s household.

But then there has not been in modern times a Queen like Elizabeth II. The muffled tolling of the bell beforehand, one stroke for each year  of the Queen’s life, was a sombre reminder of her sheer longevity: almost a century, of which 70 years were given to the service of the nation .

There were elements of modern Britain here, not least in the representatives of all the major religious faiths in the Abbey and the presence in the congregation  of members of the public, but this was a ceremony which evoked long traditions of church and state.

HM Queen Elizabeth II: Crowds gather for Queen’s State Funeral

Police officers take positions ahead of the Queen Elizabeth II funeral (AP)
Police officers take positions ahead of the Queen Elizabeth II funeral (AP)
Guests and officials begin to take their places prior to the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey (AP)
Guests and officials begin to take their places prior to the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey (AP)
The final members of the public pay their respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s orb and sceptre, lying in state on the catafalque in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster (AP)
The final members of the public pay their respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s orb and sceptre, lying in state on the catafalque in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster (AP)
People wait along the route that the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II will be pulled on a gun carriage following her funeral service in Westminster Abbey (AP)
People wait along the route that the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II will be pulled on a gun carriage following her funeral service in Westminster Abbey (AP)
People gather prior of the Queen Elizabeth II funeral (AP)
People gather prior of the Queen Elizabeth II funeral (AP)
Members of the public in The Mall, central London ahead of Queen Elizabeth II state funeral (PA)
Members of the public in The Mall, central London ahead of Queen Elizabeth II state funeral (PA)
Mourners ahead of the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II (Getty Images)
Mourners ahead of the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II (Getty Images)
People gather on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (REUTERS)
People gather on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (REUTERS)
Police officers stand guard on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (REUTERS)
Police officers stand guard on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (REUTERS)
A person sits on The Mall on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (REUTERS)
A person sits on The Mall on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (REUTERS)
Police officers are seen on The Mall, on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (REUTERS)
Police officers are seen on The Mall, on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (REUTERS)

At the heart of all the pomp, expressed by the sceptre, orb and crown on the coffin, was the pathos and dignity of a soul returning to its maker.

And, as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s homily sympathetically acknowledged,  there is also the  grief of a family that has lost a mother and grandmother.

The resonance of the liturgy and the beauty of the music,  the bagpiper’s lament, Sleep Dearie Sleep, and the playing of The Last Post, were for many people almost unbearably moving — expressive of the emotions of the congregation and the larger audience outside.

For with the Queen, almost the last of the war generation,  we are also paying farewell to an era.

A shared grief

The procession of the funeral to Hyde Park, with the coffin pulled by young sailors (a tradition that goes back to Victoria), was the opportunity for the huge numbers who congregated on central London to play their own part in the events of the day.

The numbers congregating on the capital — including those who queued for hours to pay their respects in Westminster Hall — have been extraordinary, and remarkable too in their patience and resilience.

That very British phenomenon, the queue, has had its finest moment. And in a culture that is fast moving and distracting, what was notable was the crowd’s quiet during the two minute’s silence, the hush during the passing of the coffin.

Those moments of stillness and reflection, shared by many of those watching the events at a distance, were testimony to a shared experience of respect and loss. For some of those watching, it was an opportunity to grieve for their own dead too.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The last 11 days of national mourning have seen a notable sense of unity and solidarity in the country, for many people who are not instinctively royalist share a respect for the Queen herself.

It has been an opportunity too for the Commonwealth to recover its sense of a shared history.

This sense of unity is something precious, a last legacy from the Queen. Of course we shall return all too quickly to the usual business of life and politics but it would be good if something of the civility that has characterised today, and the period of mourning, could last a little longer.

The funeral today is, was, our opportunity to express our gratitude for the Queen’s life of service and to pay tribute to the qualities she embodied, of stoicism, fortitude and cheerfulness in difficult times. We shall not forget her.

Requiescat in pace.