Parents of those who marched in the Queen’s funeral procession have described watching their children accompany the Queen’s coffin as a moment of “huge pride” and something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Kevin Stephens, 62, said seeing his daughter, Cerys, among the Household Cavalry playing Beethoven on the Long Walk up to Windsor Castle was “incredible”.
Ms Stephens, 22, has only been a member of the military band since April this year and had to “hit the ground running,” despite not yet being able to complete all of her training.
“The strength she has got from being able to do it – to see herself do it and doing it really well… It has just been incredible,” Mr Stephens, a management trainer from Midsomer Norton in Somerset, told the PA news agency.
“It’s going to give her a lot of confidence.
“She has been working really hard this last week to practice getting (it) absolutely perfect for the day.”
Mr Stephens and his wife Tracy, 59, watched their daughter at home in Somerset but called the day “bittersweet” and “a whirlwind” as thousands took to the Long Walk to catch a glimpse of the monarch’s coffin before its final descent into the Royal Vault.
They tried to spot Ms Stephens, who started playing clarinet in primary school and went on to study music at Cardiff University, on the television.
“We just couldn’t have dreamed of what’s happened – dream is the wrong word because obviously, today is a really sad occasion,” Mr Stephens said.
“But in terms of exposure and the pressure she’s playing under, my wife and I were just looking at the thousands of thousands of people lining the band.
“I just think about how nervous I would be (but) someone that young has just literally taken it in their stride. It’s great.”
Mr Stephens said his daughter was even among the first to play God Save The King as Charles addressed MPs and Lords in Westminster Hall on Monday, September 12.
“We have a family WhatsApp group and I sent a joking message about it, ‘How did it feel having the whole of the House of Commons and House of Lords singing your song?'” he said.
“When she thought back, she realised how big a thing that was.
“I think she’s still taking it in, I think she needs a big, deep breath.”
Mr Stephens also commented on how “fascinating” it has been to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes for the Queen’s funeral, including late-night rehearsals of three Beethoven pieces.
“The one that she told us that stuck with us the most was one during the night, she literally had to get up at one o’clock in the morning,” he explained.
“And they had to go through these streets, which were not even lit, to actually make sure they got their marching and the sequencing and the timing all right, they had to go at the exact pace that they were going to go on the actual day.
“It’s been challenging and interesting.
“Obviously it’s not happened in my lifetime either and seeing the brilliance with which it’s been organised and the way in which this country do pomp and ceremony has been quite unbelievably uplifting.”
He added he has not yet been able to catch his daughter, who was playing in front of thousands around 3pm.
“We are not actually sure where she is this very moment, but she’ll certainly be having a beer very shortly I would imagine.”
Jamie Dykes, 26, from Devon, was selected along with around 200 other Marines to attend Portsmouth for drills last week, his father Steve told PA.
Mr Dykes, 49, said he was was “sat anxiously” with his family watching the television to see his son taking part.
After a week of “very hard work” in preparation, the younger Mr Dykes marched today in front of the gun carriage carrying the queen’s coffin from Westminster to Wellington Arch.
“He felt immensely proud and I told him he will remember this for the rest of his life,” his father added.