The Queen’s state funeral will remember the late monarch’s place in history, with the personal sorrow of a grieving family at its heart, the Dean of Westminster has said.
The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who will lead the ceremony, said the scale of the service on Monday was almost unprecedented, even for Westminster Abbey – the scene of so many royal milestones throughout history.
“It’s on a scale that even Westminster Abbey doesn’t often do,” he said, adding it would be a “wonderful mixture of great ceremony and some very profound but very ordinary words”.
Hundreds of people have been involved in the preparations inside the gothic church, working through the night as they put in 19 and 20-hour shifts to stage the historic ceremony.
Some 2,000 people will flock to the abbey, with presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens among 500 dignitaries travelling across the world to be there, as millions watch the events unfold on television.
The Dean said: “The business about it being a state funeral is really important. It’s meant to be visual. It’s meant to be grand.
“We’re supposed to be reminding ourselves of this extraordinary woman who so often took us down through the register, gave us herself, her character.”
He added: “Part of this is about remembering her significance, her place in history, her place in the nation and Commonwealth.
“But it’s a funeral. It’s for a grieving family. That’s really important, personal sorrow at the heart of this.”
He summed up the Queen’s funeral as a service of “grief, thanksgiving and hope”.
With the long-held London Bridge plans for the aftermath of the Queen’s death having finally come into play, the Dean admitted there had been “some challenging moments” and changes required.
“As you work it through, there come moments where you have to recognise no, that doesn’t work in the way we thought it would,” he said.
“There have been some challenging moments where we’ve had to adapt.
“There are some people who are working 19-hour days, 20-hour days at the moment, and one of the striking things is just how good they have been, when they’re very tired and been positive and making adaptions happen.”
The Dean revealed how the flowers destined to decorate the abbey were sent away after failing to get through the strict security checks.
“There was a wonderful moment when I had flower arrangers waiting in the abbey, and no flowers, because, quite properly, the police didn’t recognise what the van was and the flowers were sent back,” he said.
It was, he said, a “huge privilege” to be leading the service.
“There’s a sense of responsibility that goes with it and just now and again, there’s a sort of sense of panic, but this place is good at what we do so we’ll be fine,” the Dean said.
The Queen maintained a close connection with the abbey, which is a Royal Peculiar and subject only to the sovereign and not any archbishop or bishop.
The Dean said: “For an awful lot of my colleagues, this is really quite personal… We welcomed Her Late Majesty a number of times.
“So a lot of my colleagues know her, respect her, admire her, miss her now. So there’s something about doing something for her.”
He spoke of the Queen’s deep connection with the abbey, telling how it was where she made the “promises that defined her life” being both married and crowned in the ancient surroundings.
The Dean said: “I was really moved by the fact that she would talk about how important the abbey was to her.
“This is the place where she made promises that defined her life.
“This is the place where she married the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, this is the place of her coronation.”
The Queen’s is the first funeral of a reigning king or queen to be held in Westminster Abbey since George II’s in 1760.
The Dean was speaking in the abbey’s historic wooden panelled Jerusalem Chamber, where Henry IV died in 1413 and Henry V became king.
In 2011, her grandson, William, now the Prince of Wales, exchanged vows with Kate Middleton, now Princess of Wales, as millions watched across the globe.
The church was also a reminder of the loss of her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and former daughter-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Queen Mother’s funeral was held at the abbey in 2002, five years after Diana’s.
The gothic church – whose official title is the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster – has been the coronation church since 1066.
The Queen’s was the 38th.
It is also the final resting place of 17 monarchs, including Charles II and Elizabeth I.
Steeped in more than 1,000 years of history, Benedictine monks first went to the site in the middle of the 10th century.
The present church, started by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important gothic buildings in the country, with the medieval shrine of Anglo-Saxon saint Edward the Confessor still at its heart.