19 April 2024

Nation says ‘thank you and goodbye’ as Queen laid to rest after 70-year reign

The UK has said “thank you” and “goodbye” to its Queen as she was laid to rest after a 70-year reign that helped define the nation.

The royal family has been left bereft by the death of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, and at times their grief was palpable with King Charles III looking emotional and close to tears at the state funeral.

The Countess of Wessex was also seen weeping during the long day as was the Duchess of Sussex, who returned with the Duke of Sussex to the royal family to share their grief.

But Charles and his family have been consoled by the support and love they have received from the public, including the tens of thousands who turned out to watch the late monarch’s funeral procession make its slow journey through the capital and on to Windsor Castle for the committal service.

The state hearse arrived strewn with flowers and with the cheers and applause of mourners ringing in the air, and waiting were three companions who knew the Queen well but would never speak of their friendship.

Muick and Sandy, corgis that were gifts from her son the Duke of York, were taken to watch the procession on its way to St George’s Chapel for the committal, and nearby her fell pony Emma was walked from the royal mews to see its owner pass.

The Queen was finally laid to rest with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at St George’s during a private evening burial service attended just by close family.

The day was filled with personal touches, with the wreath adorning her coffin featuring a handwritten note from the King, saying: “In loving and devoted memory. Charles R.”

Charles had requested the floral tribute which replaced a wreath of Balmoral flowers with foliage and blooms cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Highgrove.

The simple committal service at St George’s Chapel contrasted with the earlier state funeral, with the Queen’s close staff represented, including her senior dresser and personal adviser Angela Kelly, alongside individuals such as Earl Spencer, the brother of Diana, Princess of Wales.

It was heavy with symbolism with the Camp Colour from the military unit personally commanded by the Queen – Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards – placed on her coffin by the King.

Baron Parker – the Lord Chamberlain and a former MI5 chief, and the most senior official in her royal household – “broke” his wand of office by dismantling it into two halves and laying them on her coffin.

As the committal service drew to a close the sovereign’s piper, Pipe Major Paul Burns played a lament and walked away from the congregation, his tune fading into the chapel air.

Earlier in the day, the state funeral at Westminster Abbey was attended by dignitaries including hundreds of heads of state, and with London full with mourners the event called for the largest policing operation undertaken by the Metropolitan Police.

Among the 2,000-strong congregation at the abbey were foreign royalty, leading figures from UK life and world leaders including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, New Zealand Prime Minister and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

During his sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury told the congregation the outpouring of emotion for the Queen “arises from her abundant life and loving service, now gone from us”.

Justin Welby described the Queen as having touched “a multitude of lives” and being a “joyful” figure for many.

He told mourners: “People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer.

“But in all cases those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are forgotten.

“The grief of this day – felt not only by the late Queen’s family but all round the nation, Commonwealth and world – arises from her abundant life and loving service, now gone from us.

“She was joyful, present to so many, touching a multitude of lives.”

Mr Welby, standing in the church where kings and queens have been crowned since 1066, also said that the Queen had declared on her 21st birthday “that her whole life would be dedicated to serving the nation and Commonwealth”.

He added: “Rarely has such a promise been so well kept. Few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen.”