They came from far and wide to pay their respects to a woman who had come to the throne as a young mother at the age of twenty-five when her father, King George the Sixth, had died suddenly in his sleep at the age of fifty-six in 1952. George had become king in 1936 because his elder brother had abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, an American woman who had been married and divorced twice and was not considered suitable as a royal consort.
Elizabeth adored her father, and when it became clear that she would succeed to the throne, she found his support invaluable. The other man in her life was to be her husband, Prince Philip of Greece, who had endured an unstable childhood but had made Britain his adopted home and served with distinction in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.
Prince Philip & Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Imperial State Crown after Coronation. Photo Credit: © Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Like Wallis Simpson, some did not consider Prince Philip a suitable choice as a royal consort. He was an impecunious young man whose sisters had married German officers who fought against Britain during the war. However, the Prince’s service as a naval officer in this same war left his loyalty to Britain in no doubt, and he soon won over the doubters. The couple married at Westminster Abbey in 1947, and their union survived for seventy-three years until his death in 2021 at the age of ninety-nine.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip had four children, eight grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren. Their children, Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward, walked behind the coffin as the Queen was laid to rest. The funeral service was conducted at Westminster Abbey. The Queen’s body was then taken to Windsor Castle, where she was interred in the George the Sixth Memorial Chapel next to her husband, parents, and sister Princess Margaret.
The Queen had the longest reign of any British monarch and celebrated seventy years on the throne at her Platinum Jubilee in. the early summer of 2022. The only monarch to have a longer reign was Louis the Fourteenth of France. The so-called Sun King of France became monarch at the age of four in 1643 and reigned for over seventy-two years before his death. The previous longest reign of a British monarch had been that of Queen Victoria – 63 years.
Platinum Jubilee portrait for Queen Elizabeth II. Photo Credit: © British Royal Family.
During her long reign, the Queen travelled over a million miles around the world and entertained many important foreign leaders, hosting 114 state visits during her time as monarch. She met fourteen out of the fifteen American Presidents in power during her reign, the exception being Lyndon Johnson, who was more taken with Princess Margaret.
American President Joe Biden and his wife Jill were guests at the Westminster Abbey funeral service. Also present were the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who spoke warmly of his relationship with the Queen and her importance to Canada. A total of 500 heads of state from around the world attended the funeral, many from the Commonwealth, of which the late Queen was the head.
Coffin for Queen Elizabeth II on a gun carriage. Photo Credit: © Public Domain via Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.
As well as heads of state from overseas, the 2,000-strong congregation at the late Queen’s funeral included many people from Britain, including members of the royal family, the Spencer family of the late Princess of Wales, Diana, and the Middleton and Parker-Bowles families who had married into the royal family. Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan Markle travelled from the USA, where they live, to join the congregation for the service.
The funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth was broadcast live on television and became the most watched event in British television history, with the audience peaking at 37.5 million viewers. It was broadcast worldwide, and the day it took place was declared a holiday.
Many ordinary Britons, unable to go to the funeral itself, brought flowers to lay around Buckingham Palace. They will eventually be removed and composted to be used in the royal gardens. Some people waited in line to pay their respects to the late Queen when her coffin lay in state in Westminster Hall. This led to the formation of what became known simply as ‘the queue,’ which stretched from Westminster to Southwark along the side of the River Thames. Some waited twenty-four hours to see the coffin and pay final respects as it lay in Westminster Hall.
Queen Elizabeth II Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall. Photo Credit: © Katie Chan via Wikimedia Commons.
Waiting in line is part of the British psyche, and many people formed friendships and socialised with fellow waiters while the line slowly snaked forward, and they were able to enter Westminster Hall for a few silent minutes. On top of the coffin stood the Imperial State Crown, which is used in the coronation service as well as the Orb and Sceptre. They contain the world’s two largest diamonds, cut from the Cullinan diamond discovered in South Africa in 1905. The original diamond weighed 1.37 and was given to the royal family. After the funeral service and interment of the Queen’s coffin in Windsor Castle, the crown, orb, and sceptre were returned to the Tower of London, where they are on display.
Celebrities who waited in line to pay their respects included the former footballer David Beckham who queued for twelve hours to do so – despite being offered the opportunity to skip the queue. Another who waited in the queue was Aaron Hunter, Chair of the Association of Professional Tourist Guides, who waited in line for seven hours. Aaron also attended a memorial service for Her Majesty at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, concluding with the new words to the national anthem – God Save the King.
King Charles II at Palace of Westminster. Photo Credit: © House of Lords 2022 / Photography by Annabel Moeller via Wikimedia Commons.