UK lays Queen Elizabeth II to rest after state funeral

Thousands line the streets of London as the United Kingdom pays last respects to the late queen before her burial in Windsor.

Britain's King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla stand in front of the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II during her state funeral [Dominic Lipinski/pool/AFP]

Queen Elizabeth II has been laid to rest after a state funeral attended by world leaders and a final journey through the streets of London.

Monday’s funeral comes 11 days after the longest-serving monarch in British history died aged 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8.

Thousands of people lined the streets surrounding Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace to witness the passage of the queen’s casket from Westminster Hall to the church and eventually to Windsor Castle, where she was laid to rest alongside her late husband, Prince Philip and her father, King George VI.

Millions watched the funeral on television at home after a public holiday was declared to mark the passing of the queen.

The royal family.
The last time the United Kingdom held a state funeral was in 1965 for Prime Minister Winston Churchill [Dominic Lipinski/pool via Reuters]

The funeral pageantry

In the lead-up to the funeral, many people across the country camped out and queued for upwards of 13 hours to visit the queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall and pay their respects.

On Monday, Westminster Abbey’s tenor bell tolled 96 times at one-minute intervals – one for every year of her life – stopping before the service started at 10:00 GMT to mark the only monarch most Britons have ever known.

The oak coffin was covered with the Royal Standard flag, the queen’s colours, with the Imperial State Crown on top, placed on a gun carriage and pulled by naval personnel to Westminster Abbey, where Queen Elizabeth was married in 1947 and crowned queen in 1953.

Among 2,000 people in the congregation, there were about 500 world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, Emperor Naruhito of Japan and South African President Cyril Ramphosa.

“All the people of the United Kingdom: our hearts go out to you, and you were fortunate to have had her for 70 years; we all were. The world is better for her,” Biden said after signing a book of condolence.

President Joe Biden and the First Lady Jill Biden
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral [Gareth Fuller/Pool via Reuters]

The funeral, which lasted for under an hour, closed with the Last Post trumpet salute and the national anthem, God Save the King, welcoming the transition from one reign to the other.

“It was incredibly moving; I don’t think anyone couldn’t be touched by it,” said Al Jazeera’s Nick Clark, reporting from Westminster Abbey.

People bow their heads.
People observe a minute of silence on the day of the state funeral [Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters]

The royal vault

King Charles led mourners and 6,000 members of the armed forces who had marched the coffin to the royal hearse, alongside his three siblings, his heir, Prince William, and his younger son Prince Harry, from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch.

In the afternoon, people lined the route, throwing flowers, cheering and clapping as the hearse travelled the 32km (20 miles) from London to Windsor – from the city to the countryside that Queen Elizabeth had loved throughout her life.

“For the queen and her family, it [Windsor Castle] was where she spent much of World War II, during the blitz and the German bombs falling on London,” said Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Windsor.

“It was a big part of her life, a big part of the royal family’s life, and of course, the British monarchy’s history going back many, many centuries,” he said.

The hearse carrying the coffin.
The hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth along the long walk towards Windsor Castle [Paul Childs/Reuters]

During the ceremony, the crown, orb and sceptre – all symbols of the monarch’s power and sovereignty – were removed from the coffin and placed on the altar.

Once the royal items were removed, Lord Chamberlain Andrew Parker, the most senior official in the royal household, broke his “wand of office” to place it on the casket, signifying the end of his service to the queen.

The queen was lowered into the royal vault of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. A private family service followed later on Monday at the chapel in which the queen was interred next to her late husband.

People embrace during the funeral of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
People embrace during the funeral of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II [Mike Egerton/pool/AFP]

The start of a new era

The queen’s death has prompted reflection on the country she ruled over and the legacy of its past, its present state and what the future might hold for the United Kingdom under a new reign.

The funeral was “a huge resonant moment in history for British people to look back on and look forward to as well”, said Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Buckingham Palace.

“They now sing God Save the King,” said Baba. “People are getting used to this, getting used to the fact that this is the start of a new era.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies