Usually, when large crowds came to see the Queen, she was greeted with flag waving and cheers.
But the final journey of Queen Elizabeth II was marked by quiet solemnity as mourners around the world united in grief for two minutes of silence during her state funeral.
In a tradition dating back to the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901, Royal Navy sailors towed the coffin, draped with the Royal Standard and carrying the crown, orb and sceptre, on the state gun carriage for its final journey from the Palace of Westminster to Westminster Abbey.
As millions of people from all walks of life gathered along London streets, after spending long hours in queues snaking through the city to Westminster Hall where the Queen had been lying in state since Wednesday, their silence was their way of showing overwhelming respect for the late monarch.
The estimated billions of people around the world who watched on television joined those on the streets of London and inside Westminster Abbey for the Queen’s funeral from 11am (8pm AEST on Monday) and for two minutes of silence when the funeral service ended. It was a fitting tribute to the late monarch before her final journey to Windsor for a committal service at St George’s Chapel, where she was interred alongside her beloved husband Prince Philip, who died last year at the age of 99, her father, King George VI, her mother Queen Elizabeth and sister Princess Margaret.
As the Herald’s Europe correspondent Rob Harris observed, the silence had been “the most remarkable thing” when people were passing by Queen Elizabeth’s coffin. “It was broken only by heavy sobs and muffled footsteps as they filed in their thousands through the hall,” he said. “There was none of the cheers or applause that had rippled along the course of the Queen’s final journey. It was a reverent, phoneless hush that you rarely see anywhere now. No faces staring at screens or posing with their friends for selfies.”
Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, the official in charge of arrangements, said the funeral and events leading up to it were intended to “unite people across the globe and resonate with people of all faiths, whilst fulfilling her majesty and her family’s wishes to pay a fitting tribute to an extraordinary reign”.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, known for his republican views, described meeting King Charles III as a “great honour” and said now was not the right time to raise the issue of Australia cutting ties with the monarchy.
However, with the funeral over, and Britain’s official period of mourning now behind us, it is inevitable that the question of the future of the monarchy, and more particularly, our relationship to it, will come under scrutiny. Indeed, for some people and sections of our society, this debate has already started. Over coming months, we will get some clarity on what sort of monarch King Charles will be and what “The Firm” will look like under his reign.
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