LONDON (AP) — Britain and the world said a final goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II at a state funeral Monday that drew presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers — and crowds who thronged the streets of London to honor a monarch whose 70-year reign defined an age.
In a country known for pomp and pageantry, the first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s was filled with spectacle: Ahead of the service, a bell tolled 96 times — once a minute for each year of Elizabeth’s life. Then, 142 Royal Navy sailors used ropes to draw the gun carriage carrying her flag-draped coffin to Westminster Abbey before pallbearers bore it inside the church, where around 2,000 people ranging from world leaders to health care workers gathered to mourn her.
The trappings of state and monarchy abounded: The coffin was draped with the Royal Standard and atop it sat the Imperial State Crown, sparkling with almost 3,000 diamonds, and the sovereign’s orb and scepter.
But the personal was also present: The coffin was followed into the church by generations of Elizabeth’s descendants, including King Charles III, heir to the throne Prince William and 9-year-old George, who is second in line. On a wreath atop the coffin, a handwritten note read, “In loving and devoted memory,” and was signed Charles R — for Rex, or king.
“Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth, and from the nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service, and in sure confidence to commit her to the mercy of God our maker and redeemer,” the dean of the medieval abbey, David Hoyle, told the mourners, as the funeral opened.
The service drew to a close with two minutes of silence observed across the United Kingdom, after which the attendees sang the national anthem, now titled “God Save the King.”
The day began early when the doors of Parliament’s 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed to mourners after hundreds of thousands had filed in front of her coffin.
Monday was declared a public holiday in honor of Elizabeth, who died Sept. 8 — and hundreds of thousands of people descended on central London to partake in the historic moment. They jammed the sidewalks to watch the coffin wend its way through the streets of the capital after the service. As the procession passed Buckingham Palace, the queen’s official residence in the city, staff stood outside, some bowing and curtseying.
Mark Elliott, a 53-year-old who traveled to London from the Lake District in northern England with his wife and two children to watch the procession, got up at 1:30 a.m. to stake out a good viewing location near the palace.
“I know we don’t know the queen, but she’s been our head of state for 70 years, you feel as though you know her, you feel as though she’s part of the family. It is kind of moving,” he said.
More people lined the route the hearse took from the capital to Windsor Castle, and many threw flowers at the convoy as it passed, some of which rested on top of the vehicle. Millions more people tuned into the funeral live on television, and crowds flocked to parks and public spaces across the U.K. to watch it on screens. Even the Google doodle turned a respectful black for the day.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in his sermon at the funeral that “few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen” for Elizabeth.
Later, during the committal ceremony in St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, the Imperial State Crown and the sovereign’s orb and scepter were removed from the coffin and placed on the altar — separating the queen from her crown for the last time. Her coffin was then lowered into the royal vault through an opening in the chapel’s floor.
She will later be laid to rest with her husband, Prince Philip, at a private family service.
U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, all of the living former British prime ministers as well as European royalty attended the the funeral.
In Japan, whose Emperor Naruhito also attended, several people sipped beer and watched the service at The Aldgate British pub in Tokyo’s fashionable Shibuya district.
“The queen had an especially long history in a country that boasts a long history, and so she deserves deep respect,” said dentist Tomotaka Hosokawa.
On the evening before the funeral, Charles issued a message of thanks to people in the U.K. and around the world, saying he and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, have been “moved beyond measure” by the large numbers of people who have turned out to pay their respects to the queen.
Jilly Fitzgerald, who was in Windsor, said there was a sense of community among the mourners as they prepared to wait hours to see procession carrying the queen’s coffin.
“It’s good to be with all the people who are all feeling the same. It’s like a big family because everyone feels that … the queen was part of their family,” she said.