“In a redux of a bygone age, Buckingham Palace was at the apex of global power — if just for a day”was how one journalist with the Washington Post described the atmosphere in the United Kingdom on Monday, as the nation bid its final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II.
And so it was. The world watched England bid farewell to the Queen. The dignity and beauty, discipline and precision of the entire funeral as it played out through the day was breath-taking.
Hundreds of world leaders and dignitaries called on King Charles III ahead of the funeral of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on Monday. Top-level representatives from close to 200 countries and territories attended the funeral, including US President Biden and first lady Jill Biden, President Draupadi Murmu from India, heads of government and state from near and far, and a diverse cast of kings and queens from other nations. [Who came? See the list here!]
“This was history before us, solemn, spectacular and intense” says a BBC write-up of the proceedings..
“Heads of state, dignitaries and local community heroes, side by side on this once-in-a-lifetime guest list, suddenly stood up to attention together. The significance of the moment was almost audible.” [Read the BBC story here]
We were watching something that we’d remember all our lives. An era was ending, step by step, right before our eyes, here and now, as the soldiers carrying the coffin shuffled up the aisle.
Several television channels beamed the event live. Al Jazeera had non-stop live coverage and special programmes from about2:30 IST till well after 10 PM IST.
Around 1 million mourners descended upon to the central London, packing the streets in an attempt to watch the queen’s coffin progress on a gun carriage to Westminster Abbey, before later reaching its final resting spot at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.
Britain hasn’t hosted proceedings like this since the 1965 state funeral of Winston Churchill. The world hasn’t witnessed a commemoration of this scale likely since December 2013, when tens of thousands of people packed a stadium in Johannesburg to celebrate the life and legacy of anti-apartheid hero and former South African president Nelson Mandela.
The uniqueness of the moment was compounded by its timing. Many world leaders gathering in London have had to scramble originally planned travel to New York, where the annual high-level session of the U.N. General Assembly is about to get underway.
The throngs of VIPs were of course the source of many a headache for palace protocol staffers. The U.K. Foreign Office was on its toes fielding requests from the delegations of nearly 500 visiting foreign dignitaries.
To end this piece,we lead lead you, dear reader on to another: Today, the door swings shut on the Elizabethan era.