Moments At The Queen's Funeral No One Will Forget

On September 8, 2022, at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II died. Britain's longest-serving monarch, she had been on the throne for 70 years, having taken over after her father King George VI's death in 1952, when she was just 25. Her long and storied reign all but required an equally significant funeral and period of mourning — something fitting of the world's most beloved monarch. Plans for the days and weeks following Queen Elizabeth's death had been in place for years. Referred to as Operation London Bridge, they included everything from the timeline for posting the official notice of her death, to the declaration of the new king, to the details of her state funeral and committal service. In all, the country spent 10 days in mourning for their sovereign, from September 9 to September 19.

For much of that time, Queen Elizabeth's coffin was visible to the public, both as it was driven through Scotland, where she died, and through London, where she lay in state at Westminster Hall for five days. During this period, thousands of mourners waited, sometimes for as long as 24 hours, to pay their respects. Finally, on September 19, 2022, she was laid to rest in a series of services at Westminster Abbey (where she was both married and coronated) and at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle (near her final resting spot).

What follows are some of the most significant and memorable events from these services, moments that are sure to be seared into the public's memory for years to come.

Queen Elizabeth leaving Westminster Hall

At 6:30 am on September 19, Queen Elizabeth's time lying in state ended. As her coffin was being prepared for her funeral, another British landmark, Big Ben, rang its bells once a minute for 96 minutes, marking all 96 years of the monarch's life. Once that tribute was over, the queen's coffin was loaded onto the Royal Navy state funeral gun carriage and pulled through the streets to Westminster Abbey where her state funeral was held.

The use of the state funeral gun carriage was just the first in a slew of traditions throughout the day. First used in 1901 to pull Queen Victoria's coffin through the streets of London, the carriage has also been used to transport King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI, Winston Churchill, and Lord Mountbatten. Rather than being dragged by horses, the open wagon is pulled by dozens of members of the Sovereign Guard, who, generally speaking, are less easily spooked by crowds and therefore less likely to accidentally topple the coffin.

The procession was visually stunning. The queen's coffin, which was covered in the vibrantly colored Royal Standard (a flag that represents the sovereignty of the monarch and can only be used by the reigning royal), was surrounded not only by the members of the Royal Navy that were pulling the cart but also by members of several other branches of the military and royal guards.

Prince George and Princess Charlotte joining the funeral procession

As Queen Elizabeth's coffin neared Westminster Abbey, members of the royal family joined in the procession, walking just behind the gun carriage. As expected, King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla led the charge. Behind them were William, Prince of Wales, and Catherine, Princess of Wales. The couple, who are now first in line to the throne, brought a pair of surprise guests: their eldest son, Prince George, who is now second in line to the throne, and their daughter, Princess Charlotte, now third in line.

Given the children's ages (George is 9 and Charlotte is 7), they weren't expected to be present for the day's events. As The Guardian reports, grandchildren and great-grandchildren usually don't have "a formal role" in a monarch's funeral. But due to the queen's unusually long reign and the monarchy's desire to project an air of stability, it's not shocking that the family chose to break this particular tradition.

What is shocking, however, is that Prince William would be open to the idea of including his children in such a highly emotional, public event. In a 2017 BBC documentary, the future king said that walking behind his mother's coffin back in 1997 "was one of the hardest things I've ever done ... It felt like she [Diana] was walking along beside us to get us through it." (via Marie Claire). Perhaps the circumstances surrounding this funeral, compared to those surrounding Diana's funeral 25 years ago, made all the difference in the Prince and Princess of Wales' decision.

World leaders gathering to pay their respects

CNBC reported that 2,000 guests were invited to Queen Elizabeth's state funeral at Westminster Abbey. Among those who made the cut were an estimated 500 world leaders. While the palace never disclosed an official list of invitees, here's a brief list of those who we know attended: President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau (Canada), Liz Truss (U.K.), Anthony Albanese (Australia), and Jacinda Arden (New Zealand), and the heads of other commonwealth countries like the President of Kenya, William Ruto, and the President of India, Droupadi Murmu. Additionally, the Emperor of Japan made the guest list as did members of the royal families of Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Belgium.

Notably absent were representatives from Russia, Belarus, Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela, and Afghanistan. According to the palace, these leaders were not invited to attend the funeral for various diplomatic reasons.

No other world leader in recent history has had such a turnout of figureheads for a major event, be it a funeral, wedding, or state dinner. The fact that so many of them dropped everything to attend the queen's funeral speaks to the impact of her reign as well as the many relationships, both personal and diplomatic, she was able to foster while on the throne. What a legacy to leave behind!

The Last Post sounding and the observation of a two-minute silence

As Queen Elizabeth's state funeral drew to a close, trumpeters from the Queen's Household Cavalry played the Last Post. The short military fanfare dates back to the late 1700s and has a distinctly mournful quality about it. Typically, the tune is played on a bugle at significant funerals (like those of fallen soldiers or political leaders) and on Remembrance Day. In this context, iNews reported that it signified the fact that Queen Elizabeth's duties (in regards to both the military and her subjects) were officially done and she could now rest in peace.

Following the song, the entire country observed a two-minute silence in memory of the monarch. More typically, we're used to observing a single minute of silence; however, the extended two-minute meditation isn't completely unprecedented. In the U.K., two minutes of silence are observed, nationwide, every Remembrance Day (the holiday that honors soldiers who have died in the line of duty). It is thought that Buckingham Palace settled on two minutes instead of one as a tribute to the queen's exceptionally long reign. Whatever the reason, it was certainly memorable to see an entire country stop what they were doing the honor the life of an individual who had dedicated hers to them.

The singing of God Save the King

To close Queen Elizabeth's state funeral, congregants sang the national anthem, "God Save the King." According to the royal family's website, the words and tune of the anthem are anonymous and likely date back to the 17th century. That being said, the anthem has been performed slightly differently for the last 70 years, with residents proclaiming their loyalty to a queen rather than a king.

This performance, then, marked the first time in nearly a century that the crown's subjects had used the masculine title in the anthem. Hearing the change seemed to have a profound effect on King Charles. According to Us Weekly, the monarch openly grew teary-eyed as attendees sang. Whether it was because he was mourning his personal loss or because the enormity of his new role was finally sinking in, we can't be sure. But it was a very humanizing moment for the leader, who, up to that point, had portrayed the stereotypical stiff upper British lip when appearing in public.

Prior to that moment, the only other time that King Charles had hinted at his emotional state was in his ascension speech when he said, "I know how deeply you, the entire nation — and I think I may say the whole world — sympathize with me in the irreparable loss we have all suffered" (via Us Weekly).

The placement of the wreath on Queen Elizabeth's coffin

As Queen Elizabeth's coffin departed Westminster Abbey for St. George's Chapel, attention turned to the wreath that sat atop her coffin. According to ABC News, it was King Charles who picked the flowers that were incorporated in the wreath, and many of the included varieties had particular significance for both the queen and her family. Buckingham Palace released a statement, detailing the reasons behind the thoughtful selection.

"The wreath ... contains flowers and foliage cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Highgrove House. This includes foliage chosen for its symbolism: Rosemary for remembrance; Myrtle, the ancient symbol of a happy marriage, and cut from a plant that was grown from a sprig of myrtle in Her Late Majesty's wedding bouquet in 1947; And English oak, which symbolizes the strength of love." Additional blooms included roses and dahlias, among others, all chosen in colors that would be complementary to the Royal Standard.

Topping off the wreath was a handwritten note from King Charles that read, "In loving and devoted memory. Charles R." The R, an official part of the King's new signature, stands for the Latin word Rex which translates to King.

The subtle tributes paid by family members

The wreath that sat atop Queen Elizabeth's coffin wasn't the only personal tribute the family made to the monarch. The press reported that several female members of the family chose to wear significant pieces of jewelry that the queen had either gifted or loaned to them over the course of their relationship.

For example, Harper's Bazaar reported that Camilla, the new Queen Consort, wore a diamond brooch that Queen Elizabeth had given her when she married King Charles back in 2005. The brooch had originally belonged to Queen Victoria and had been a gift to that monarch to mark her diamond jubilee in 1897. Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, followed suit, wearing a pearl set (earrings, a four-strand necklace with a diamond clasp, and a bracelet) that had been loaned to her by the queen and that she had formerly worn to Prince Philip's funeral in 2021.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, went in a more subtle direction. She wore a pair of diamond and pearl earrings Queen Elizabeth gifted her before her first solo outing with the monarch back in 2018. Her niece, Princess Charlotte, also chose a more simple accessory, pinning a diamond-encrusted horseshoe brooch her great-grandmother had gifted her to the lapel of her black coat. The pendant undoubtedly alluded to the couple's shared love of horses and racing, a hobby they reportedly had in common.

The queen arriving at her final resting place

Nearly three hours after her state funeral ended, Queen Elizabeth II's coffin arrived at Windsor Castle, which is her final resting place. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the 20-mile route, hoping to catch a glimpse of the specially designed hearse that carried the monarch and to witness a piece of history firsthand. But before she was interred in the King George VI Chapel, there was a committal service in St. George's Chapel to be had.

This second service was significantly smaller than the first one, with only 800 guests, primarily friends, family, and closer political allies, in attendance. It was the last public farewell to the queen and an even more ceremonial event than the morning's state funeral. It was here that many of the traditions, like the requisition of the sovereign objects (more on that to come), took place.

According to People, Queen Elizabeth's committal service was the first such service to be witnessed by the general public (while all previous monarchs have had committal services, they have been closed door or come before the existence of news cameras). The Dean of Windsor began the ceremony, praising the queen's "life of unstinting service" and her steady demeanor. "In the midst of our rapidly changing and frequently troubled world, her calm and dignified presence has given us confidence to face the future, as she did, with courage and with hope," he said, according to the BBC.

The Queen's four-legged friends say farewell

Queen Elizabeth was a notorious animal lover, so it should come as no shock to royal watchers that some of her pets were included in her funeral.

Two of the queen's beloved corgis, Muick and Sandy, gifts from her son Prince Andrew, awaited her coffin in Windsor Castle's courtyard. Over the course of her adult life, the queen owned around 30 corgis. All of the corgis she bred were descendants of a pup named Susan, a dog that was given to her by her parents on her 18th birthday. In 2015, the monarch announced that she'd no longer be breeding new corgis, as she didn't want to leave any behind when she died, but she apparently had a change of heart after Prince Philip's death in 2021. Muick and Sandy are byproducts of this change of heart and are now destined to live with the Duke and Duchess of York.

Also stationed along the parade route was the queen's favorite horse, a Fell pony named Carltonlima Emma. According to The Guardian, the monarch rode Emma well into her 90s and regularly visited her even after she was unable to ride. There's no official word as to what will happen to Emma now that the queen has died, but it seems highly likely she'll simply continue to reside in the royal stables until the end of her own life.

The removal of the sovereign objects

Near the end of Queen Elizabeth's committal service, the sovereign objects — the Imperial State Crown, the orb, and the scepter — were removed from her possession for a final time. The trio of objects had rested on top of the queen's coffin since she had been lying in state and made the journey alongside her from Westminster Hall to Windsor Castle.

Each of the sovereign objects is historically significant. To begin with, all three were given to the queen at her coronation ceremony in 1953. But the orb and scepter are even older, having been made in 1661 and used in every coronation since that of Charles II, some 360 years ago. Additionally, the Imperial State Crown was made for the queen's father, King George VI, to use during his 1937 coronation. According to Historic Royal Palaces, the crown contains 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies, making it one of the most priceless pieces of jewelry on earth.

The removal of these objects, which was done by the royal jeweler, marked the official end of the queen's reign. They will now remain on the high altar in St. George's Chapel before being moved to the Tower of London, where they will be kept under lock and key until King Charles' coronation.

The lowering of the queen's coffin

Queen Elizabeth's committal service ended with a slew of other symbolic traditions. To begin with, King Charles laid the Queen's Company Camp Colour of the Grenadier Guards, a regimental flag that is specific to Queen Elizabeth II, on top of her coffin. The Grenadier Guards, recognizable by their red coats, black bearskin hats, and use of the flag in question, will now be rechristened as the King's guard and will receive a new flag that is unique to King Charles.

Next, the Lord Chamberlin, the most senior officer appointed by the royal household, broke his wand of office and placed the pieces on top of the monarch's coffin. The move illustrated that his service to the queen, as a sovereign, had ended. His role in the palace, however, has not. One of his primary jobs, facilitating a smooth transition of power from Queen Elizabeth to King Charles, is only just beginning.

Finally, Queen Elizabeth's titles were read, out loud, for a final time. Then her coffin was lowered into the royal vault as her personal piper played a lament. For most of her reign, this piper (and his predecessors) woke the queen up every morning, playing bagpipes outside her window for 15 minutes at a time. At Queen Elizabeth's request, he now played her to sleep one final time. As the notes of "A Salute to the Royal Fendersmith" rang out, the piper wandered away from the primary chapel, allowing the music to fade as the queen's coffin disappeared from public view.

The family's final farewell

While the ceremony at St. George's Chapel was technically the end of the public portion of Queen Elizabeth's funeral services, it wasn't the end of the road for the monarch. On the evening of September 19, she was buried at the King George VI Memorial Chapel in a family-only service.

No media was allowed at the event, but Buckingham Palace did confirm via social media that it was set to happen. They wrote on Twitter, "This evening a Private Burial will take place in The King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor. The Queen will be Laid to Rest with her late husband The Duke of Edinburgh, alongside her father King George VI, mother Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and sister Princess Margaret." Being buried beside her husband, to whom she had been married for nearly 74 years, was reportedly of the utmost importance to her majesty, though no other details about the service have been released.

After the burial was over, the palace released a never-before-seen picture of the queen on Instagram, captioning it, "'May flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest.' In loving memory of Her Majesty The Queen. 1926-2022." The chapel where Elizabeth is interred is open to the public, and people who wish to pay their respects will be able to do so at any point in the future.