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Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)


Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

Britain is bidding goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II with a majestic funeral steeped in tradition and a send-off reflective of the broad popularity she managed to retain during her remarkable seven-decade reign.

Thousands of people have flocked to Westminster Abbey and the streets along the 25-mile (40-kilometer) procession route from central London to Windsor, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sovereign's flag-draped coffin as it travels by hearse to her final resting place in St. George's Chapel, which is located within the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

Though the death of Queen Elizabeth, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, had been anticipated and meticulously planned for years – funeral arrangements, codenamed "Operation London Bridge," had long been a source of speculation – the magnitude of this moment of mourning and public outpouring of emotion has taken many by surprise. Even if you dislike the royal family, her death marks the end of an era, a shift in the national landscape.

At 96, the Queen had almost become a mythical symbol of stability in the face of constant change. Her 70-year reign was marked by war and pandemic, as well as uncertainty about Britain's role on the global stage. She came to power just as the sun was setting on the British Empire, and her death has reignited debate about the country's dark colonial past. It comes at a time of great political and economic upheaval, not just in the UK, but around the world.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

Presidents, prime ministers, princes, an emperor and empress, and other public figures sat side by side in pews at Westminster Abbey to pay their respects, demonstrating her global appeal and deft diplomacy. More than 200 foreign dignitaries, including US Vice President Joe Biden and Commonwealth leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were invited. Many people switched from limos to buses to attend the funeral, which was just one part of a plan that amounted to the single largest security operation seen by British authorities since World War II.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

The Queen was a patron of hundreds of charities, ranging from humanitarian organizations to women's rights and animal welfare. Representatives from those patronages, as well as emergency service workers and public servants, are among the 2,000 people in attendance.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

The funeral, which serves as both a state and religious service and marks the end of ten days of mourning, honors the Queen with the kind of pageantry that she used throughout her life to promote the royal family and "brand Britain."

The service is held in the same abbey nave where the Queen was crowned 69 years ago and where she married her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 75 years ago. As a sovereign who understood the soft power of spectacle, her coronation was broadcast live on television for the first time, bringing the splendor of the monarchy to millions around the world. On Monday, all eyes will be on her.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

Her appeal as a figurehead lay in her extreme sense of fairness as head of state of 15 Commonwealth countries, including the United Kingdom, and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

Admiration for the Queen has prevented a major reckoning with the crown's brutal legacy in former colonies, including its historic links with the slave trade, but this appears to be changing as some Commonwealth countries seek independence.

Antigua and Barbuda announced plans last week to hold a referendum on whether to become a republic, and Barbados became the first realm in nearly 30 years to depose the British monarch as head of state last November.

Many of the Queen's subjects felt they knew her — the woman whose image appears on coins and postage stamps and who, according to surveys, appears most frequently in people's dreams.

"She's more than a 21st-century monarch," Chris Rowe, 60, who was camped out on The Mall's grassy bank with his wife to watch the funeral procession, told CNN. He came to London to see "the continuity of the nation," he said, referring to the Queen as the "continuity of a hundreds-year-old tradition."

While there were no screens, mourners on The Mall could hear the funeral on the radio. People remained motionless, their gazes lowered.

Over the past four days, an almost familial sense of loss was palpable among mourners in a line that snaked for miles along the south bank of the River Thames from Westminster Hall, where the monarch's body lay in state. Thousands of people queued for up to 20 hours to pass by the Queen's coffin in traditional British fashion.

King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth's children, entered the cavernous chamber on Friday, heads bowed, joining guards to keep silent watch over the velvet catafalque bearing her coffin, adorned with the sovereign's jewel-encrusted crown, orb, and sceptre. A day later, dressed in military uniform, Prince William and Prince Harry held their own solemn vigil, standing alongside the six grandchildren of the queen.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

The King and other members of the royal family followed the coffin as it was transported from Westminster Hall to the abbey on Monday morning. It was carried on the same gun carriage that carried the Queen's father, King George VI, and Winston Churchill, the first of her 15 British prime ministers.

Small details, such as the flower wreath atop her coffin, revealed the Queen's personal taste. It was made from flowers and foliage cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace and other royal estates, and included pink and gold pelargoniums, garden roses, and dahlias, as well as myrtle cut from a plant grown from a sprig from the Queen's wedding bouquet.

The Tenor Bell at Westminster Abbey tolled once every minute for 96 minutes before the service, representing each year of the Queen's reign.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

The Queen's great-grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, led the procession behind her coffin as it moved inside. The Westminster Abbey Choir sang the Sentences in the Nave, which are lines of scripture set to music that have been used at every state funeral since the early 18th century.

It's the kind of traditional, classical music that the Queen promoted during her lifetime.

The hymns chosen are "The Day Thou Gavest, Lord" and "The Lord is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want," which were sung at her wedding to Prince Philip in 1947, and the anthem "O Taste and see how gracious the Lord is," written by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the Queen's coronation in 1953.

"Like as the hart," a choral piece composed by the master of the king's music, Judith Weir, was also specially commissioned for the occasion. It is a setting of Psalm 42 to music that is said to be inspired by the Queen's "unwavering Christian faith."

The service is being led by Rev. David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster. Liz Truss, the UK Prime Minister appointed by the Queen just two days before her death,the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivered a sermon, as did Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

The hour-long service will conclude with a two-minute silence, followed by the congregation singing "God Save the King." To conclude the proceedings, the Queen's piper, who woke her up every morning, will play a fitting lament, "Sleep dearie, sleep."

The day's events include a royal cavalcade flanked by braided uniformed guards, kilted bagpipers and drummers, and streets lined with soldiers saluting as the coffin passes. Minute guns will be fired in Hyde Park, and Big Ben will toll all the way to Wellington Arch, where the coffin will be lifted into a hearse and transported to Windsor.

Her coffin will be lowered into a royal vault in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on Monday afternoon, attended by members of the royal family and the Queen's household staff past and present. Later that evening, in a private burial, she will be reunited with her husband of 73 years, "her constant strength and guide," the Duke of Edinburgh. The couple will be buried together in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, an annex of St. George's Chapel that also houses the remains of the Queen's father, mother, the Queen Mother, and sister, Princess Margaret.

Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth with an outpouring of emotion (Photos)

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