The Queen’s funeral has begun with a service at Westminster Abbey this morning.
Some 2000 guests, including members of the Royal Family and world leaders, were in attendance as the Dean of Westminster led a service that celebrated Her Majesty’s life and 70 years on the throne.
It is the first state funeral since the death of Winston Churchill and expected to draw a TV audience of billions across the globe.
Delivering an initial bidding to guests, Dean David Hoyle told the congregation: “With gratitude we remember her unswerving commitment to a high calling over so many years as Queen and Head of the Commonwealth. With admiration we recall her life-long sense of duty and dedication to her people. With thanksgiving we praise God for her constant example of Christian faith and devotion.
“With affection we recall her love for her family and her commitment to the causes she held dear.”
Delivering the sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the Queen “was joyful, present to so many, touching a multitude of lives”. He invoked her address to the nation in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic as he brought his contribution to a close, saying, “we can all share the Queen’s hope which in life and death inspired her servant leadership. Service in life, hope in death.”
In a nod to the Queen’s reference to Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime classic ‘We’ll Meet Again’, the Archbishop concluded: “All who follow the Queen’s example, and inspiration of trust and faith in God, can with her say: ‘We will meet again.'”
The service, which was attended by over 500 foreign dignitaries, came to an end with the traditional bugle calls of the Last Post and the Reveille, before a rendition of the national anthem to honour King Charles III. A lament from the Queen’s piper, a feature of the service she specifically requested, brought the curtain down on proceedings.
Following the service’s end, the Queen’s coffin will now be drawn in a walking procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch, at London’s Hyde Park Corner.
With the route lined by military personnel, Big Ben will toll once every minute, while the procession moves through the streets. Gun salutes will also fire every minute from Hyde Park.
Once the procession draws to a close at 1PM, the coffin will be transferred to the new State Hearse for its final journey to Windsor Castle ahead of a committal service later today.