The Daily Telegraph
Intensely personal service will reflect Queen’s devotion to faith she loved
Westminster Abbey, the greatest church in the land, had a particular place in the monarch’s heart
In death, as in life, the late Queen has showed her deep devotion to the Anglican Church. Her funeral service at Westminster Abbey and her committal service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, reflect the classic Protestant services she attended every Sunday.
As well as being Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Queen was a regular congregant, who had learnt to love the best that has been sung and said in nearly half a millennium of Anglican services. The services are traditional – and beautiful. They are rooted in Thomas Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer, written only two years after the death of the Queen’s ancestor, Henry VIII, father of the Reformation.
Elsewhere, the service uses the King James Bible, published in 1611 under the auspices of another of the Queen’s ancestors, James I. So there is none of the ugliness of more modern versions of the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible. The services use those timehonoured phrases that echo down the generations and stir the heart.
The first lesson, read by Lady Scotland, Secretary-general of the Queen’s beloved Commonwealth, is the classic funeral lesson from Corinthians: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
In the second lesson, from John 14, Liz Truss, the Prime Minister, delivers one of the most memorable passages from the King James Bible: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you… Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The hymns, too, are traditional, their enchanting lines imprinted into the minds of all Anglican churchgoers. They include “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended” and “Love divine, all loves excelling”.
The short service is crammed with the greatest hits of the Anglican Church, including Psalm 23, “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want.” At the Committal, the familiar Psalm 121, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills”, will be sung by the choir.
For those brought up in the Anglican church, it will be deeply recognisable and moving – and provide pleasure, mingled with mourning, at those oh-so-familiar words.
The service will be over in an hour. As Lord Sentamu, the former Archbishop of York, said, the Queen
did not want a “long, boring” funeral service. Lord Sentamu added: “So you’re going to hear this wonderful English at its best – also you’re going to hear angelic voices of the choir of the Abbey plus the Chapels Royal; you really hear voices that are singing to the glory of God. The hearts and people’s cockles will be warmed.”
The Sentences at the beginning of the funeral are, like much of the service, identical to those at Prince Philip’s funeral last year: “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord” from John 11; “I know that my Redeemer liveth” from Job 19; “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” from 1 Timothy.
Just like at Prince Philip’s funeral, the service will close with Last Post, Reveille and the national anthem – though, this time, so heart-achingly, the congregation will sing “God save our gracious King” – not “gracious Queen” – as our Queen is laid to rest.
There is another nod to Prince Philip in the Committal service at St George’s Windsor. Just like at Prince Philip’s funeral, the choir will sing the Russian Kontakion of the Departed, a hymn in the Orthodox Church, the faith into which Prince Philip was born in Corfu in 1921. The music is a Kyiv Melody – a touching reference to the brave Ukrainians fighting for their homeland.
In a moving, personal touch at the committal service, the Motet by the poet and Dean of St Paul’s John Donne (1572-1631), was set to music by Sir William Henry Harris KCVO (1883-1973). The service sheet calls him “sometime Organist, St George’s Chapel”. But his greater claim to fame is that he taught the young Princess Elizabeth how to play the piano at Windsor. He provided music for the funeral of George V in 1936, and the coronations of George VI in 1937 and the Queen in 1953.
The teenage Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret also joined weekly choir war at practice Windsor. with The Harris young during princesses the gave honey to the choristers.
And in a modern touch, Master of the King’s Music, Judith Weir, has composed a new choral work, Like As The Hart. It is a setting of Psalm 42, v. 1-7, from the Book of Common Prayer: “Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks: so longeth my soul after thee, O God.”
Ms Weir said: “I had the pleasure of talking to the Queen on quite a few occasions about music. She was grateful for her own early musical education and frequently mentioned the advantages of starting music at an early age.
She often referred to the focus that musicians need – a quality which I know the Queen herself possessed in abundance.”
In 2014, Ms Weir was appointed to the 395-year old post of Master of the Queen’s Music, in succession to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016).
The music throughout both services is largely traditional and largely British, too. At Westminster Abbey, the music, presided over by James O’donnell, the gifted Organist and Master of the Choristers at the Abbey, varies from Orlando Gibbons, Organist of Westminster Abbey from 1623–25, to Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar. The service has been planned in every detail for decades by the Queen. But there are signs of some updating, with a work by Sir Peter and a new composition, specially written for this funeral service, by Sir James Macmillan (born 1959).
He has set Romans 8 – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” – to music. Sir James is much liked by Charles III – a hint that the new King might have had some input into the service?
There is one huge difference in the Queen’s funeral service from Prince Philip’s – the setting. While Prince Philip’s funeral took place (as the Queen’s Committal service will take place) in St George’s, Windsor, the Queen’s will be held in the country’s national church – Westminster Abbey.
Her coffin will be carried though the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, past the Coronation Chair, on which Charles III will be crowned at his own coronation.
The Coronation Chair was commissioned by Edward I to sit over the Stone of Scone, which will be brought from Edinburgh Castle to the Abbey for King Charles’s coronation.
The Queen’s coffin will be carried past the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, containing the coffin of an unknown victim of the First World War, brought to the Abbey from France and buried there on November 11, 1920. During the service, the coffin will rest at the heart of the Abbey, only yards away from her ancestors, including Henry V, Henry VII and the last Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth I.
The Abbey held a particular place in the Queen’s heart as the spot where she married Prince Philip in 1947 – and where she was crowned in 1953.
The Abbey is unusual, too, in that it is a Royal Peculiar – a Church of England church under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, free from the jurisdiction of the diocese. So the funeral is an intensely personal service in the Queen’s own church.
The Queen wanted the whole wider Royal family to play a full part in her funeral service.
And she has got her wish – for a deeply personal service in the most public, greatest church in the land.
‘You’re going to hear this wonderful English at its best. The hearts and people’s cockles will be warmed’