The Daily Telegraph

Homecoming for Her Majesty ... to Windsor and to God

Committal at St George’s Chapel articulate­d love: for country, for family, and all that makes life worth living

- Tim Stanley

David Dimbleby put it best: after the glory of Westminste­r Abbey, the committal at Windsor was “more modest” yet “more intense”. Leaving the crowds of London behind, the hearse processed down a quiet country lane – an occasional resident bowing their head – before embarking on the Long Walk to the castle. Among those waiting: staff, some in kitchen whites, marked by a black arm band. The corgis, Muick and Sandy. And the Queen’s pony, Emma, dark as night, her tail flicking impatientl­y.

Windsor was where Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh chose to spend lockdown (it is said they enjoyed daily walks together in the gardens). No one can forget seeing Her Majesty sit alone in St George’s Chapel for her husband’s funeral – a symbol of Britain’s Covid suffering. On this occasion, the chapel was packed with dignitarie­s and family – all generation­s, from Charles, now King, to Princess Charlotte, just seven years old and wearing a horseshoe brooch.

The committal was a homecoming. To Windsor and to God.

This is one of England’s holiest spots, burial site of kings, church of the Order of the Garter; it once hosted a splinter of Christ’s cross. Its slender pillars are like the trunks of ash trees. Beneath its canopy of silver lattice, the coffin was borne to the quire and rested at the catafalque, to a setting of Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills.” Then the choir sang the Russian kontakion of the departed – also performed at the Duke’s funeral, a nod to the family’s Orthodox heritage.

Absent a eulogy, it was the music that expressed Her Majesty’s character and conviction­s, including a motet arranged by Sir William Henry Harris who, it is believed, taught the young Princess Elizabeth to play the piano. As a child, she could often be found in the organ loft listening to him play for the services down below, especially at Christmas.

The words of John Donne crystallis­ed the message of the readings: “Bring us, O Lord God … into the house and gate of heaven,” where there shall be no darkness “but one equal light”, no noise “but one equal music” and one “equal eternity”. Put another way, Elizabeth II lived as a queen but, in death, she is a soul equal to any other, returned to God. In an age of atheism, when Christians are persecuted across the world, it’s remarkable that perhaps history’s largest ever TV audience was given over to a statement of unafraid Christian belief – and over the course of the committal, one cleric after another expressed the vision of their church with utter clarity.

There is the reality of mortality, as described by the Dean of Windsor in Psalm 103: “The days of man are but grass … as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.” There is the certainty of life after death, as stated in the prayers: “We rejoice at thy gracious promise to all thy servants, living and departed, that we shall rise again at the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” And there is the vision of triumph at the end of times, as the Dean quoted from Revelation: “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying.” This passage was read at the funerals of the Queen’s grandparen­ts and father, over an unbroken line of succession.

There was no qualificat­ion in any of these words, no Thought for the Day “some might say, others will feel differentl­y” – but instead pure hope rooted in unshakeabl­e faith. The Queen has died, but her story does not end. And that’s true for the monarchy.

We came, then, to a moment of departure and transition, never before seen by the public. First, the instrument­s of state received by Elizabeth at her coronation were taken off the coffin and passed to the Dean: the sceptre, representi­ng power and justice; the orb, representi­ng the empire of Christ; and the imperial crown. The Dean laid them at the altar, on three purple cushions. Next, the King placed a small, red and gold flag on the coffin – the Queen’s Company Camp Colour of the Grenadier Guards. The Lord Chamberlai­n broke his wand of office in two, symbolisin­g the end of his service to Her Majesty, and put that on the coffin.

Finally, the coffin was lowered into the ground as the Dean continued: “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul.” The Garter King of Arms proclaimed the late Queen’s titles; a bagpiper played a lament, slowly walking into the distance, until the figure and his tune became a ghost in the ash forest. Physically we were in England but spirituall­y we were in Balmoral.

And the congregati­on awoke from its reverie into a new era.

The Garter King of Arms proclaimed the new King’s titles: “Most High, Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch”. And the congregati­on sang our national hymn to what we might call the Caroline Age: “God Save the King!”

Later, of course, the family would say a very private farewell to Queen Elizabeth, and she would be laid next to her beloved husband. For the public, the emotional journey to this moment was intense.

The 10 days’ lying-in-state allowed us to participat­e in the late Queen’s farewell and, to be honest, make it a little bit about us. How British were the queues, we said, how democratic the whole thing.

But at the abbey and the chapel, we saw what this was really all about – the late Queen, her precious traditions, and the principles they pass on. Ultimately, the committal articulate­d love – for country, for family, for horses and dogs, all the things that make a life worth living.

‘At the abbey and chapel, we saw what this was all about – the late Queen and her precious traditions’

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 ?? ?? Lord Parker, the Lord Chamberlai­n, breaks his Wand of Office, marking the end of his service to the sovereign, right; the Imperial State Crown is removed from the coffin, top right; and the late Queen’s coffin is lowered into the royal vault, bottom right
Lord Parker, the Lord Chamberlai­n, breaks his Wand of Office, marking the end of his service to the sovereign, right; the Imperial State Crown is removed from the coffin, top right; and the late Queen’s coffin is lowered into the royal vault, bottom right
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