The Daily Telegraph
Small moments that added up to a day of emotion and majesty
As with all great state occasions, a day of grand historic sweep was composed of little moments. Much will be written about the ceremonial majesty, the inch-perfect choreography and the constitutional significance of yesterday’s events, but Elizabeth II was also a monarch who understood the power of the small, humanising touch. How appropriate, then, that her funeral was replete with them.
It was the grandest of settings. Westminster Abbey is a dazzling repository of the nation’s past – scene of coronations and weddings, part sculpture gallery, part royal mausoleum, as well as a living, working place of worship. Here the first Elizabeth was laid to rest; here, William Blake witnessed visions of heaven and Samuel Pepys ogled women in the congregation. In short, this has always been a place where the majestic and the mundane overlap.
As the nave rang out with the angelic chords of the Westminster choir, the Countess of Wessex scrambled in her handbag to find a tissue for her husband. A piece of paper floated from the Archbishop of York’s hand as he rearranged his glasses. Shopping list or state prayers? We will never know.
The King shares his mother’s keen eye for thoughtful detail, arranging for the coffin wreath to include, alongside flowers from royal residences, a myrtle sprig taken from a plant grown from a cutting from the Queen’s 1947 wedding bouquet.
Other moments proved no less touching, as when the crowd spontaneously rose up for the procession from the West Door or the extraordinarily charged two-minutes’ silence nationwide. There was the Queen’s first cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, almost 80 yet still marching in the cortege like a trooper, and the Canadian Mounties on horseback – their presence at the front of the procession symbolising the Commonwealth far more powerfully than any suited head of state waiting in line could have achieved. Or the simplicity of the lone bagpiper at Windsor, walking off into the distance as his final lament faded out of earshot.
It was a day when egos were necessarily put down, and world leaders happily discarded the trappings of state to pack into a bus. Joe Biden turned up in his stretch limo, then was promptly seated in an aisle seat 14 rows back behind Commonwealth leaders.
As the solemn procession moved through the heart of London, Big Ben tolled mournfully in the distance. The Queen’s coffin journeyed past the statues of King George VI and the Queen Mother; a reminder of just how much we owe to that loyal family from Bruton Street who never expected the monarchy to fall to them in the first place.
The next stage led us to the Queen’s final resting place – the perpendicular splendour of St George’s chapel, Windsor. But on its way the convoy passed more mundane things; a Toby Carvery, the Queen’s fell pony Emma and two of her corgis, Sandy and Muick, bidding farewell to their mistress on her final journey.
At the centre of all this was a small coffin, which for all its stateliness, appeared tiny when viewed from the soaring arches above. Death is the great leveller, and there could be no better reminder of the Queen’s own poignant words: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love. And then we return home.” Rest in peace, your Majesty.