Another part of the funeral takes place at Windsor Castle, about 25 miles from Westminster Abby. NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to NPR’s Frank Langfitt, author Claudia Joseph and NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We have been watching and observing the funeral service for Queen Elizabeth II that just happened in Westminster Abbey. The coffin bearing Queen Elizabeth is now making its way across the city. Frank, this is part of the ceremony, this procession. We’re – just tell us who…
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Yeah…
MARTIN: …We’re seeing right now.
LANGFITT: …It’s also, I think, visually very effective. At the front of the procession is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They’re heading down what’s called the Mall. This is a giant boulevard that leads to Buckingham Palace. And on the sides are enormous Union Jack flags. They could be sails for sailboats. They’re that big. And so when you see this, it’s just a remarkably British image. And then behind them, you have the Royal Air Force. And, Claudia, maybe you can talk a little bit about where the casket has passed so far.
CLAUDIA JOSEPH: Well, it’s a 1.7-mile walk from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch, where we can hear the rhythm of the artillery guns being fired in Hyde Park every 60 seconds and the booming toll of big band. The…
MARTIN: We should just say, I see crowds of people.
MARTIN: I mean, the roadway itself is lined with members of the royal guard. But right behind them are thousands and thousands of people who have had to show up hours in advance to be able to catch even a glimpse of this historic procession.
JOSEPH: And there are even people sort of climbing trees and hanging from statues and anything they can to just catch a glimpse of the procession, which is – well, it’s Britain at its best, really. We’ve got the royal family behind the hearse – the coffin, sorry. The queen’s children and grandchildren and their cousins. And the coffin’s flanked by the king’s bodyguards of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen and Arms, the Yeomen of the Guard and the Royal Company of Archers, all of whom were part of the queen’s own guards. We’ve seen them head past Broad Sanctuary through Parliament Square and down Whitehall, past the Cenotaph, where the queen marked Remembrance Sunday and where – which was flanked by standard-bearers mustered by the Royal British Legion, which is obviously the old British soldiers who fought for Britain – very important. They then went through Horse Guards Arch.
MARTIN: We should say…
MARTIN: …This is the final day. This has been a long week for Great Britain.
LANGFITT: It has been.
MARTIN: We’re on the 10th day of official mourning.
LANGFITT: It is. And I think also in terms of spectacle, this is the top. I mean, this kind of a procession – the monarchy does this better than anybody else probably on the planet. And, you know, we see the guards, the royal guards on either side, some of them, of course, wearing those bearskin caps, those bearskin hats, that people, tourists who come to Buckingham Palace, you know, are so familiar with. So this is a lot of iconography or old British iconography, and this is – they’re trying to convey this, not just to the people of the United Kingdom but also the people around the world who are watching.
MARTIN: The Royal Navy pulling the gun carriage…
MARTIN: …Dates back to Queen Victoria, Claudia
MARTIN: This is a long, long-standing tradition.
JOSEPH: Well, yes. I mean, originally, the gun carriage belonged to the British army. But when the horses bolted during Queen Victoria’s reign, they transferred to the Royal Navy, who now pull the carriage. So it’s a very moving sight.
MARTIN: Frank, can you tell us the end of the route? What happens at the end of this procession?
LANGFITT: Well, what will happen is the gun carriage will swing around Buckingham Palace one last time, and then it will come up to the edge of Hyde Park and will be put into a hearse which will drive to Windsor Castle, outside of town, where she’ll be buried at St. George’s.
MARTIN: As we observe this procession, we’re going to turn now to NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley, who is at Windsor Castle, awaiting the arrival of the queen’s casket and of the procession. Eleanor, just tell me where exactly you are, what you’re seeing, what the feeling is.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Yeah. Hi, Rachel. So I’m at a place called the Long Walk, and this is the 2-1/2-mile avenue that sort of cuts through the Windsor estate, its vast forests. And there are – and it goes to the palace gates. And literally, thousands of people have been gathering here since last night, camping out, some of them coming at 5 in the morning, to be here when the queen’s gun carriage will actually arrive and make that 2-1/2-mile last voyage to Windsor Castle. And this will be the last time for the public to say goodbye, to see her. In the meantime, they’ve been watching the ceremony from London on giant screens. And they’ve just got a couple more hours to wait until they see her themselves with their own eyes. And many people said that was very important.
MARTIN: What else have people been sharing with you as they remark on this day, as they – I – no doubt they’re sharing their reflections with you?
BEARDSLEY: Absolutely. She’s just a queen who has just affected so many generations. No one can remember a time without her. And I’ve met soldiers wearing their medals with the queen’s picture on them, telling me how you don’t just swear allegiance to your country; you swear allegiance to your queen. So there’s a very deep-felt emotion for the queen with almost everyone you talk to, that she’s touched everyone’s lives.
MARTIN: Eleanor, can you explain the significance of Windsor? Why is the burial happening there?
BEARDSLEY: Right. Well, yes, she’s going to be buried here tonight in a very – much smaller ceremony with the family later this evening. But there’s going to be a ceremony at Windsor, at the St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. This thousand-year-old castle has now been home to 40 monarchs. This was said to be the queen’s favorite residence. You know, Windsor Castle was deeply significant in her life.
She spent her childhood here as a girl during the Blitz in World War II. She was evacuated from London with her sister, Margaret. She made her first radio address here at the age of 14 to encourage other London children who had to leave the city. You know, this is a place she came later, you know, during her long reign on weekends to be with family. And it was a place she could actually relax from her heavy schedule. She loved nature. And you have 5,000 acres of extensive forests and ancient trees here. She learned to ride horses here. And, you know, people say she rode horses here at Windsor well into her 90s, Rachel. So it was a very special place for her.
And she will now be laid to rest beside her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. They were married for 73 years. He died last year. And his casket has actually been kept in a royal vault waiting for this moment, where they will be laid to rest side by side this evening.
MARTIN: In what will be – as opposed to what we are seeing today, the public ceremony very crowded, so many people paying their respects, tonight will be a very private, intimate memorial ceremony, the burial…
MARTIN: …With the family.
BEARDSLEY: Yes, with her favorite…
MARTIN: NPR’s Eleanor…
BEARDSLEY: …Hymns and psalms.
MARTIN: Eleanor, thank you for your reporting. NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley with reflections from Windsor Castle. Thank you, Eleanor.
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