Buckingham Palace has released new details about the elaborate proceedings planned for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, who thought carefully about how the world would see her off.
The 11 a.m. service at London’s Westminster Abbey, where Elizabeth was married and crowned, aims to pay tribute to her “remarkable reign and lifetime of service as Head of State, Nation and Commonwealth,” Buckingham Palace said in a news release Sunday. The Very Rev. David Hoyle, dean of Westminster, will lead the state funeral, with the sermon given by the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. and Right Hon. Justin Welby.
Readings will be given by Patricia Scotland, the secretary general of the Commonwealth, and British Prime Minister Liz Truss. Music will include a specially commissioned piece, along with an anthem composed for Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation.
The queen would have been closely involved in planning the service, said Ian Markham, dean and president of the Virginia Theological Seminary.
“She took a real interest in this service,” said Markham, an Episcopal priest. “She is a very devout Christian. She saw her service as her vocation, and she did so as a person who really believes there is a God and wants to be faithful to that.”
Markham, who studied religion in England, called the queen’s service “resurrection-focused.”
“There’s a lot of talk about the life to come, and that would be who she was: She was a person who had a deep faith and a very settled faith, and therefore was confident that this is just a season and it’s part of a longer journey into the life of God. That’s what I take away from the service.”
John Sentamu, a retired Anglican bishop who was involved in the royal funeral planning during his time as archbishop of York, told the BBC that the queen didn’t want her funeral to be “boring.” He called it “English at its best.”
“The queen does not and did not want what you call long, boring services.”
Before the funeral, the Westminster Abbey tenor bell will toll once a minute for 96 minutes, with each toll representing a year of Elizabeth’s life. Representatives from Jewish, Bahai, Jain, Buddhist, Muslim and other faith communities will enter in a procession, along with those from the Churches of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. Also present: the subdean of the chapel royal and the dean of Windsor.
Markham called the inclusion of other faiths significant and noted that King Charles III has stressed that the monarchy cannot be solely Anglican. Including other religions, Markham said, is “recognizing a changing Britain.”
Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7, will participate in their great-grandmother’s procession with their father and mother, Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, the palace said. Their brother, Louis, 4, is not listed on the funerary program.
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will also be in the procession behind Charles, despite stepping down as senior members of the royal family in 2020.
As the queen’s coffin is carried into the abbey, the choir of Westminster Abbey will sing the Sentences — lines of Scripture set to music that have been used at every British state funeral since the 18th century. The Choir of the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, will join in singing the final two Sentences.
Hoyle will recall Elizabeth’s “unswerving commitment to a high calling over so many years as queen and head of the commonwealth,” according to the plan, referred to as an “order of services.”
“With admiration we recall her lifelong sense of duty and dedication to her people,” he will say. “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.”
The choir will sing a specially commissioned piece called “Like as the Hart,” composed by Master of the King’s Music Judith Weir. The piece was inspired by the queen’s “unwavering Christian faith,” according to the funeral plans, and is a setting of Psalm 42 to music.
Queen had ‘immensely detailed knowledge’ of music, says royal composer
After the reading from Truss will come the hymn “The Lord’s my shepherd,” which was sung during the 1947 wedding of then-Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten. Other musical selections include the anthem “My soul, there is a country,” which the palace described as “an anthem of great hope.” Markham said the queen would have been the one to choose it.
Later in the afternoon, during a committal service in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, near London, some of the music that will be played was composed by Sir William Henry Harris, an organist at the chapel throughout her childhood who is thought to have taught the young princess to play piano, according to Buckingham Palace officials.
The state funeral choir will also sing “O Taste and See How Gracious the Lord Is,” a composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the queen’s coronation in 1953.
“You’re going to hear angelic voices of the choir,” Sentamu told the BBC.
Toward the end of the funeral, the last post will play. The short bugle call is similar to taps as played in the United States. It will be followed by two minutes of silence across the United Kingdom. Later, the congregation will sing the national anthem, “God Save the King.”
It symbolizes the passing of one monarch and the arrival of the next, Markham said.
“There’s the mantra the monarchy never dies,” he said. “A monarch dies. The monarchy never dies.”
During the 4 p.m. committal ceremony, the crown jeweler — in silence — will remove the symbols of the monarchy from the queen’s coffin. The orb, scepter and crown — made for the queen’s father, King George VI, and modified for her, with more than 3,000 precious stones, will be placed upon the altar.
The head of the queen’s household will break his “wand of office” and place it on the coffin, before it descends into the royal vault.