Queen Elizabeth II funeral live updates: World watches Britain lay its longest-reigning monarch to rest

Queen Elizabeth II funeral live updates: World watches Britain lay its longest-reigning monarch to rest

Published September 19, 2022
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LONDON — An elaborate state funeral is Britain’s final tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, featuring a service at Westminster Abbey, where her coronation took place almost 70 years ago and a procession led by King Charles III through the crowd-lined streets of central London. Almost 2,000 guests are attending — among them more than 90 world leaders, representatives from dozens of royal families and members of the House of Windsor, including the queen’s great grandchildren George and Charlotte.

It is a national holiday in the United Kingdom, and tens of thousands of people have camped out overnight for the event. Millions more will watch from around the globe. Britain’s last state funeral was held in 1965 for wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Thousands in London have camped out overnight or arrived in the wee hours to watch the funeral proceedings up close. The streets around central London are almost eerily quiet, save for the police officers and security. Barricades are everywhere.

“I’m here to pay my respects to the queen,” said Jess Fox, 24, from York, who was standing under Big Ben with a clear view of Westminster Abbey. She came on her own, setting off for London at 4:45 a.m.

Scanning the crowds, she said, “there are camping chairs and snacks and playing cards and chess sets and bikes. And I can see babies, people dressed in uniforms, comfy clothes, police officers. They are old and young. It shows the breadth of the queen’s impact.”

Buckingham Palace released a previously unseen portrait of Queen Elizabeth II — photographed to mark the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne — ahead of her state funeral on Monday.

The image, captured at Windsor Castle by photographer Ranald Mackechnie for the queen’s Platinum Jubilee, shows her smiling widely in a baby-blue dress. She is wearing a signature pearl necklace and earrings, as well as a brooch made up of two aquamarine clips given to her by her father, King George VI, on her 18th birthday.

NAIROBI — When the children of Kenya’s most famous freedom fighter learned about the death of Queen Elizabeth II, they mourned for England and for the queen’s family. The death of a parent is never easy, the Kimathi children know. “It is a lot for their country,” said Elizabeth Kimathi, 66. “We feel sorry for them and for the royal family.”

But the Kimathis were reflecting on a darker part of the queen’s legacy. They were thinking about how shortly after Elizabeth Windsor ascended to the throne, the British fought a year-long war to crush the rebellion led in part by their father, Dedan Kimathi — a man then branded a terrorist and now seen as a hero in Kenya. They were thinking about how thousands of fighters were killed and more than 100,000 civilians were forced into detention camps.

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The big bubble letters in blue crayon seemed to sum up much of the country’s mood: “Miss you,” a child had written on a small notecard, next to a drawing of something that looked a lot like a corgi. It lay between purple tulips and red carnations outside of the gates of Buckingham Palace.

Since the moment officials announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II — placing a framed, two-sentence announcement on an easel at the front palace gate — people have flocked there to be part of the collective grief and to pay their respects with flowers, messages, mementos and more.

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For Christina Heerey, the last person in the miles-long queue to view Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin, it was so important to see the queen lying in state that she did it twice.

Heerey, who works for the Royal Air Force, waited in line on Sunday and finally entered Westminster Palace to see the queen’s coffin at 1:15 a.m. on Monday.

And then she did it all over again.

“It went really really quickly, so I thought, I’ll try to see if I can go around again, just to save the moment more,” she said on Monday morning just before 7 a.m., after the viewing had ended.

The story of the day and hour of Elizabeth’s accession to the throne has been told many times, but it remains a captivating tale. It’s history with echoes of Arthurian romance.

On the morning of her father’s death, 25-year-old Elizabeth was perched in a treehouse in Kenya, from which she’d watched a herd of elephants led by matriarchs come to a watering hole.

Too ill to travel, her father, King George VI, had tasked Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, with undertaking a months-long tour of the Commonwealth, in what was then the twilight of the British Empire.

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When Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, visited Antigua and Barbuda in April, the country’s prime minister told him that the nation, one of 15 in which the British monarch is head of state, wished to “one day” become a republic.

After the queen’s death, Prime Minister Gaston Browne revealed a timeline: He plans to hold a referendum on casting off the monarchy “probably” within the next three years. “This is not an act of hostility,” Browne said, but a “final step to complete the circle of independence.”

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Looking back, their love story was both royal and implausible.

She was the daughter of King George VI. He was the nephew of a deposed king of Greece. Her family owned majestic castles. His family was living in exile. Her father helped rally Britain over the Germans in World War II. His sisters had connections to the Nazi party.

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Also, they were cousins — distant, but still cousins.

But when they strolled out of Westminster Abbey in 1947 as husband and wife, Princess Elizabeth II and Prince Philip embarked on a love story for the ages.

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At her coronation in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was anointed with sacred oils by the archbishop of Canterbury and pledged to rule not just according to British laws, but the “laws of God,” in her role as “Supreme Governor of the Church of England” and “Defender of the Faith.”

She was true to that vow. Her devotion to “Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace” was a fundamental and defining, though sometimes overlooked, pillar of her life. That devotion is reflected in the traditional religious service today.

As her son Charles III takes over, he has by all accounts accepted the responsibilities of his religious titles without reservation. But he will bring a markedly different personal vision of religion and spirituality to the role.

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The face of Queen Elizabeth II is among the most recognized in the world. Her name — and insignia — are displayed throughout Britain, looming large on buildings and subtly present on coins inside pockets.

But Britons will soon need to adjust to seeing the image of King Charles III.

Britain’s Royal Mint is expected to issue a new bank notes and coins. The Royal Mail will produce new stamps. New postboxes may feature the emblem of King Charles III, who now uses the cipher “CR,” which stands for “Charles Rex III.” Rex is the Latin word for king.

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James Bond knew it. Paddington Bear knew it. Even her bodyguard chatting to the clueless American hiker knew it. Queen Elizabeth II had a wicked sense of humor.

A favorite story doing the rounds is about when she was asked by an American tourist hiking in the Scottish Highlands: Had she ever met the queen?

“I haven’t,” said the queen. Then she pointed to her protection officer, Richard Griffin, and said he “meets her regularly.”

The hiker grilled Griffin on what the queen was like. “Oh, she can be very cantankerous at times, but she’s got a lovely sense of humor,” he replied. Then the American asked for a photo with the bodyguard and handed the queen a camera. She happily obliged.

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