Costumes, wands, castles, a piper: Queen Elizabeth’s funeral had it all

Spectators along the Guards Parade in London watched live coverage of Queen Elizabeth II's funeral on their phones.
Spectators along the Guards Parade in London watched live coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on their phones. (Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post)

LONDON – There have been royal blockbusters before, but never one quite like this one.

Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral was an elaborately choreographed farewell product that had it all: elaborate costumes, bagpipes and toll bells, soldiers on horseback, cannons and castles.

The streets along the parade routes were packed with crowds, but a much larger audience was watching TV around the world.

Many analysts say the funeral could become the most watched single televised event in history, with a large portion of the 7.7 billion people globally catching at least some of these events. .

Those who have been planning this for decades clearly have that audience in mind.

An estimated 650 million people watched the first moon landing in 1969, a record at the time. More than 2 billion people are said to have watched Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997, but cell phones and the improved internet have made tracking a major event a lot easier these days.

Giant screens have been erected in outdoor squares in cities across the country. More than 100 cinemas and churches showed BBC big-screen broadcasts. The Royal Shakespeare Company presented the funeral at its theater in Stratford-upon-Avon in central England.

Since ancient times, many churches were set up to hold Zoom funerals. On Monday, many people sat on benches at Holy Trinity in London’s Sloane Square, watching with the scent of incense filling the morning air.

Pubs and restaurants that usually don’t have TVs will have one for funerals. At Motcombs, a Mediterranean restaurant not far from Buckingham Palace, people drink coffee or champagne as they watch.

“We think some people might not be able to reach the crowd and need a place to watch,” said Ken Anderson.

When police were no longer allowing any more people into London’s Hyde Park, thousands stood on an empty street near Harrods department store to listen to hymns played through loudspeakers.

“I will never see something like this again,” said Jillian Martin, an educator from Northern Ireland.

British officials are betting that the massive effort to provide the queen with a proper trip, the cost of which is yet to be determined, will bring in even more tourism revenue.

Japanese broadcaster NHK broadcast the funeral live, with simultaneous interpretation and funeral being the third most popular phrase on Japanese Twitter.

In Hong Kong, hundreds of people watched the funeral on phones and tablets, laying flowers and waving Union Jack flags outside the British Consulate. Hong Kong was a British colony for a century and a half until the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

In Sydney, 56-year-old Graham Cousens was hanging out with friends but said he had set up a television at home to record the funeral.

“It was a pivotal moment,” he said. “Not personally I feel that much, but I can see how much it means for English.”

Even Google turned its logo black in the UK on Monday in honor of the queen.

Not everyone in central London is happy with the massive security presence, locked Underground stations and blocked streets.

“I can think of better things to spend all this money on. Sure, it’s great for tourists and florists, but I’m not sure the queen will be in this lavish market,” said Lily Haverford, 42, a teacher.

“It’s as pretty as a picture, but, in the end, what does it really mean?” she speaks.

Many interviewees around the world said it was a spectacle worth staging.

To prepare the scene, landmarks in London were swept. The new soda rolls were placed near Wellington Gate, where the coffin was loaded into a hearse for the 25-mile journey to the queen’s final resting place in Windsor.

Even that hearse was made for TV, with large windows and interior lighting designed so that everyone could see His Majesty’s coffin as clearly as possible – but more importantly, make it “on” on television.

“It must look good for the TV,” said a busy gardener picking “dead pieces” from flower beds near Buckingham Palace.

The music is strong, with military bands, bagpipes and drummers accompanying the queen’s coffin.

The players have perfect outfit. The Grenadier Guards wear their famous scarlet tunics and bearskin hats, the others don ceremonial swan fur. Bee-eaters in their distinctive ruffled collars. King Charles III and Prince William, currently first in line to the throne, in crisp uniforms laden with medals.

Photo: Inside the royal uniform factory

In Bermuda, Kim Day, a foreigner who participated in community theater and watched the funeral at a live theater, said Britain had put on a “perfect performance”.

Jon Reynaga, a British TV and film producer, says live events are difficult to get started.

But he said having the military involved, the government planning for years and the royal family behind it all, was unique.

“Today they talked for hours about spheres, spheres, symbolism – and people loved it,” he said.

Along the parade route in London, lined with giant British flags, for a day, everyone seemed to be an extra on set.

The mourners on the streets locked their hands and bowed their heads in silence. Some wear royal themed outfits.

Many flowers were thrown, such a rain that the driver of the royal hearse had to wipe them away with his windshield wipers.

Jess Fox, 24, from York, UK, said: “We take great pride in doing things the right way. “The British feel very pleased and proud to see this division.”

The funeral was the perfect product of the queen’s seven-decade reign, opening with the first ever televised coronation and ending with the most-watched royal event ever. .

Many Britons bought TVs for the 1953 coronation, then wore ties and skirts to watch.

A BBC planning document, stored at the National Archives, shows that the network, even then, understood it was broadcasting for the planet, not just the British.

“The full technical resources of the BBC will be deployed to cover the Coronation to the world from dawn until after midnight on 2 June,” it said.

There have been other blockbusters in the royal category, mostly featuring Princess Diana in a lead or supporting role. The charming princess with an electric smile has essentially transported the royal family into a bright new world – the way color TVs put black and white aside.

First Diana’s 1981 “wedding of the century” to Prince Charles, then her funeral 16 years later, then the wedding of her famous sons, the elegant William and Catherine, then Harry and Meghan – fittingly, finally, an actual actress who is a royal co-star.

Speaking to a Washington Post reporter in 1994 at a dinner in Washington, Diana was asked how it felt to walk down the aisle with the eyes of the world on as she wore a fairy dress.

“Oh my God,” she said. “My dress is so wrinkled; all I could think was, ‘I need an iron.’ “

And of course, the royal family is also the subject of a reality TV show,”Crown“This has blurred the lines between fact, fiction and fandom.

Here are the episodes of ‘The Crown’ to watch to learn more about the queen

The second is about Elizabeth and staging the final show of her historic reign. British TV networks cover events all day with no commercial breaks.

The BBC received some heat from critics, who believe the state-funded network overreported.

Brendan Hoffman, 50, said: ‘It was with great sadness that she passed away for the first time. “But this,” he said, gesturing to a large television showing the queen’s hearse en route to Windsor Castle, was “regrettable porn.”

The funeral was planned with precision that would excite the Broadway manager. The official schedule has the queen’s coffin moving to Westminster Abbey at 10:44 a.m. Not 10:40, not 10:45.

William Shawcross, a royal biographer, said planners would calculate the exact time it would take the gun carriage to make the journey, maneuver and measure every step of about 140 Navy officers. Royals carry it, until the second.

Late Monday afternoon in Windsor, after a service at St George’s Chapel, Lord Chamberlain broke his ceremonial wooden Wand and placed it atop the queen’s coffin, symbolizing the end of his reign. hers.

As Sovereign’s Piper plays a lament, her coffin disappears from view as it is lowered into the Royal Vault.

And the curtain fell.

Michael E. Miller in Sydney, Amanda Coletta in Bermuda, Julia Mio Inuma in Tokyo and Karina Tsui in Washington contributed to this report.

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