Those dressed in black included royalty, seven British prime ministers and hundreds of dignitaries from around the world, including US President Joe Biden.
But it’s the color that catches my eye.
The dark clothes are just the backdrop for the decorations. Military medals glittered on the chests of old soldiers, and civilian sports ribbons denoted civilian honors bestowed by the queen.
There are Knights of the Garter in blue velvet cloaks. Trumpets with long silver instruments decorated with banners. Soldiers in shining helmets and military veterans known as Chelsea Pensioners, resplendent in their traditional scarlet tunics.
Bertram Leon, who was recently awarded the Order of the British Empire for his service to the St. Lucian, said: “It was like a fairy tale. “You know, it’s fantastic, well done – staged, that’s what you’d expect.”
I witnessed the scene from a seat on the north side of the monastery, my view obscured by a large stone pillar. That’s part of the reason why I can’t see the piper.
But what? It does not matter. It was enough to be part of the crowd.
Watching world leaders submit their resumes, I wish I had a transcript with little photos to find out who’s who. There are a lot of them – who can keep track?
Then came the arrival of the royal family, led by King Charles III in full uniform, a sword strapped to his waist.
But behind the glitz and circumstance, this is to honor the late queen and her life of service to Britain and the Commonwealth.
And it was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who captured that better than any parade or procession.
Welby reminded the congregation of the queen’s speech in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic – when terrified Britons were stuck indoors unable to see friends and family.
Elizabeth, an icon of stability for 70 years, echoed the words of a World War II song by Vera Lynn – and assured the nation, “We’ll see each other again.”
Welby’s words remind me of the night I heard that speech, and wonder what the future holds. I panicked too – right people?
So somehow the funeral service of this vast state suddenly became very personal. In the midst of all the glitz and pageantry, we were all invited to think about that night – about what the queen meant to us in that terrifying, pandemic time.
So whatever it was, the words or the guards or the choruses, I can tell you one thing: At the end of the ceremony, the congregation stood and sang “God Save the King” with such a passion that it felt as if the monastery walls were shaking. If nothing else, the nation’s longtime leader has left the center stage.
I can’t say for sure, of course. But I think it will take this country a while to remember that the first line of the anthem is no longer “God save our benevolent Queen.”