The Queen inspired devotion, respect and love – but never deliberately sought it | Rhiannon Mills

The coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth is pulled along The Mall by Royal Navy service personnel during the funeral procession, on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, in London, Britain, September 19, 2022 REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

For a woman who gave us so much, it’s hard to truly find the words that will do her justice.

Instead, the most fitting of tributes was there for us all to feel, in the music, in the pictures, a full technicolour military spectacle that encapsulated everything that Queen Elizabeth II represented, and most importantly every aspect of her life that mattered to her.

The sound of the massed pipes and drums resonated through the media stands as her coffin was pulled on the gun carriage to Westminster Abbey, setting the tone for the military’s last-ever ceremony for her, the largest display of personnel ever seen on the streets of London.

Heads often bowed, it was a symbolic goodbye to their most loyal supporter, and Commander in Chief.

Read live updates as they happened from Queen’s funeral and committal service

The coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth is pulled along The Mall by Royal Navy service personnel during the funeral procession, on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, in London, Britain, September 19, 2022 REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

Inside the Abbey, her coffin was placed on the catafalque for all to see. In the cavernous space of so much royal history, it looked tiny; her influence always was understated, and yet in death as she did in life, her funeral had brought the world together, in a shared sense of loss, differences were put to one side.

But for all the foreign dignitaries it was her family who mattered the most. The Archbishop of Canterbury praying in his sermon for those she has left behind. This week they have stepped up to lead in this moment of mourning, for King Charles that has been his main priority.

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People say grief is exhausting, the tiredness appeared etched on his face, as again his siblings stood shoulder to shoulder with him in this most difficult of weeks. He chose the flowers placed on the Queen’s coffin, “in loving, devoted memory” he wrote on the card.

A wreath that had a wildness about it, including a sprig of myrtle, the ancient symbol of a happy marriage, and cut from a plant grown from a sprig that wrapped into the Queen’s own wedding bouquet.

The flowers felt like a touch of informality which gave a nod to her life away from her role as head of state, further reinforced by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, walking behind her coffin in the Abbey.

In her final public moment, they were once again providing the supporting cast, as Prince Edward once described their role to me.

The Queen's favourite horse, Emma
Image:
The Queen’s fell pony, Emma

In Windsor we got more. The Queen’s fell pony, Emma, standing patiently for her owner to come home, her corgi’s Sandy and Muick, also loyally waiting for the Queen.

Little touches that brought tears and reminded us of the more grandmotherly figure we’d come to know and love in recent years. And reinforcing how much she put the nation first; horse riding and her dogs were her passions; her calling was in serving us.

As the crown, orb and sceptre, the symbolic regalia that marked her out as monarch, were removed from the coffin at her committal service, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past 11 days.

On Thursday 8 September, just two days after she’d again carried out her constitutional duty of appointing a new prime minister, we received the news that she was gone, from the peace and tranquillity of Balmoral.

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Million people bid farewell to Queen

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The enormity of her death immediately played out around the world, as her final journey from Scotland to London was made in the company of thousands of people across the United Kingdom.

It all felt so sudden. It still feels like it’ll take some time to fully sink in. This was a woman who inspired such devotion, respect and love; never deliberately seeking it, that sense of connection with the public simply growing organically over 70 years.

But in the end, she stepped out of the spotlight in the most fitting way. There was no need for more questions about her handing over more responsibilities, or even stepping down.

Her natural frailty put a stop to that. The end of a remarkable reign simply came with death.

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