Although I’d call myself a royalist, I’m not a die-hard fan who camps out on the Mall every time a royal event occurs. Nonetheless, like many millions, I loved the Queen. She was a constant source of pride, strength and loyalty, trusted to be above any political party or commercial interest; her duty to her nation was unwavering.
In the ten days of mourning after her death, it seemed that there was nothing else anyone could talk about. The Queen’s life was dedicated to service to her people, from serving in World War II to inviting Liz Truss to be our next Prime Minister, and all with unfaltering humility and humour. There are countless great stories of our late monarch from her 70-year reign, it’s no wonder she filled the news for ten days.
This was all leading up to the official end of her reign and the greatest funeral the world has ever seen. After the moving service in Westminster Abbey, which just under 500 foreign leaders attended, ten thousand military staff were deployed to perform their ‘last duty’ to the Queen. This included soldiers from many different regiments, sailors and aviators, all dressed in their ceremonial uniforms and looking remarkable, captivating the nation as well as other countries across the world.
Nearly five billion people watched the funeral. It really was the most incredible spectacle many of us have ever seen. The procession followed the military band, where mournful yet majestic music played out from Westminster to Kensington Palace as speakers were arranged so that the thousands of people lining the streets could hear. The firing of the cannons every minute was a reminder of the weight of this significant moment that will go down in history for generations to come.
As I said, I’m not a die-hard royalist. Yet, I felt I had to be somewhat part of this historic moment. I didn’t realise quite how difficult it would be to get anywhere near the procession; all roads were closed off around Hyde Park and Westminster, with no way of being able to walk through. Of course, I was not the only one who thought to line the streets, so I followed the tens of thousands of people from Victoria to a one-way street to the Southwest of Hyde Park.
After an hour of walking (it was at a slow pace due to the vast number of people in the streets) I finally managed to get to a place where the royal hearse would be driving past. We couldn’t get into Hyde Park as there were too many people, but people were climbing on top of the wall of the park and clinging onto the iron railings, so I decided to do the same.
We waited for half an hour, in which I spoke to people around me to pass the time, asking them why they were here and where they were from. The love and respect for the Queen was clear, and many people there were not English, but American, Scandinavian, and Asian. Regardless of anyone’s political or social differences, we were all united in our respect for the late monarch and desire to be part of such a momentous day.
When the hearse did eventually drive past, the Crown Jewels sparkling magnificently in the light and the crowd throwing flowers onto the road, I was astounded by how affected I was by the five second glimpse of the Queen’s coffin. I understood why thousands of people queued for 14 hours to see her lying in state. It wasn’t just to say, ‘I did it’, but it was because it truly was incredible to see and be part of the atmosphere.
The Queen was one of a kind, but so is the British monarchy. Our monarch stands for a higher good and deeper principle than any other state servant and gives the nation and commonwealth something to unite under. It makes one proud to be British, but also reassured that we have a head of state that is incorruptible, principled, and reliable.
The case for monarchy has been secured by yesterday’s event. Hundreds of thousands of people came to pay their respects to the Queen over the last five days, and billions watched her funeral and procession yesterday.
Early signs indicate that the King will follow in his mother’s footsteps with humility, grace and duty, but with a touch of modernity as we know more of his character from his decades as Prince of Wales. He will continue to unite people from all walks of life as our head of state and provide comfort and stability for his subjects; long may he reign.