UK comes to standstill as millions celebrate life of Queen Elizabeth II

The United Kingdom came to a near standstill on Monday (19 September), as millions of people lined the streets of London for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in a uniquely British display of tradition and pageantry.

The state funeral, which took place in Westminster Abbey, is the culmination of ten days of national mourning in Britain that followed the death of Queen Elizabeth on 9 September at the age of 96. 

For over four days in the lead-up to the service, the Queen’s coffin was lying in state in Westminster Hall. Tens of thousands of mourners came to pay their respects, with queue waits of up to 24 hours.

Having served as Queen since 1952, Elizabeth was Britain’s longest-serving monarch and head of state. Her eldest son, Charles, becomes King Charles III. 

Monday was declared a public holiday, with most shops and amenities closed across the UK.

The decision by the government to effectively close the economy, at an estimated cost of £1 billion, and suspend government throughout the period of mourning, has caused some disquiet as businesses and households across the country face major increases in food and energy prices.  

Queen Elizabeth enjoyed huge public popularity across the UK and an estimated two million people lined the streets of London on the 30-kilometre journey carrying the coffin from Westminster Abbey to Windsor Castle, applauding and throwing flowers in front of the hearse. 

Hundreds of political leaders and royals gathered for the memorial service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican church. 

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin and President Michael Higgins were among those in attendance, in a nod to the Queen’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process, which saw her meet Martin McGuiness, then Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland and a former leader of the Irish Republican Army.

Europe’s royal families, including monarchs from Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Denmark, attended the funeral, as did most European leaders, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council head Charles Michel.

Heads of state from other European countries included French President Emmanuel Macron, with the Elysée Palace referring to the “unbreakable” bond with Britain and the “eternal queen”, as well as Sergio Mattarella of Italy and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany. 

Russia and Belarus were among the few countries whose political leaders were not invited following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. 

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Nathalie Weatherald]

Source: euractiv.com

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