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The world gave a final goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, at a state funeral on Monday.
After thousands of mourners filed in front of the 96-year-old’s flag-draped coffin to pay their respects, the doors of 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed. The first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s featured 142 Royal Navy sailors who drew the gun carriage carrying the late royal’s coffin to Westminster Abbey.
King Charles III and his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, walked behind as bagpipers played. Pallbearers carried the coffin into Westminster Abbey, where around 2,000 people ranging from world leaders to health care workers gathered. Crowds massed along the streets of London also united to honor the late queen. Ahead of the service, a bell tolled 96 times – one minute for each year of her life.
The Dean of Westminster, who led the service, expressed his gratitude for Elizabeth’s “lifelong sense of duty.”
“Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth, and from the nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service, and in sure confidence to commit her to the mercy of God our maker and redeemer,” the dean of the medieval abbey, David Hoyle, told the mourners, as the funeral opened.
The service was filled with traditional church music and readings from the bible. It drew to a close with two minutes of silence observed across the United Kingdom.
Monday has been declared a public holiday in honor of Elizabeth, who died on Sept. 8 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Long before the service began, city authorities said viewing areas along the funeral procession were full. Hundreds of thousands of people descended on central London to partake in the somber, historical event. Crowds grew in parks and public spaces across the U.K. to watch it on screens. Millions more had been expected to tune into the funeral live on television and online.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby noted during the funeral that “few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen” for Elizabeth.
Following the funeral, the coffin — ringed by units of the armed forces in dress uniforms and members of her family — will be brought through the capital’s streets to Wellington Arch near Hyde Park.
There, it will be placed in a hearse to be driven to Windsor Castle — where Elizabeth spent much of her time — for another procession before a committal service in St. George’s Chapel. She will be laid to rest with her late husband, Prince Philip, at a private family service.
People across Britain paused for a minute of silence at 8 p.m. Sunday in memory of the only monarch most have ever known. At Westminster Hall, the constant stream of mourners paused for 60 seconds as people observed the minute of reflection in deep silence. King Charles issued a message of thanks to people in the U.K. and around the world, saying he and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, have been “moved beyond measure” by the large numbers of people who have turned out to pay their respects to the queen.
In Windsor, rain began to fall as the crowd fell silent for the moment of reflection. Some camped overnight outside the castle to reserve the best spots to view the queen’s coffin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.