The Funeral

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with her fiancé Clarke Gayford at Westminster Abbey for Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral

It’s now Tuesday September 20th, 2022. Kia ora!

Last night I watched much of the television coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.  I found it was better to watch it on TVNZ OnDemand on my laptop, as there seemed to be atmospheric interference on out television set.  During the leadup, I watched Telegraph coverage on my mobile phone, rather than TV One’s rather irritating coverage. Eventually they switched to BBC coverage, which was awesome, as expected.

Well, what an occasion! It all seemed to go off without a hitch, although there were some interesting moments. The weather was fine, and it didn’t rain!  I was quite desperate to get my own feelings and impressions down before watching other people’s coverage and impressions. 

At the outset, the Queen’s coffin was to be transported from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey for the main funeral service.  This was a rather nervous moment, I sensed; the Royal Navy group did seem a tad scruffy, in some rather ill-fitting uniforms, and perhaps some shoes not shined. They looked as though they’d just had breakfast – and they probably had. They certainly don’t have magnificent uniforms.

Getting the coffin from the pall-bearers’ shoulders onto the gun carriage that was to be pulled to the Abbey seemed tricky. Atop the coffin was a purple velvet cushion carrying one of the crowns, and the orb and sceptre, as well as a wreath, and a card from the new King Charles, signed Charles R.  The flowers were from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and Highgrove. The coffin was covered with the royal standard. The guys managed the move without disaster (it had been practised!) but it looked tricky.  One just hopes the crown, sceptre and orb had been secured – perhaps with museum glue?  I presume the Brits had thought of this.

The gun carriage was hauled to the Abbey – a beautiful manoeuvre, that was to be repeated. Eventually, it arrived, and again there was a tricky manoeuvre getting the coffin onto the pallbearers’ shoulders again. Once they’d carried it into the Abbey, it was placed on a blue stand.  Everyone in attendance was already seated; they now stood. I can’t remember if King Charles and his siblings followed the coffin into the Abbey.

US President Joe Biden arrived in the Beast, with its ultra-thick doors; not nearly as glamorous as a Rolls Royce or a Daimler, however.

Anyway, I was moved by the intimacy of the setting, in this vast building, where members of the Royal Family were very close to the bier. The Prince and Princess of Wales were there with Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

The service was, mercifully short – it took exactly one hour. There was no commentary for much of it, to the relief of many, I suspect. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivered a brief, well-spoken homily.  The new Prime Minister Liz Truss did one of the readings from John’s Gospel – “In my Father’s house are many abodes…”. I did get the feeling that this scripture was not particularly familiar to her. She mangled the reading, somewhat, but at least it wasn’t Boris Johnson reading it. One of Her Majesty’s last services to her country was to see off Bojo as PM and appoint Liz Truss.

There were a number of religious dignitaries who delivered brief prayers. One of them dropped his notes. Two of them represented “Free Churches of England”. Their website makes the following claim: the Free Church of England is a Christian church in the Anglican tradition and so rooted in a Reformed Catholic heritage. So do they object to the British monarch being head of the Church of England?  I have never heard of this movement.

The singing was magnificent, of course, and I admired the beautiful boy sopranos. Psalm 23 was sung to the tune of Crimond, with a beautiful descant; the hymns were “The Day Thou Gavest Lord is Ended” and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”, by Charles Wesley, a Methodist anthem.  I hope we’ll be singing them tomorrow morning.

Towards the end of the service God Save the King was sung.  Everyone sang lustily, although not Prince Harry.  Princes Harry and Andrew did not wear uniform, although they wore their medals.  They are the only members of the Royal Family who actually served in war – Andrew in the Falklands, and Harry in Afghanistan. Everyone wore black, except for Prince William, the new Prince of Wales, who wore an RAF uniform; the colour was blue/grey.  Almost everyone else wore black, and most women wore a hat, although there seemed to be some from the Middle East spotted from their head attire.

Harry looked daggers throughout the funeral and procession: it hardly seemed like grief; more like anger, but why, I wonder? This was not a time to be angry.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, did not dominate; the lovely Sophie, Countess of Wessex seemed to be deputed to be with her. No hand-holding there, then.

Also towards the end was a lone bagpiper, playing in the Abbey. I’m not a great fan of bagpipes, but this was magnificent.

After the funeral service in the Abbey, there was an extraordinary procession – evidently it was 1 ¼ miles long! That’s the procession.

Members of the Royal Family followed the coffin, in a very long procession -they all marched. It was absolutely extraordinary – with amazing music. Everyone marched in step, although some of them were quite elderly, and must have found it a strain. There were Canadian mounted police, and defence contingents from New Zealand and Australia.  Along the way, there were crowds galore. Drums were shrouded in black. Some of the horses seemed a bit frisky! Servicemen’s arms were held in reverse. Standards were lowered, the crowd clapped, solemnly, as the procession went past them. It all seemed to go on forever.

At some point the women, other than Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, got into cars to follow the procession. Queen consort Camilla was in a car with the Princess of Wales and Prince George and Princess Charlotte. The Princess of Wales was wearing a pearl choker, as Diana had before her.  I had not seem her wear one before.

At some point the camera panned to views of Wolverhampton, Edinburgh, Christchurch (not the New Zealand one!), and Belfast showing crowds there watching the ceremony on big screens; evidently cinemas were also playing the ceremony.

The ceremony went on for ages. At 1 am I went to bed, but the march was still going, albeit the coffin had been transferred to a hearse, and was being transported to Windsor Castle. It was way past my bedtime! And I figured that I could watch the rest of it the next day.

As I can. There is footage of the ceremony at Windsor Castle; again there is a lone bagpiper, who plays superbly. The crown, orb and sceptre are finally reverently removed and the coffin is lowered into the royal crypt, to lie alongside that of Prince Philip. Apparently there is a private family service after this.

Well, I agree with many that this is a big moment, and I doubt if we’ll see anything like this again.  King Charles’ coronation will surely be an exciting moment, but it won’t be quite like this.

I think the Prince and Princess of Wales were wise to leave Prince Louis behind. This was not an occasion for young children.

I hesitate to read social media, but I couldn’t resist a Guardian newsletters suggestion: some wit suggested that a procession of former Prime Ministers represented The Descent of Man. Hasn’t Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, put on weight! I missed the spider.  Enough said. 

It seems everyone who was anyone was represented – at one of the services, or in the parade. Thousands of people lined the streets; thousands queued for hours to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth.  What a special few days it has been, and nice to have a breather, if a rather sad one, from the trials and tribulations that becircle British politics.

I’m now reading media commentary, having written some of my own. John Crace of the Guardian has summed it up rather well:

Back in New Zealand, the report on Sam Uffindell has been released – on Monday September 19th, the day of the Queen’s funeral. Sam has been reinstated – the report found that he had not been a bully since his school days. Or some such rubbish. Evidently chasing your flatmate out of the house while calling her names was not bullying then. Whatever you call it, and whether or not you think it some retaliation was justified, this kind of bad behaviour is never justified.

In the US, Trump has performed at another rally in Ohio, where he was greeted by the Qanon sign, and had scary music as a backdrop. He also claimed that J.D. Vance was “kissing his arse”, in an extraordinary statement. What he said was “J.D. is kissing my ass he wants my support so bad”. As some wit said, the middle man has been dropped! Frank Figluzzi claimed it was like a religious cult. The Queen’s funeral was light relief compared to this performance, and endorses the truth of Justin Welby’s homily, where one of the things he said was that rulers of this world who seek glory are deluding themselves and won’t be remembered as heroes. Trump using this phrase is a new low, even for him. It certainly isn’t dignified.  In my book, it’s akin to swearing. This cannot be okay with all Republican women, surely!

In China, a bus carrying people to a Covid 19 quarantine facility has crashed, killing 27 people. That is some crash! People are furious, of course. There’s been a big earthquake in Taiwan; President Biden has guaranteed that the US will support Taiwan militarily if necessary.

Next Monday, September 26, is to be a public holiday here, with a memorial service to be live streamed from St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington, so there’ll be an opportunity to indulge further in honouring Her Majesty. I do wish they’d built a more attractive cathedral, though. I don’t much like the Catholic St Mary’s either – it’s very cold, to me.  I do rather like Old St Paul’s Cathedral, built in wood and now earthquake-strengthened (ha ha!), and the Catholic Basilica in Hill Street, also in Thorndon. I’ve been to some wonderful concerts there.

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Nga mihi.

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