After a tidal wave of popular tributes, the world says goodbye to Elizabeth II on Monday at a masterful funeral in London, where dignitaries from around the world will salute a sovereign of planetary fame, who had devoted her 70 years of reign to the crown.
With a meticulous and tirelessly prepared pomp, this religious funeral in front of 2.000 guests at Westminster Abbey completes a national mourning marked by an immense wave of collective emotion since the death on September 8 of Elizabeth II in her Scottish castle in Balmoral.
At dawn, the very last members of the public bowed before the Queen's coffin, on display 24 hours a day for five days on an imposing catafalque, topped with the glittering Imperial Crown, in the oldest chamber of the British Parliament, Westminster Hall.
A last tear or bow, and the feeling of having been part of history: like hundreds of thousands of other people, they had waited for hours, in the sun or the cold of the night.
"It's incredible", confides to AFP the very last visitor, Chrissy Heerey, before joining the crowd which poured compactly into central London to attend the funeral by large screens interposed or to catch a glimpse of the procession. funeral.
It will be “a long day but it will be worth it. It's nothing compared to what the Queen has done for the country,” said Ms Heerey, a member of the Royal Air Force.
" I was there! »
For this first state funeral since that of Winston Churchill in 1965, the gratin of world leaders moved, from American President Joe Biden to the Emperor of Japan Naruhito via French President Emmanuel Macron.
After the invasion of Ukraine, Russia was not invited. On the other hand, the first lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska is present.
Never in years has London seen such an influx of dignitaries, and the capital's police have never experienced such a security challenge.
Representatives of European royal families including King Philippe of Belgium, King Felipe VI of Spain and Prince Albert of Monaco will also take their place under the Gothic arches of the abbey so linked to the fate of Elizabeth II, who died at 96. . It was there that still a princess she had married at the age of 21 in November 1947 the dashing Philip Mountbatten, before being crowned there on June 2, 1953.
The coffin will arrive there in procession , followed by King Charles III and members of the Royal Family on foot. He will leave after the ceremony at 11:00 GMT for a final trip to Windsor, 35 km west of the capital, where the queen will rest.
Young or old, hundreds of thousands will not want to lose a crumb of this historic event. The day is a public holiday and some slept there to secure the best place possible.
For millions of Britons, Elizabeth II was the one, only, reassuring anchor of stability in the convulsions of a changing world.
"It's history, never in my life will there be another queen," said Bethany Beardmore, 26, after a sleepless night. Elizabeth II was “an admirable person who has done so much”.
“I will talk about this moment to my children: I will say: I was there! “says Jack, 14, who came in the early morning with his parents to Hyde Park Corner, not far from Buckingham Palace.
For Thay, 59, the Queen brought “stability” to a “chaotic” life. He hopes Charles will do the same "because we need something to hold on to."
After the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, scheduled to last an hour and during which dozens of flights were canceled so that noise did not disturb the solemnity of the moment, the country will freeze for two minutes of silence.
The coffin will leave the Abbey followed by King Charles III, Queen Consort Camilla and members of the Royal Family, and will again be placed on a Royal Navy gun carriage before a historic procession, with great fanfare, through the streets of central London, to Wellington's Arch, from where he will leave by hearse for the windsor castle .
More than 6.000 soldiers will participate.
More and more frail in recent months, suffering from mobility problems, Elizabeth II still received, smiling, two days before her death, the brand new Prime Minister Liz Truss, her last public photo. She was the oldest serving leader in the world. During her life, she went through the Second World War, saw the dissolution of the British Empire, the entry and then the exit of the European Union.
With Elizabeth II the page of the last planetary queen turns, whose reign is unique in its duration and endurance.
She was at the time of her death, in addition to the United Kingdom, queen of 14 kingdoms, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Some of these countries have made no secret of their wish to see their link with the monarchy evolve.
She will be buried Monday evening in privacy, in the George VI Memorial, annex of the chapel of the castle where she had lived her last years. She will rest close to her parents and Prince Philip who died in April 2021. They had been married for 73 years.
After 12 exhausting days of travels in the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, walkabouts combined with the mourning of a mother, Charles III, 73, will have to write his own story.
Some dreamed of a quick transition with the new Prince of Wales, his son William, 40. But Charles III promised, like his mother, to serve all his life.
Solemn, unifying, accessible and inclusive, his first steps reassured, with the soothing presence of Camilla by his side.
His approval rating has skyrocketed, now at 70% according to a new YouGov poll that puts William at 80%.
But the many challenges are just beginning.
The United Kingdom will then resume the thread of its life suspended since September 8. The cost-of-living crisis and social movements should soon be back in the headlines.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)