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101 Bells for a Mum Loved, a Life Well Lived

Britain: Funeral and cortege for the queen mother draw a million mourners. Nation comes to a virtual standstill.

April 10, 2002|JANET STOBART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LONDON — Britain came to a virtual standstill Tuesday morning as the country said its last goodbye to Queen Mother Elizabeth with a funeral at Westminster Abbey attended by more than 2,000 people inside the centuries-old church and thousands outside.

First Lady Laura Bush represented her husband among the mourners for the royal great-grandmother, who died March 30 at 101.

"The queen mother was noble in every sense of the word--serving her family, her nation and the free world from the dark days of World War II through the dawn of a new millennium," Laura Bush said in a statement.

The lofty abbey was filled with a phalanx of European royals, Prime Minister Tony Blair and four former prime ministers, politicians and foreign dignitaries, newspaper editors, members of the armed forces and the late queen's household staff, and several hundred of her friends from charities and the horse-racing fraternity. One notable attendee was Prince Charles' companion, Camilla Parker Bowles.

Queen Elizabeth II arrived last, wearing a black coat and a satin-banded black hat.

Crowds filled Parliament Square outside the abbey, and about a million people, many of whom had camped out for days, lined the route of the cortege.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Friday April 12, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Queen mother's funeral--A caption in Section A on Wednesday should have said that the coffin of Britain's Queen Mother Elizabeth was being carried into, rather than out of, Westminster Abbey.

Throughout the country, supermarkets, offices and schools closed for the morning. Most people observed a two-minute silence for the "Queen Mum" at the start of the 11:30 a.m. rites.

The funeral procession preceding the service was a vivid display of regal pomp, as the coffin, draped in the queen mother's standard, passed by on the same horse-drawn gun carriage that had carried the body of her husband, King George VI, half a century before. The 500-yard route led from Westminster Hall, where the queen mother had lain in state since Friday, to Westminster Abbey.

Prince Philip and the royal grandsons, great-grandsons andin-laws marched solemnly behind the carriage, some in uniforms, some in dark suits. In a break with tradition, Princess Anne, in uniform, joined them.

Kilted soldiers playing Highland laments on bagpipes and drums accompanied the coffin as the abbey's tenor bell tolled in the background--101 times to mark the length of the queen mother's life. Red-coated Irish Guards took over at the abbey entrance and carried the coffin inside.

The full Anglican funeral service, broadcast to the thousands waiting silently outside, began with a reading of an anonymous poem that opened: "You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and hope that she'll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she's left."

The service had been planned meticulously by the queen mother and her daughter, the queen. Prayers were read by Britain's leading Anglican clerics; the dean of Westminster, Wesley Carr; and the archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. Carey gave an address in which he remembered the queen mother for "her strength, dignity and laughter." Other participants included Scottish Free Church clerics and the Roman Catholic primate of England, Cormac Murphy O'Connor.

The hymns were traditional and expressed thanks as much as sorrow for a long life well lived.

"A very moving service indeed, but very rousing, touching, simple," said Brig. Christopher Price, one of the queen mother's many friends from the racing world and the rider of a royal winner in 1979. "Although it was a funeral, it was a thanksgiving too."

Price said he last saw Elizabeth on March 8 at her home in Windsor. One of her horses, First Love, had just come in a winner, "and she was absolutely delighted--making plans for its future."

The coffin left the abbey as trumpeters sounded the Last Post. The cortege, now a motorcade, drove away to an aerial salute, a fly-by of World War II vintage planes in perfect formation, in a reminder of the royal family's war years in London.

As the line of limousines returned to Windsor Castle, crowds along the road threw flowers and applauded. After a private ceremony Tuesday evening, the queen mother was buried in the vault of the George VI chapel alongside her husband and daughter Princess Margaret, who died Feb. 8.

Queen Elizabeth thanked the British for their "outpouring of affection" for her mother in a nationwide address Monday evening. She said she hoped that "sadness will blend with thanksgiving, not just for her life but for the times in which she lived--a century not without its trials and sorrows, but also one full of examples of courage and service as well as fun and laughter."

Writing Sunday in the Observer, Euan Ferguson analyzed the impetus behind the miles-long lines of mourners who had waited, in the days before the funeral, to glance respectfully at the royal coffin. He said it came from the public's ability "to separate its general feelings about the monarchy from its genuine respect for a spirited, sharp and subtle woman whose death, though long expected, still shatters the last link to Empire and to times and manners that once were: times which are not being mourned but simply marked."

During the official days of mourning, republicans and abolitionists were quiet. A National Opinion survey over the weekend showed 54% of respondents in favor of keeping the monarchy unchanged, 30% for radically reforming it and 12% for abolishing it altogether.

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