Via Peter McIlvenna in London
Britain falls silent today to remember the life of its longest serving Monarch, Queen Elizabeth. Her funeral was held in Westminster Abbey, the scene of 900 years of history. Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British Monarchs have occurred in Westminster Abbey and King Charles III will continue that tradition early next year. But today was a sombre day: of sadness but also celebration for such a life.
A state funeral is a Solomon occasion and was last witnessed on the streets of the UK in 1965 when the great wartime leader Winston Churchill was laid to rest in 1965 in St Pauls cathedral. In 1952 the country witnessed the state funeral of King George VI who led Britain through the dark time of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain and then D-Day when Britain and the allies defeated Hitler and Europe was liberated from that tyranny. Seventy years later his daughter, Queen Elizabeth, is given the same honor and recognition and farewell.
Today the eyes of the world were on London for this event. 2000 guests attended the funeral with a quarter of that congregation made up of heads of state and their families. This was the largest gathering that any of us can remember of leaders from around the world. It was also witnessed by many millions of people from around the world. Coverage of the Coronation back in 1953 was a breakthrough for the history of broadcasting. It was the first coronation service to be televised and for most people, it was the first time they had watched an event on television. 27 million people in Britain watched the ceremony on TV. Today billions will watch for maybe the biggest event in TV history.
To many outside the UK it is difficult to understand these events. 70 years of unbroken history with one sovereign is unheard of and this is what gives Britain its stability. Our history and heritage and tradition and pomp and ceremony hold England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the British territories and the Commonwealth together.
But today that anchor is cut of stability is cut. What off the future? In 48 hours, Britain had a new sovereign and a new Prime Minister. Such change has never been seen before. The hopes of a nation rest on the shoulders of Liz Truss and King Charles III. This is the unknown. Will Liz Truss be looked back upon as a success or a failure? How will Charles III govern as King. These are the questions that no one can yet answer. The answers will determine Britain’s future in the world.