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Opinion Post Elizabeth: The Elizabethan era ended today in an instant

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II processes out of Westminster Abbey after her funeral on Sept. 19. (James Forde for The Washington Post)

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LONDON — History is made in a moment: the count of a vote, the birth of a child, the death of a monarch. The Elizabethan era ended Monday in an instant, with the breaking of a wand. Britain laid to rest its longest-reigning sovereign with ceremony and spectacle on a scale that outdid even this country’s considerable reputation for pageantry.

But this benchmark will be recalled mostly according to what people want to make of it: a moment of history, the last sovereign queen for several generations, a tie to generations past, widespread respect for her dedication to duty and — unlike many politicians and members of her family — simply her absence of gaffes. Nearly a third of Britons say they saw or met the queen over her 70-year reign. That alone, given the job description, is a measure of her success.

Her funeral was a testament to her method, too: Elizabeth II was the unexpected heir to a storied and struggling empire. Her constant promotion of the Commonwealth that remained became a key element in its managed decline. Elaborate, choreographed displays of military regiments and ceremonial units lent a mostly ceremonial monarchy some needed clout. It was hardly an accident that appearances by the next generation (or three) of Windsors were threaded through the events this week. Nor that the service in Westminster Abbey ended on the (new) national anthem: “God Save the King.”

In Windsor: Britain goes big for the queen’s state funeral, William Booth, Karla Adam, Mary Jordan, Kevin Sullivan and Anthony Faiola report. The queen’s coffin was lowered into a vault below St. George’s Chapel after the last public proceedings. A private family service is to be held in Windsor on Monday evening.

Done Down Under: “After 10 days of coverage, we can’t be too fussed,” one Sydney pub-goer told The Post’s Michael E. Miller.

Doggone genius: Serious and sustained applause for whoever had the idea to bring out the queen’s corgis (Muick and Sandy) as the procession passed by her apartments at Windsor Castle. Similar praise for the inclusion of Emma, the queen’s Fell pony. Whether it was Elizabeth herself or an optics-minded aide, it was a lovely gesture for the animals and their mistress — and a four-legged reminder that there is a grieving family underlying all this spectacle.

More: Details of the funeral that the queen helped plan. (Here’s the official order of service, printed books of which were given to guests at Westminster Abbey on Monday.) President Biden was among about 90 world leaders in attendance. (POTUS and FLOTUS Jill Biden, who sported a natty black fascinator at the funeral, have already headed home.)

The way we were: “In a redux of a bygone age, Buckingham Palace was at the apex of global power — if just for a day,” Ishaan Tharoor writes in our Today’s Worldview column.

Glittering touch: Since the queen died, several women have worn jewelry gifted to them by Elizabeth or otherwise associated with her. Catherine, Princess of Wales, wore a pearl and diamond choker on Monday that had belonged to the queen and had also been worn by her late mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales. Other sparkly touches noted at the funeral: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wore pearl and diamond earrings given to her by the queen. And young Princess Charlotte wore a horseshoe-shaped diamond brooch given to her by Elizabeth, thought to be her first serious piece of jewelry. (If you’re into royal gems, you might check out @TheCourtJeweller, a bling-focused account run by American Lauren Kiehna.)

Sartorial shout-out: We interrupt this mostly serious newsletter to pronounce: Great cape-effect dress and gloves on Meghan, we loved Charlotte’s hat and we are curious to see whether Kate’s netted hat produces iconic portraits. (Thinking of this image from Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021.)

Final note: After the congregation sang the national anthem — now “God Save the King,” though one wonders how powerful one last rendition of “God Save the Queen” might have been — the final musical performance was the Sovereign’s Piper of the Royal Regiment of Scotland playing a traditional lament called “Sleep, dearie, sleep.” It was performed by one of the best bagpipers in Scotland, Pipe Major Paul Burns, London bureau chief William Booth reports. A piper played beneath the queen’s window for 15 minutes at 9 a.m. every morning when she was in most royal residences.

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Members of the military procession along with King Charles III salute as the queen's coffin leaves Wellington Arch on Sept. 19. (Video: Reuters)

Indelible images from the funeral and procession. Check out our collection of memorable moments in photos and video.


What happens to all the flowers? Bouquets and other tributes will remain at Green Park and other sites for the next seven to 14 days, London correspondent Karla Adam reports. Later, the flowers will be composted and used around various royal parks.


During Queen Elizabeth II’s Sept. 19 funeral at Westminster Abbey, a small spider crawled across a note written by her son, King Charles III. (Video: Reuters)

Critter crasher. Among the 2,000 guests gathered in Westminster Abbey on Monday, writes Jennifer Hassan, was one most definitely not invited: a spider spotted crawling along the card in the flowers atop the queen’s coffin. He found some instant love on the (you guessed it!) web.


The last state funeral was Churchill’s. The queen’s was a bigger event, writes Anthony Faiola. The former prime minister lay in state for three days, “during which more than 320,000 people waited in lines lasting two to three hours to pay respects to a man who became a firewall against fascism.” His funeral, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, was attended by delegations from more than 110 countries. The queen’s service “is more of a gathering of the global who’s who and is being attended by representatives of nearly 200 countries and territories.”


Why is the world fascinated by Queen Elizabeth II? William Booth, Anthony Faiola and Karla Adam analyze an “outpouring of affection that has stunned even her most devoted courtiers.” “Her long life allows people to pick which memories they want to embrace: the young queen, in the black-and-white movie star head shots of the 1950s; or the middle-aged, more matronly queen, struggling with her children’s divorces and scandals; or the ‘dear Grannie’ era,” they write, "when she offered comfort and tea and kitsch against a world of dizzying change.” Or maybe it’s simply because she never quit.


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