LONDON: The chimes of the Big Ben fell silent and hymns rang out as the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II was carried into Westminster Abbey here on Monday for the state funeral of Britain's longest-serving monarch, in the presence of thousands of guests and millions watching on screens worldwide.
In the congregation of around 2,000 made up of world leaders, royalty from the UK and overseas and community leaders, India was represented by President Droupadi Murmu and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra.
The Big Ben, the iconic London landmark housed in the Elizabeth Tower named after the late Queen, tolled every minute 96 times to mark each year of the late sovereign's life as a procession led by King Charles III entered the historic 11th century Abbey.
The coffin, draped with the Royal Standard, was adorned with flowers from the King's royal homes and the Instruments of State made up of the diamond-encrusted Imperial State Crown and the orb and sceptre which were gifted to the Queen at her coronation in the same Abbey in 1953.
"Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth, and from the nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service, and in sure confidence to commit her to the mercy of God our maker and redeemer, said Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, the Dean of Westminster who led the service.
"With gratitude we remember her unswerving commitment to a high calling over so many years as Queen and Head of the Commonwealth. With admiration we recall her life-long sense of duty and dedication to her people. With thanksgiving we praise God for her constant example of Christian faith and devotion. With affection we recall her love for her family and her commitment to the causes she held dear," he said.
The hour-long service included a collection of traditional hymns and new pieces of choral music, created especially for the occasion. Lessons from the Bible were read by Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland and British Prime Minister Liz Truss, following which came the hymn, The Lord's My Shepherd' which had also been sung at the wedding of the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947.
"Her Late Majesty famously declared in a 21st birthday broadcast that her whole life would be dedicated to serving the nation and Commonwealth. Rarely has such a promise been so well kept. Few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen, said the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in his sermon.
"The grief of this day felt not only by the late Queen's family but all round the nation, Commonwealth and world arises from her abundant life and loving service, now gone from us. She was joyful, present to so many, touching a multitude of lives All who follow the Queen's example, and inspiration of trust and faith in God, can with her say: 'We will meet again'," he concluded, in the words of the late monarch's memorable COVID pandemic lockdown broadcast.
As the clock struck 11am local time, the Queen's eldest son and heir Charles followed the coffin which had been Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall since last Wednesday in solemn procession, accompanied by his sons Princes William and Harry and siblings Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward.
William's children, nine-year-old Prince George and seven-year-old Princess Charlotte were among the youngest members of the royal procession, who walked between their parents the Prince and Princess of Wales.
There was military precision in the ceremony following days of rehearsals by the nearly 6,000 armed forces personnel involved in the grand ceremony.
The service, which concluded with a two-minute nationwide silence and the National Anthem God Save the King', marked the culmination of the first part of the funeral.
The coffin was then borne in procession in the state gun carriage used for royal funerals towards Wellington Arch in central London to be taken by the state hearse to Windsor. A Committal Service will take place at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, where the Queen will be laid to rest with her late husband in a private burial ceremony.
Queen Elizabeth II, 96, died peacefully at her Scottish residence of Balmoral Castle on September 8 which marked the start of the state mourning period in the UK, which has seen thousands turn out for an unprecedented queue in London to file past the late monarch's coffin Lying-in-State.