LONDON    -    Britain said farewell to Queen Elizabeth II on Monday at a state funeral attended by world leaders, before a historic last cer­emonial journey through the streets of London packed with sorrowful mourners.

Huge crowds gathered in near silence to watch as the queen’s flag-draped coffin, topped with the Imperial State Crown, her orb and sceptre, was car­ried slowly to a gun carriage from par­liament’s Westminster Hall where it had lain in state since Wednesday. 

To the tune of pipes and drums, the gun carriage -- used at every state funer­al since Queen Victoria’s in 1901 -- was then drawn by 142 junior enlisted sailors in the Royal Navy to Westminster Abbey.

The thousand-year-old church’s ten­or bell tolled 96 times at one-minute in­tervals -- one for every year of her life -- stopping a minute before the service began at 11:00 am (1000 GMT).

In his funeral sermon, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby praised the queen’s life of duty and service to the UK and Com­monwealth. “People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer,” he told the 2,000 guests, who included US Pres­ident Joe Biden and Japan’s re­clusive Emperor Naruhito.

“But in all cases, those who serve will be loved and remem­bered,” the Anglican leader add­ed, before the coffin was borne on another procession towards her final resting place in Wind­sor Castle, west of London.

The longest-serving monarch in British history died at Bal­moral, her Scottish Highland retreat, on September 8 after a year of declining health. 

Her eldest son and successor, King Charles III, dressed in cer­emonial military uniform, fol­lowed the solemn processions, alongside his three siblings.

‘SHE WAS MY BOSS’

Charles’s eldest son Prince William accompanied them alongside William’s estranged brother, Prince Harry, and other senior royals.

William’s two eldest children, George and Charlotte, who are next in line to the throne, also walked behind the coffin inside the abbey. Late Sunday, Charles, 73, and his wife, Queen Con­sort Camilla, said they had been “deeply touched” by the public’s flood of messages.

“As we all prepare to say our last farewell, I wanted simply to take this opportunity to say thank you,” he said.

Britain, a country much changed since the queen’s cor­onation in the same abbey in 1953, has dug deep into its cen­turies of tradition to honour the only monarch that most of its people have ever known.

“It’s once in a lifetime,” said student Naomi Thompson, 22, camped out in the crowds at London’s Hyde Park.

“It’s a moment of history... She’s everyone’s granny,” add­ed engineer Alice Garret, 28. Others unable to be in Lon­don gathered in cinemas and churches around England, Scot­land, Wales and Northern Ire­land to watch the service and procession on big screens. Auto engineer Jamie Page, a 41-year-old former soldier, stood on Whitehall to observe the funer­al procession, wearing his mili­tary medals from service in the Iraq war.

“Sixteen years old, I swore an oath of allegiance to the queen. She’s been my boss. She means everything, she was like a gift from God,” he said.

TWO MINUTES OF SILENCE

But on Charles, the oldest person yet to ascend the Brit­ish throne, Page added: “Who knows, time will tell.”

The funeral lasted just under an hour, brought to an end by a bugler playing “The Last Post”, before two minutes of silence and the reworded national an­them, “God Save the King”. 

After an hour-long procession that was to go past Buckingham Palace, the coffin was to be tak­en west by road to Windsor Cas­tle, where thousands had lined the route since early morning. 

Some 6,000 military person­nel have been drafted in to take part in proceedings in what Britain’s highest-ranking mili­tary officer has called “our last duty for Her Majesty the Queen”.

The queen will be bur­ied alongside her father king George VI, her mother queen Elizabeth and sister princess Margaret, reuniting in death the family who once called them­selves “us four”. 

The coffin of her husband, Prince Philip, who died last year aged 99, will also be transferred to lie alongside her. 

Elizabeth’s funeral could not be more different from Philip’s at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in April 2021.