About four billion people on Monday viewed the televised proceedings of the state funeral held for Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Elizabeth Alexandra Windsor, officially known as Queen Elizabeth II, who died on September 8, 2022, at age 96.
The event had been projected to smash other TV records, one of which was the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, which had one of boxing’s greatest heavyweights, Muhammad Ali, given the honour of lighting the Olympic flame.
The sporting event was viewed by 3.6 billion people. Others were the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981 (One billion viewers), Live Aid in 1985 (1.9 billion viewers), the funeral service held for the late Princess Diana in 1997 (2.5 billion viewers) and the Live8 concerts in 2005 (Two billion viewers). Most television stations like the BBC, ITV and CNN dedicated time to airing the Queen’s funeral with a large sum of the four billion viewers accessing through the internet.
The crowd, according to Sky News, which gathered around the royal palaces and in central London to pay their last tribute to Queen Elizabeth II was about a million.
Viewing centres were filled up with tens of thousands hoping to experience the historic moment. Numerous mourners who had planned to see the Queen’s state funeral and procession were left stranded at London’s Paddington station, as there were no trains running in or out of the region.
Daily Mail reported that about two million people lined the streets to watch the Queen’s coffin make its final journey.
Behind the coffin were the Queen’s children, King Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Behind them were Prince William, Prince Harry and Peter Phillips, and other members of her family.
About 2,000 people, including royalty, world leaders, politicians and members of the royal household attended the funeral at Windsor Castle. The list was reduced to 800 guests during the committal ceremony held at St George’s Chapel.
The world leaders who graced the event included members of the Commonwealth, Heads of State, Governors-General, Prime Ministers, and foreign royal families.
BBC News reported that no fewer than 100 presidents and heads of government across the globe were reported present at the funeral, including United States President Joe Biden and wife, Jill Biden; Polish President Andrzej Duda and wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda; French President Emmanuel Macron and wife, Brigitte; UK Prime Minister Liz Truss and husband, Hugh O’Leary; German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier; Italian President Sergio Mattarella, and Irish President Michael D. Higgins. Others were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The United Kingdom’s seven surviving prime ministers attended Westminster Abbey to bid farewell to the Queen.
Current Prime Minister Liz Truss was joined by Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Sir Tony Blair, and Sir John Major, according to a BBC report.
All seven were pictured seated alongside one another at the funeral with their spouses.
The Queen’s reign spanned the tenure of 15 prime ministers in total, the first of which was Sir Winston Churchill.
Among her last acts was to accept the resignation of Johnson and invite Truss to form a government.
In a tribute following the Queen’s death, Truss described her as the “rock on which modern Britain was built” and said her “devotion to duty remains an example to us all”.
The service saw Truss deliver a Bible reading, John 14:2, which recounts Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples at the last supper.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you,” it reads.
Sir Tony and Sir John could both be seen wearing their stars of the Order of the Garter, the most senior form of knighthood in the British honours system, outranked in precedence only by the Victoria Cross and the George Cross.
As members of the Privy Council, all seven prime ministers also appeared at the Accession Council ceremony, at which the King was formally proclaimed Britain’s monarch, at St James’s Palace last week.
Each of them will have spent considerable amounts of time in the Queen’s company during their periods in office.
Throughout her reign, the Queen held weekly private audiences with the prime minister of the day, and would also often invite them to visit her at Balmoral Castle during her summer breaks on the estate.
Paying tribute after her death, Brown recalled the Queen’s generosity as a host.
“She made you feel at home by bringing other guests that she knew you would like,” he said. “There was a book in your room that she had chosen specially from her library for you to read.
“That was the kindness and generosity and the considerate nature that she had.”
Speaking during celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, Cameron said his time as prime minister had offered “no finer moment than each week having the almost unique ability to sit down, in private, with Her Majesty and being able to call on her sage advice and wise counsel”.
Vice President Yemi Osibanjo led the Nigerian delegation to the burial. Other African leaders included Gabonese President Ali Bongo; Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo; Kenyan President William Ruto; Rwandan President Paul Kagame; Senegalese President Macky Sall; South African President Cyril Ramaphosa; and Sudan’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
Monarchs who attended the ceremony included King Philip and Queen Mathilde of Belgium; King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck; Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah; Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary; Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan; King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan; Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah of Kuwait; King Letsie III of Lesotho; Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein; Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg; Malaysia’s Sultan Abdullah of Pahang; Prince Albert II of Monaco; Crown Prince Moulay Hassan of Morocco; King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands; King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway; Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said of Oman; Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar; Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud of Saudi Arabia; King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain; Juan Carlos, former king of Spain, and former Queen Sofia; King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden; King Tupou VI of Tonga; Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi; Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president, prime minister, and minister of defence of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.
However, invitations were not sent to some countries, while some were asked to send only ambassadors, not heads of state. Due to the collapsed diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia over the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited to the funeral. Also snubbed as a result of the war in Ukraine was Belarus for aiding the invasion of the country by Russia. Afghanistan was not invited as ties with the Middle East country were severed after the Taliban took control in August 2021. Myanmar, which was sanctioned by the UK for the repression of the Rohingya community, was asked not to send representatives. Leaders of Syria and Venezuela were not invited because they lack full diplomatic relations with the UK.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who received an invite to attend the ceremony rather sent a delegation as he had a security and trading meeting with India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis didn’t attend the event but was reportedly represented by the Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who had recently given a speech urging his country to shed colonial ties, was also absent despite receiving invitation. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also didn’t turn up for the funeral. Invitations sent to him had been criticised by rights groups over the killing of journalist Jaamal Khashoggi.
The Queen was laid to rest on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where her father, King George VI, sister, Princess Margaret and husband, Prince Philip were buried.